National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, a retired three-star General, and the second national security advisor in the Trump administration is the latest subject of alt-right media group Breitbart’s criticism. Breitbart is now waging an all out war against McMaster, but the actual loser isn’t McMaster-it’s former head of Breitbart and Cheif of Staff Stephen K. Bannon. Bannon has been cut out of the inner circle of Trump’s administration because of his influence over alt-right media sites Breitbart, gotnews.com, and blogger Mike Cernovich.
As President Trump is on a working vacation at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, Bannon remains in his office at the White House. He spends his days working attending meetings and holed up in his office, ostracized from White House power players such as Chief of Staff John Kelly, Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, and Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump.
Possibly the distaste Bannon and the alt-right feel for McMaster stems from his decision to take Bannon off of the National Security Council principals’ committee. The move was one of McMaster’s first actions as national security advisor, reports say that Bannon and John Kelly haven’t spoken in weeks. The reasoning behind that is the awkward position the two are in, they have some ideological dissonances on important foreign policy issues and come from different places. One was a Goldman Sachs banker and a media giant, and the other a decorated general who has a no-nonsense attitude that has characterized his rule over the West Wing. Additionally, McMaster and Kelly are longtime friends, and Breitbart’s criticism of the former certainly doesn’t help Bannon in the White House.
Trump’s chief strategist has been suspected as the person creating the stories against his fellow aides in Breitbart, the site he ran before he joined President Trump’s campaign in early August last year. This distrust has caused infighting and deep divisions, something newly minted Chief of Staff John Kelly has called to end.
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But this problem also existed under previous Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, and it has continued under Kelly. The problem seems to be bigger than any chief of staff and more complicated a problem than any aide could solve. The new chief of staff has isolated Bannon, who was an ally of Priebus. Bannon now avoids confrontation with colleagues, something he used to do under Priebus’s tenure. the former leader of Breitbart has moved to align himself with Kelly, who has called the addition of the former secretary of Homeland Security a win for President Trump’s nationalist agenda. Perhaps Bannon is laying low because he knows that any scuffle will be blamed on him, something that would further isolate him from the Oval Office.
The narrative here is that Bannon is some kind of puppet master who controls the right-wing media at his whim. When Bannon first joined the White House, he filed an ethics waiver so that he could retain ties with Breitbart. When gotnews.com published a story on their website calling Deputy National Security Advisor Dina Powell and National Economic Council Gary Cohn ‘globalists’, everyone was pointing fingers at Bannon, who is known for coining the phrase. When Priebus was chief of staff, Breitbart published stories about their disagreements, the articles portrayed both of them in a negative way. Breitbart has also published pieces that criticize Jared Kushner, even after he and Bannon struck a truce in Mar-a-Lago.
This distrust of Bannon in the White House goes all the way up to the Oval Office. In June President Trump began to believe that the source of negative stories was his chief strategist and former campaign chairman. The stories that painted Bannon in a positive light included ones that accredited him with ‘winning’ policy wars in the White House, such as the decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Accords. A senior administration official told Politico that the president told Bannon to ‘knock it off’. Priebus also was told by Bannon to stop having the stories written, because people know that it is him who is orchestrating them.
Further, Bannon was cut out of meetings discussing tax reform in July after his proposal to raise taxes on the wealthy was published in the media. Such an idea would be toxic for Trump, who has been the darling of business elites and can contribute the post-election stock market rally to the notion by business leaders that Trump would relax regulations. He also was pushed out for his idea to contract private firms for the expanded troop numbers in Afghanistan, something that sharply dissents with the opinions of the administration’s top military minds.
The new narrative the alt-right is pushing now is that it is Bannon and Trump against everyone else. On Fox News’ Hannity, host Sean Hannity has been casting the blame of recent legislative failures on Congress and ‘the swamp’ and the ‘deep state’, rather than on the president too. Maybe Bannon isn’t leaking directly, but he is also refusing to vehemently disavow the articles, something suspect for someone who is already being watched by his colleagues. Additionally, President Trump has publicly shown support for McMaster this week, saying “General McMaster? He’s our friend. He’s my friend and he’s a very talented man. I like him and I respect him.”