THOMAS TASCHINGER: Bannon’s been banished, but Trump remains
Donald Trump will never make the presidency great again, but last week he made it better. He banished Steve Bannon, the angry white nationalist aide who brought out the worst in him.
It’s a plus for Trump and the nation, but hold the champagne. Trump will remain Trump, and what we’ve seen so far has disappointed all but his diehard supporters.
Instead of being a pragmatic deal-maker who would work with Democrats like Sen. Charles Schumer (whose campaign he once donated to), Trump has turned out to be a petty, spiteful, unknowledgeable president. Which is not surprising, since he was a petty, spiteful, unknowledgeable candidate.
Yet he literally has nowhere to go but up, and now he has a chance to be less bad.
He needed it. Even a hard-right toady like Newt Gingrich admitted the obvious last week: Trump’s presidency is on the verge of collapsing into irrelevance.
At a time when he should be enjoying a honeymoon and getting things done, he is flailing and failing. After Charlottesville, he looks tone deaf on race relations and basic decency. He is neither feared nor respected in Washington, and his public approval ratings may never exceed 50 percent.
He can’t persuade Congress to do virtually anything even though his party controls the House and Senate. The only major bill he signed was one he hated - the one locking in stiff sanctions on Russia. Health care cratered, infrastructure disappeared and the prospects for tax reform are bleak. Soon he must sign into law an extension of the debt ceiling, the kind of thing he loved to rip Barack Obama for doing.
It’s true that he put Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made that possible and refusing to hold a vote on Obama’s nominee for almost an entire year. In return for violating Senate tradition and handing him an easy win, Trump mocked McConnell.
But he even does that to loyal members of his own Cabinet like Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a bizarre trait that destroys his influence with other Republicans. None of them will stick their neck out for him on any vote, making it that much harder to pass a tough bill.
The good news, sort of, is that competent grownups remain in his administration, like Defense Secretary James Mattis and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly. If they can hide their contempt for a man who falls far short of the standards they lived with in their professions, and put up with his occasional insults, we might get by. Well, assuming that special prosecutor Robert Mueller doesn’t start raining indictments.
Bannon’s departure makes chaos less likely, but we’re only a Tweet or an insult away from another crisis. And with this president, that’s not just possible, it’s inevitable.
Thomas Taschinger is the editorial page editor of The Beaumont Enterprise. Follow him on Twitter at @PoliticalTom