Bannon knows what he’s doing.
After Bannon created chaos with the original travel ban, the Washington Monthly’s David Atkins wondered what he was up to and noted: “His actions are seldom random and always deliberate.” When a White House visitor tweeted a picture of Bannon in front of a white board displaying the administration’s to-do list, a writer for the Guardian said, “It would be naive to think Bannon’s great whiteboard reveal is a gaffe.” The notion is that every apparent blunder can be explained by a grand strategy.
But for all his success as an investment banker, film producer, conservative publisher and campaign strategist, Bannon — who had no prior experience in government — has had a much tougher time succeeding in the White House. Although he was credited with being a tactical genius at critical junctures in the campaign, helping Trump battle back from crises such as the leak of the “Access Hollywood” tape, Bannon hasn’t shown nearly the same facility in manipulating the levers of government.
The travel ban he supported was blocked by the courts (although a revised version has been allowed to take partial effect). He appears unlikely to get the “border adjustment tax” that he hoped would be a key component of tax reform. On Thursday, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Republican leaders announced that they were dropping it. Bannon’s strategy of making an enemy of the media may be keeping some Trump supporters in the fold, but it hasn’t done anything to advance Trump’s legislative agenda — a black mark for the chief strategist’s image as Machiavelli.