Bannon Is Failing the Leadership Test

Ever since leaving the White House, Steve Bannon has done a masterful job crafting a public persona as the insurgent general leading the fight to rescue Trump’s agenda from the corrupt GOP establishment.  Complete with the crumpled Indiana Jones jacket and unshaven face, the self-described president’s wingman wasted no time declaring war on Mitch McConnell and calling for a populist takeover of the Republican Party. Bannon’s fiery rhetoric and pledge to hold accountable Republicans who betrayed their voters are music to the ears and hearts of many party activists who long ago realized that the likes of Ryan and McConnell pose the greater obstacle to their aspirations than the Democrats. If anyone still has any doubts about McConnell’s commitment to undermine the president, his handling of tax reform should remove them. The Senate GOP bill postpones the corporate tax cut– the very jet fuel Trump needs to get the economy roaring – until 2019. It is almost as if McConnell is hoping the GOP will lose control of Congress and clear the way for the Democrats to remove the president from office.

When it comes to taking on the GOP establishment, Bannon deserves encouragement and applause from anyone who wants the Trump administration to succeed. However, holding political enemies accountable is not enough to be an effective leader. It is very easy to rail against those we despise – in fact, it is quite enjoyable. The true test of leadership is holding political friends accountable when their actions are just as harmful as enemy attacks and on this score Bannon is failing — bigly!

Jeff Sessions recusing himself from any investigation related to the 2016 presidential election and his selection of Rod Rosenstein as Deputy Attorney General opened the door for the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller.  Moreover, Sessions made a commitment – during his confirmation hearings – to remove himself from any matter involving Hillary Clinton. As a result of his decisions, Sessions is overseeing a Justice Department eager to investigate the Trump administration while reluctant to pursue any of the scandals surrounding the Clintons. It only took eight days from the firing of Comey as FBI Director to appoint Mueller. In late July, the Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee sent a letter to the Justice Department requested the appointment of a second special counsel to investigate various allegations against Hillary. After more than three months of silence, Sessions finally responded by saying that he was “open” to the idea of appointing a special counsel. This is simply pathetic.

Bannon is a smart political operative. He has to know that the Mueller investigation is as much of a drag on the Trump administration as McConnell and his allies in the Senate. Even if Mueller is never able to build a case to impeach Trump, he will be able to prevent the president from ever gathering any steam, by strategically dropping indictments or leaks. Whenever the president has a successful foreign trip or seems to have turned the corner, Mueller is there to stop any momentum. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that he sat on the Manafort indictment for weeks and timed the arrest to distract from the revelation that the Clinton campaign paid for the Russian dossier. If Mueller is still around in 2018, he will probably reveal more indictments just before Election Day.

Despite the obvious harm Sessions has caused the Trump administration, Bannon has not been critical of his friend. Instead, he is blaming the appointment of Mueller on Jared Kushner having advised the president to fire Comey. According to Bannon, the solution is not to have an effective Attorney General who will not remove himself from the most partisan investigations against the administration. His solution, rather, was to keep around James Comey – who could barely contain his contempt for Trump in public – at the FBI, where he could continue to leak and sabotage the administration. Is Bannon also going to blame Kushner for Sessions failing to appoint a second special counsel to investigate the Democrats? If Bannon is truly committed to saving the republic and Western civilization, he should immediately call for Sessions to resign. Breitbart should have as many articles critical of Sessions as they have of McConnell, since both men are equally responsible for undermining the Trump administration.