(c) 2017 by Paul DuginskiUsed only with express written permission
Stephen K. Bannon, President Trump’s chief strategist, argued against the recent cruise missile attack on a Syrian air base. But Trump went ahead with the strike, which resulted in several days of what the president craves most: applause. And not just applause, bipartisan applause.
Bannon has bickered openly with presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner in recent weeks, and Bannon’s trademark revolutionary populism has lost out to positions that are patently establishment. As Doyle McManus writes in Sunday’s Los Angeles Times, after extremist rhetoric during the campaign, Trump’s policy positions now are little different from those of Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Chris Christie.
For example, Trump’s missile strike in Syria was a 180-degree turn from his promise to avoid entanglement in the Syrian civil war.
Trump, who attacked the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as obsolete, recently praised the alliance. He promised to declare China to be a currency manipulator, but now needs China’s cooperation in dealing with the threat of North Korea, so he has dropped that label.
Bannon pushed Trump to deal with healthcare and the immigrant ban immediately, leading to disastrous defeats. And Trump is all about winning.
Trump promised on the campaign trail that he would cut middle class taxes and that he would protect Social Security and Medicare. But early drafts of Trump’s tax plan show the biggest cuts going to the top earners — consistent with establishment Republican dogma — and his budget people are hoping to make changes to Social Security and Medicare.
So is the revolution over? Is Trump’s “America First” populist Rasputin receding already?
The original Grigori Rasputin was a failed monk, mystic and faith healer who gained the confidence of Tsar Nicholas II in 1905. Rasputin acted as a healer for Nicholas’ son and only heir, Alexei, who suffered from hemophilia. He was a divisive figure who was seen as a charlatan by many, and ultimately he was assassinated in 1916 by conservative Russian nobles who objected to his outsized influence in the imperial Romanov household.
Certainly, there are conservatives who object to Stephen Bannon’s influence in the Trump White House. They’d like to have an end to all this populist poppycock and get back to what’s really important to Republicans: Helping the rich to get richer.