Steve Bannon’s frustration on Jared Kushner’s increasingly influential role as the president’s right hand is becoming vividly clear. According to the Daily Beast, Steve Bannon called Jared Kushner a “cuck” and “globalist” behind his back. “Steve thinks Jared is worse than a Democrat, basically,” an official close to Bannon said.
The “Kremlinology” was much more fun when it was supposed to investigate the “Kremlin” of others and not ours. For courtesan draughtsmen, the NSC’s dismissal of Steve Bannon could mean many things – the triumph of Jared Kushner’s business arm over Bannon’s ethnonational-ist branch, the consolidation of power of the security adviser National McMaster, Trump’s anger over something on Twitter – but the most absurd explanation is what is already being announced in the media: a “turn towards normality.”
Normality is a relative term for any administration, and also for the National Security Council. The NSC is not an immovable body, and its appointments do not always follow who is leading the singer. As political scientist Elizabeth Saunders points out in the White House of George W. Bush, Colin Powell had a seat on the National Security Council, but he had no real power. However, in the White House of Nixon, the NSC was fundamentally Henry Kissinger. And these are the administrations that gave us the invasion of Iraq and the bombing of Cambodia respectively. Therefore, given the operation of a more “normal” National Security Council, skepticism is justified.
Each U.S. president organizes his NSC differently, according to his personal preferences. And given Trump’s weakness for conspiracy theories, distrust of anyone with relevant experience and his predilection for provoking conflicts with countries like Germany and Australia for no reason, Bannon was in a perverse way the perfect fit.
Bannon’s job had been to translate Trump’s hidden racial messages into ultranationalist sirens. He is the brain of the blatant and clearly illegal policies like the immigration veto. He has also served as the face of Trump’s anti-elitist populist stance, a ridiculously unconvincing stance given his career on Wall Street, Hollywood, and the Washington media.
The appointment of Bannon was, undoubtedly, unorthodox with respect to previous standards. Normally, the top figures of the National Security Council committee in which Bannon has sat for a brief period of time include military and intelligence officials. The main qualification of Bannon was to direct a web page that publishes news like “Birth control makes women crazy and unattractive.” The White House’s explanation is that it was initially appointed to oversee Mike Flynn, the former national security adviser and theorist of the discredited conspiracy; a peculiar message if what you want is to inspire confidence in Trump’s appointments.
But again, Bannon’s rival in the fight to win the president is Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, a 36-year-old real estate investor whose main qualification is to have married the right person. Both figures have ambiguous roles, yet they enjoy tremendous power.
Bannon allegedly runs something called the White House Group of Strategic Initiatives, a position so imprecise that the White House denies its existence. Kushner, director of a new, and now officially recognized, Office of American Innovation, has the task of making a new version of the U.S. government, adding to its modest portfolio the supervision of relations with China and Mexico and the solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine.
Therefore, Bannon’s downgrading says very little of the real power he exercises and will continue to exercise informally, at least until Trump gets tired of federal judges telling him that all of Bannon’s ideas violate the Constitution. The rise of Kushner, on the other hand, confirms Trump’s banana republic government strategy: it’s all in the family.
The appointment of both Bannon and Kushner is proof that Trump values loyalty over all concerns about experience, core competencies, and the truth. Flynn’s replacement, McMaster, a veteran general and counterinsurgency expert, may be a more conventional national security adviser, but he virtually disagrees with the president on anything: from Russia to the strategic cost of denigrating an entire region. So we’ll see if it holds out more than its predecessor. Meanwhile, with Kushner as the person actually in charge, we will be grateful that the fate of the planet is in the hands of a rookie who ignores what happens in the rest of the world rather than someone openly hostile to the world.
This is the normality to which we return: a mafia nepotista where the official titles do not mean anything and the true power is in gaining the capricious favor of the president. Where U.S. foreign policy is not run by the State Department but by the Trump dynasty. As one member of the foreign service points out: “Remember the developing countries where I have worked. The family controls everything and the Foreign Ministry knows nothing.” In fact, rulers who run their countries as private fiefdoms for family enrichment have been the norm in much of the world for much of the history of mankind. It is something that Bannon, who sees himself as a defender of traditional Western civilization, should appreciate.
[Featured Image by Andrew Harnik/AP Images, File]