“When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind.”
Photo by Mandel Ngan/Getty Images.
If you forget that it’s written by Trump, this is almost kind of beautiful.
After former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon was quoted making disparaging comments about Trump’s son, calling Don Jr. “treasonous,” the president went after Bannon in a vicious White House statement, saying the Breitbart News executive chairman has “no clue,” challenging his sanity, and blaming him for the Republicans’ historic Senate loss in Alabama last December.
“Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my Presidency. When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind. Steve was a staffer who worked for me after I had already won the nomination by defeating seventeen candidates, often described as the most talented field ever assembled in the Republican party.
Now that he is on his own, Steve is learning that winning isn't as easy as I make it look. Steve had very little to do with our historic victory, which was delivered by the forgotten men and women of this country. Yet Steve had everything to do with the loss of a Senate seat in Alabama held for more than thirty years by Republicans. Steve doesn't represent my base — he's only in it for himself.
Steve pretends to be at war with the media, which he calls the opposition party, yet he spent his time at the White House leaking false information to the media to make himself seem far more important than he was. It is the only thing he does well. Steve was rarely in a one-on-one meeting with me and only pretends to have had influence to fool a few people with no access and no clue, whom he helped write phony books.
We have many great Republican members of Congress and candidates who are very supportive of the Make America Great Again agenda. Like me, they love the United States of America and are helping to finally take our country back and build it up, rather than simply seeking to burn it all down.”
The statement is so bitter, so full of vile, it’s almost hard to take as real at first glance. If Bannon and Trump were never close, there wouldn’t be so many photos or tweets from Trump himself suggesting otherwise. But that evidence doesn’t take away from the statement; it only makes it that much more provocative. After all, here’s Bannon close by Trump as he signs his first executive order as president:
Photo via White House/Facebook.
Or Trump’s much friendlier tweet from August 2017, after Bannon officially left the White House:
It’s also a historically significant statement that will forever alter the course of the Trump presidency. And it’s setting the world of political social media on fire:
This statement by @POTUS should remind us of many statements the Nixon Administration made during Watergate: a non-… https://t.co/ie9nDxKSCn— Ted Lieu (@Ted Lieu) 1515006186
Hello, Kettle — This Is Pot: “Donald Trump Says Steve Bannon 'Has Lost His Mind'.” https://t.co/RULsgLRo4e— Michael Moore (@Michael Moore) 1515006667
But what does this mean in a historical context? More specifically, is there even a historical context for this?
Yes, presidents have famously split from their top advisers before. The second half of the George W. Bush presidency was different after he grew distant from Vice President Dick Cheney, and Bill Clinton famously had a falling out with several leading advisers including Dick Morris and George Stephanopoulos. But like so much of the Trump presidency, this is something different from history — far more public and messy.
At the very least, it’s creating another split between two competing factions of the conservative movement: the more establishment-friendly wing and those who, in Trump’s words, are “simply seeking to burn it all down.”
Whether it was actually written by him or not, Trump’s statement officially puts an end to Bannon’s influence within the White House. That’s something even the biggest Trump critic can applaud after a year of coddling white supremacists and the most divisive forms of populism, both tactics that were reportedly pushed hard by Bannon. This certainly doesn’t make the Trump presidency “great again,” or even good. But at least for one moment, it makes it a slightly less terrible.