Sunday, April 09, 2017

Is Right-Wing Media Turning on Trump?

Jared Kushner & Stephen Bannon [Getty Images] 
From a political standpoint, my sense of humor is admittedly a bit tilted, so it's been amusing to watch the Republican Party's own chickens come home to roost this week.

But the reasons behind said roosting are no laughing matter.

The New York Times' Jeremy W. Peters and Maggie Haberman were two of the many political observers who reported on the internal rift between Stephen Bannon and Jared Kushner.

With his erratic tweets, lies, hypocrisy and ethical quagmires, it's no secret that Donald Trump is the maker of his own bed.

No one forces him make outlandish statements unsupported by fact, send out snippets of incomprehensible nonsense to his Twitter followers in the middle of the night without consulting his own advisers and policy makers, or conduct himself like an amateurish diplomatic lout with no tact or understanding of the delicate subtleties of international relations.

But as his approval ratings plummet to historic lows and he struggles to right the chaotic ship that is his presidency, the focus of his ire has increasingly turned upon his top advisers.

To be fair to Trump, internal divisions among senior White House advisers are not unique to his administration, but ultimately he's the one who bears responsibility for the controversy that's dogged the two advisers who arguably hold the most influence over him - Bannon and Kushner.

Bannon, an unapologetic white nationalist and xenophobe with direct links to Neo-Nazi's who is the architect of the alt-right, is perhaps one of the most divisive White House advisers in modern history.

He's the brainchild of much of the virulent anti-immigrant hysteria and toxic racial divisiveness that has characterized the Trump campaign, and carried over into the Trump White House.

Religious wingnut Dave Daubenmire
By all accounts it was Bannon who was responsible for pushing the ill-advised and poorly planned executive order banning people from seven Muslim-majority countries from coming to the United States.

Even Republicans are growing concerned that Bannon's extremist worldview poses a danger to American foreign policy because of the influence he holds over Trump.

This morning Jeremy W. Peters wrote a front-page story for the New York Times about Bannon being influenced by the 1997 book, "The Fourth Turning", which theorizes America heading towards a catastrophic socioeconomic breakdown.

But recently the toxic intolerance that Bannon peddles in has come back to haunt the White House in the form of anti-Semitic attacks on Jared Kushner in response to the public feud between the two advisers.

For example, as Right Wing Watch reported, last Friday the "Religious Right" zealot Dave Daubenmire used a Webcast from a McDonald's in a remote Kentucky town to take the anti-Semitic attacks on Kushner to a whole new level.

The noted evangelical Christian extremist fanned the flame of right-wing conspiracy theorists that Israel drives American foreign policy by blaming the decision to fire 59 cruise missiles on Syria on the fact that Kushner and his wife Ivanka Trump are both Jewish, telling his audience:

"Why is it in America today, the only group that you cannot criticize are the Jews? Everything we do is about Israel. The Jews are lost. Donald Trump's number one adviser, from what I understand, is his son-in-law Jared Kushner. Think Jared Kushner has got the Holy Spirit? No. Why? Jared Kushner is a Jew. He's a Jew. Donald Trump's daughter - what's her name? Ilanka? Ivanka? Ivanka - she converted to Judaism, alright? So Donald Trump has around him...those who love Israel."      

Are Daubenmire's views mainstream? Probably not.

But they do reflect the tone of some of the increasing criticism leveled at Kushner from within conservative circles worried that the wealthy scion of a prominent New York City real estate family whose vast holdings around the globe create an unprecedented ethical conflict of interest given his influence on domestic and foreign policy in the White House.

Will Bannon (next to lamp) continue to have a
seat at the table?
As Alyson Chadwick reported in an article posted on on Saturday, Bannon is still hugely popular with the alt-right and right-wing media.

While the much younger Kushner is more of a centrist moderate eager to reign his erratic father-in-law back from some the extremist views and polarizing positions he's taken.

Kushner is smart enough to know how reprehensible Bannon's views are.

As Dave Daubenmire's disturbing quote above demonstrates, many right-wing media figures have begun to worry that Kushner's being related to Trump, in addition to his having met with Russian political and business leaders in December (which Congress will soon grill him about) poses a risk for the Trump presidency.

After all, as Chadwick reported in her article, Bannon was supposedly against the decision to greenlight the attack on Syria while Kushner supported it; a position that likely played some part in Trump's decision to remove Bannon from the National Security Council last week.

The political danger for Trump is that Bannon was instrumental to his winning the support of hard right and fringe conservatives who helped propel 45 into the White House - and as the recent failure of the effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act demonstrated, hard-line members of the far right Congressional Freedom Caucus have shown that they will oppose the de facto leader of the Republican Party.

But it also exposes the danger of Trump having tapped both his son-in-law and daughter as senior advisers, if it comes down to making staff changes as is rumored, will he be able to do what's best for his presidency?

Or will his notorious loyalty to his family blind him to the tough decisions that presidents must inevitably make?

With Congress home on spring break, Republicans are preparing to defend their House and Senate majorities in the upcoming 2018 elections with a public that's shown little tolerance for their domestic agenda, and a historically-unpopular president in office.

A president who could find himself, and his agenda, shackled by the extremist views that he himself cultivated and encouraged in order to get himself elected.

An unpleasant chicken that's come home to roost at a White House that wants nothing to do with it.

Publicly at least.

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