If Steve Bannon is fired, Politico's Ben Schreckinger believes that Donald Trump and his new best friends in the West Wing might rue the day:
I asked friends and foes alike to imagine how, should Bannon get the boot, the pugnacious populist might exact his revenge.
Taken together, their suggestions amount to an epic, Kill Bill-style revenge saga that starts with Bannon leaking personal dirt on his enemies to the tabloids, using the megaphone of Breitbart News to exacerbate divisions inside the administration, and siccing an army of internet trolls on his adversaries to harass and defame them. It ends with Bannon using Cambridge Analytica data to identify and primary their vulnerable allies in Congress, then releasing a “Where Trump Went Wrong” documentary on the eve of the November midterms and finally—in this revenge fantasy’s epic climax—running against Trump himself in 2020.
I have my doubts about some of this. While it's true that Trump's nationalist, alt-right backers are disillusioned by Trump's recent policy shifts, many of his backers -- perhaps an overwhelming majority -- were old-school Republicans, and Trump dropping bombs has returned them to their happy place. Rush Limbaugh is delighted. A new Marist poll shows Trump still at 80% approval among Republicans. So some of these attacks are going to turn the majority of the Trump base against Breitbart, not against Trump and his aides.
Some of Bannon's usual tactics are probably off limits:
“He’ll have his minions eviscerate you on Twitter and write articles with fake information. You will be attacked and lied about,” said Republican operative Cheri Jacobus, who was the subject of critical coverage in Breitbart in 2015 after saying Trump was popular with “low-information voters” and who blames Breitbart for a campaign of online harassment she has endured since then....
Jacobus is just one of a number of Republican operatives and conservative pundits who blame Breitbart coverage for stirring up a tsunami of threats and intimidation from its readers after drawing the outlet’s ire during Bannon’s tenure there. Republican operative Rick Wilson, for example, reportedly endured anonymous threats to rape his daughter and nearly shot a man he found snooping on his back porch after becoming the subject of numerous Breitbart stories.
But what would happen if someone tried to do any of this to a top West Wing aide or the aide's family? Operatives and pundits who incur Bannon's wrath can only call 911. The White House has access to the Justice Department and the FBI. Big difference.
Also, some of Bannon's supposedly fearsome attacks aren't all that fearsome:
“The hit pieces on Breitbart will increase, for sure,” said [Dana] Loesch, who clashed with Bannon after leaving Breitbart to work for his nemesis Glenn Beck at The Blaze....
[Former Breitbart spokesman Kurt] Bardella cited one recent 24-hour period in which the site published four anti-[Jared] Kushner pieces. “It’ll look like that,” he said.
Yeah, Breitbart attacked Kushner -- and so what? Sure, the #KushnerAtWar Twitter hashtag was embarrassing, but apart from subjecting Kushner to snickering from lefties and the alt-righties (who already disliked him), how did that harm him? He's still Trump's golden boy. He's still standing.
(By the way, if you laughed at #KushnerAtWar, read Luke Mazur's Jared/Ivanka melodrama at The Awl. It's hilarious.)
One idea occurs to me that's not mentioned in Schreckinger's piece: If Trump eighty-sixes Bannon, could Breitbart cooperate with Russia, and possibly WikiLeaks, to take down Trump? That would be amazing. Post the pee tape, Steve!
Schreckinger imagines Bannon running against Trump in 2020. My initial reaction to that is "Bring it on" -- but so was my initial reaction to Trump's candidacy, and look how that wound up. Still, I'd enjoy watching the two of them divide up the testosterone-poisoning vote. So sure, Steve, try it.
Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog