Washington, United States | AFP | When Steve Bannon gave a free-wheeling interview to a small left-wing magazine this week, he spoke as if he — the White House’s ‘great manipulator’ — was back on top.
By Friday, President Donald Trump had sacked him.
Some reports suggest that Trump’s strategy chief already knew his days were numbered when he picked up the phone to make a surprise call to the American Prospect.
But he gave no hint of it as he regaled editor Robert Kuttner with plans to push aside his rivals within Trump’s administration and start a trade war with China.
“To me, the economic war with China is everything. And we have to be maniacally focused on that,” he declared.
This week, however, the national security establishment was focused on North Korea’s nuclear threat — a crisis dismissed as a “sideshow” by Bannon.
And much of the media and the US public was focused on a threat much closer to home: white nationalism and the rise of the so-called “alt-right.”
In his interview, Bannon was dismissive of the torch-bearing “clowns” in polo shirts and khakis who brought violence to Charlottesville last week.
But — for all he would like to be seen as the mastermind behind Trump’s improbable rise to power — Bannon’s image is still linked to those white nationalists.
Before joining Trump’s campaign, Bannon the self-described “economic nationalist” was the publisher of Breitbart, a provocative right-wing news outlet.
This site was and is, in Bannon’s own words, a platform for the alt-right, a loosely defined movement of mainly young white men espousing far-right and white nationalist ideas.
Any temptation to laugh off the alt-right as online poseurs evaporated on Saturday when a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville degenerated into violence.
A suspected Nazi sympathizer then drove his car into a crowd of anti-racism demonstrators, leaving one woman dead.
When Trump himself drew fire for defending some of the right-wing crowd as “fine people,” eyes also turned to Bannon, as the figurehead of the “nationalist” camp within the White House.
So he had to go, but will he, Breitbart and the racist hard right now turn on Trump?