Steve Bannon is the core of the Trump White House, the keeper of the flame. He understands Donald the same way that Drew Bundini Brown grasped the essence of Muhammad Ali. And when Brown wrote the famous lines: "Float like a butterfly; sting like a bee," he did as much to cement Ali's legacy as the iconic photo of him standing over a flattened Sonny Liston.
Bannon takes Trump's instincts and makes them politically marketable and governmentally relevant. You look at Rex Tillerson, James Mattis, H. R. McMaster, Jared Kushner and Reince Priebus. You see a recycling of the types that made the Bushes bland and blend in. Then you look at Bannon, the Michael Moore of the right.
He is what's different. He is what makes the Trump administration unique and attractive to the blue-collar voters who put them in office. He is Donald Trump's muse. Take him out of the equation, remove him from the White House mix and you will have a frustrated Donald Trump, unsure how to translate his instincts into rhetoric or into policy. The poetry of the Trump government will be over and replaced by dull, prosaic boilerplate language and timid achievements.
Don't take the spark plug out of the car.
The Trump campaign was a mess before Bannon showed up. And it would expire if he left.
Can't Bannon advise from afar? Send in memo? Emails? Tweets?
The White House can't work that way. Either you are immersed in all of the legal, political, financial and bureaucratic ins and outs of policy or you might as well keep your advice to yourself. No matter how attractive the dress you design, if you are on the outside, it won't fit when the administration tries it on.
To be creative and lend life and originality to a presidency, you have to be at the president's side as he runs the traps, navigates the bureaucrats, answers the lawyers, faces down the Joint Chiefs, and looks through his experts to find his own voice and the path to change.
Donald Trump needs Steve Bannon far more than Bush II needed Karl Rove or Ronald Reagan needed Michael Deaver or Richard Nixon needed H.R. Haldeman. These advisors were the first among their kind — the best political strategist, the top image maker, the ultimate bureaucratic infighter. But Bannon is sui generis. One of a kind. You don't replace men like Bannon. Once you lose them, you lose a part of your own soul and spirit.
Mr. President: Keep Steve
Image courtesy of Gage Skidmore