It has taken him 24 hours, but President Trump has finally responded to the departure of Steve Bannon from the White House. The former (and after last night: current) Breitbart.com chief left the administration after he became fed up with the establishment that had tried to push him out from the very first day Trump took office and appointed Bannon his chief strategist.
“The Republican establishment has no interest in Trump’s success on this,” Bannon explained afterward. “They’re not populists, they’re not nationalists, they had no interest in his program. Zero.”
Now, Trump himself has responded — not to Bannon’s statements after he left, but to the departure itself and the work Bannon has done for Trump:
I want to thank Steve Bannon for his service. He came to the campaign during my run against Crooked Hillary Clinton – it was great! Thanks S
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 19, 2017
To say that this isn’t exactly what we’re used to with Trump would be the understatement of the century. When he fires someone, he tends to attack them rather ferociously. And yes, he does the same when someone leaves of their own volition. All too often, to him, that’s nothing more or less than proof of disloyalty.
Not so with Bannon.
The question, of course, is why. Perhaps the answer is twofold. First, Trump intuitively embraces Bannon’s views. The two see eye-to-eye on almost every issue, even though they’ve now gone separate ways.
Second, Trump is a master of media manipulation. He knows, like few others, that Breitbart.com played a vital role in his primary victory against reliable, stable conservative candidates like Ted Cruz, and later in the general election against Crooked Hillary. In other words, he understands the power of the Internet and he doesn’t want it turned against him.
That’s nice and all, but Trump had better not forget that. To those who supported him, this isn’t about individuals even half as much as it is about policies. If he governs like a Democrat, these people will waste no time attacking him — and rightfully so. After all, that’s why he got elected. Like it or not, he ran on a nationalist-populist platform. If he doesn’t deliver, he will have broken his word. Just like establishment types are fond of doing.
So. It’s mightily kind of Trump to tweet such kind words about Bannon, but he’s mistaken if he thinks public kindness can be combined with political betrayal. It can’t. Well, that’s not true. It can, but it’ll definitely mean that he’ll be facing the consequences. And those won’t be good. Not for him, anyway.