Week In Politics: Charlottesville, Bannon

Aug 19, 2017
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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Of course in times of confusion and incomprehension, we turn to NPR's senior Washington editor Ron Elving. Ron, thanks for being with us.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Scott.

SIMON: What does Steve Bannon's ouster, resignation, however it's prettified, say about the Trump White House at least for the next few hours?

ELVING: Yes, the next few hours. That's probably a pretty good timeframe. Steve Bannon has said that the Trump presidency that he fought for, personally, is over now. It's over. So what does that mean? Let's say he saw himself as the primary keeper of the flame - the flame of whatever - populism, economic nationalism, America first, anti-globalism, at least intense opposition to the recent policies of the United States on, say, trade and immigration and helping out our allies around the world.

SIMON: He - President Trump tweeted this morning, I want to thank Steve Bannon for his service. He came to the campaign during my run against crooked Hillary Clinton. It was great. Thanks, S. Is that a typo? Capital - I'm not sure. You've seen the tweet, haven't you?

ELVING: Yes. And he seems to be addressing Steve by just S because he's run out of characters.

SIMON: Forgive me. I've done the same thing when I tweet. Some of the president's backers on the right going to feel they've lost their clout in the White House?

ELVING: Surely, some of them are going to feel that way. That would include, perhaps, the more libertarian elements of the Trump movement also maybe those who were happier with what the president said about Charlottesville a week ago today and even more pleased with the way the president described all that in his news conference in Trump Tower on Tuesday. That's what Steve Bannon said. And that's what Steve Bannon said his people or his friends - the people that he thought got Donald Trump elected president - felt in reaction to what went on there over the weekend in Charlottesville.

But there is a huge division and a lot of variety among the people who support the president. Some of them might be called alt-right or far right or hard right. But lots of them who support the president would prefer that he be a little less spiky and mercurial and, in other words, not Steve Bannon.

SIMON: A lot of people have been reminded of, I guess, it was Lyndon Johnson's famous reflection, observation about J. Edgar Hoover. I'm going to have to be careful to not quote it exactly. But he said, I'd rather have him on the inside of the tent aiming out, if I might put it that way, than the outside of the tent aiming in. Steve Bannon is now on the outside of the tent, isn't he?

ELVING: Yes, he is. And if he's going to war, as he has said, who is he going to war with? Well, not Trump himself, so says Steve Bannon, rather, with all the people around Trump that Steve Bannon didn't get along with - Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and some of the Wall Street people from New York who are still there, Gary Cohn, economic adviser, and the Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin. Of course, now that - and obviously, Bannon is going back to Breitbart. He says he will have his hands free and have his hands on his weapons again.

SIMON: We raised the matter with Representative Dent of Pennsylvania about what Bob Corker of Tennessee, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said this week, where he soberly questioned President Trump's mental and moral fitness for office. Do you expect to hear more of this from more Republicans?

ELVING: There has already been a little bit more of it and certainly people distancing themselves from that Tuesday news conference in Trump Tower. Bob Corker - the words he used were stability and competence. He wanted to see those qualities more in evidence in the Trump presidency. And that's pretty amazing coming from so cautious a guy as Senator Corker, Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman. So it raises the question, is this really still Donald Trump's own party? Or put it the other way, is Donald Trump still his party's president?

SIMON: Half a minute we have left - in this atmosphere, will Congress pass much of anything by way of major legislation when they return?

ELVING: In September, they have to. Spending bills have to be passed or we'll have a government shutdown. The federal debt ceiling must be raised or we'll have a shutdown or a credit default or both. And that's before we even get to talking about infrastructure or tax reform.

SIMON: NPR's Ron Elving, thanks so much.

ELVING: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.