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Almost immediately after it was announced on Friday that chief strategist Steve Bannon would be leaving the White House, speculation began that he might be returning to his position at Breitbart to wage a “war” against the administration.
This premise seemed to be confirmed when Breitbart editor Joel B. Pollak sent out this single hashtag tweet:
Pollak followed that tweet up by hinting at the direction of his publication now that Bannon has lost his perch in the Trump administration with a column titled: “With Steve Bannon Gone, Donald Trump Risks Becoming Arnold Schwarzenegger 2.0.”
The Breitbart editor describes the decision to remove Bannon as an attempted face-saving move after the uproar surrounding Trump’s equivocation over last weekend’s alt-right/white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. “It may turn out to be the beginning of the end for the Trump administration, the moment Donald Trump became Arnold Schwarzenegger,” he writes.
This of course is not a friendly comparison. For Pollak, Schwarzenegger was also a “celebrity outsider, promising to reform a corrupt, wasteful and lethargic political system.” But, Pollak writes, the Governator turned on conservatives once he won the office in California and then saw his political fortunes ultimately disintegrate.
The column is also full of the requisite praise for Bannon, and offered hints of how Breitbart might argue Trump is failing should they go that route:
Bannon was not just Trump’s master strategist, the man who turned a failing campaign around in August 2016 and led one of the most remarkable come-from-behind victories in political history. He was also the conservative spine of the administration. His infamous whiteboard in the West Wing listed the promises Trump had made to the voters, and he was determined to check as many of them off as possible. Steve Bannon personified the Trump agenda.
With Bannon gone, there is no guarantee that Trump will stick to the plan.
There’s reporting from the Washington Post and Axios that Breitbart’s #war will actually be more of a targeted attack not on Trump himself, but on Bannon’s former White House rivals such as Jared Kushner, Gary Cohn, and H.R. McMaster (all of whom were already targets of the publication).
Former Breitbart writer and current Bannon nemesis, Ben Shapiro, suggests that any war against Trump’s team will spill over into outright conflict with the president himself, one that Bannon has actually been building for with his behavior the past week.
Shapiro argues that by pushing Trump not to alienate the alt-right in his final week in the West Wing, Bannon solidified them as his own personal base and can now use them to “threaten Trump with political Armageddon” if he strays. Secondly, he believes that Bannon’s interview with the American Prospect set him up to fight from the outside for “an ‘anti-globalist’ policy totally at odds with some of Trump’s closest advisors like Gary Cohn.”
More from Shapiro’s site the Daily Wire:
All of this sets up the lines for battle. First, Trump will be seen as caving by “firing” Bannon – and Trump is completely incapable of just admitting that Bannon resigned.
Bannon’s play for Trump’s populist and alt-right bases will be partially successful. Outside the White House, Bannon can be more powerful than he was inside: if Trump doesn’t do what Bannon likes, Bannon will declare that he was ousted because the globalist insiders have taken over, and Trump has sold out the base. Bannon will attempt to claim the leadership of the movement he believes he built.
And he’ll do so from his platform at Breitbart.
There’s already signs of conservatives picking sides. Ann Coulter described Bannon’s firing as appeasement of the media and laid out potential line of opposition to the administration she has so vocally supported thus far:
I think this will do it! Now, media will forgive @realDonaldTrump and treat him totally fairly. They admire weakness.— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) August 18, 2017
At least Wall Street will get its tax cuts now! Also, more pointless wars!!!— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) August 18, 2017
Posobiec started a hashtag in support of the president, but it wasn’t clear if he would be taking the president’s side if any potential fight with Bannon were to get out of hand:
House counting votes to impeach Trump? Don't let them! #IStandWithTrump— Jack Posobiec 🇺🇸 (@JackPosobiec) August 18, 2017
More traditional conservative outlets, meanwhile, seem to also think an internal struggle among conservatives is imminent.
“Begun, the Breitbart wars have,” wrote National Review Online’s Charles C.W. Cooke.
Ultimately, Streiff at Red State seems to get at a critical point: If Bannon restricts this war to his perceived enemies in the White House without going after Trump himself, it might not actually hurt Trump politically at all in the end and could even help him.
The question is: what now? I always thought that it was better for Trump to have Bannon in the White House, than outside throwing stones. If Bannon blames Trump for his ouster we’ll [see] signs of that in the very near future as Breitbart and GateWayPundit suddenly discover that Trump is not a latter day messiah figure. On the other hand, if his stays loyal to Trump, Trump may emerge from this with a more sane and functional White House without any loss of support.