With Bannon’s Departure, the White House Descends From Incompetence to Complete Political Armageddon

Steve Bannon isn’t going to war against Donald Trump. Let’s exorcise this prediction from our heads right away. Not only has Bannon made it abundantly clear that he intends to go to war in the name of defending Trump against enemies in Congress and the news media, but the trend so far has shown that former Trump staffers generally don’t go ballistic on their former boss — so far. 

That’s not to suggest Breitbart.com won’t criticize Trump when necessary. There’s surely a possibility of that. But an all-out war among the alt-right simply isn’t happening. 

Okay, don’t put away your Bannon resignation party favors just yet, because even though he’s not going to blow up the White House on his way out, his departure is yet another indication of an administration in complete disarray. In fact, it’s not even an administration in the strictest sense of the word, given there isn’t any administrating or governing going on. What we’re seeing on display is the manifestation of what a truly incompetent White House looks like, complete with mass resignations, conspicuously vacant posts, dismal poll numbers, worsening scandals, talk on the Hill of impeachment and so forth. 

This is what it looks like to have a president who’s completely out of his depth.

It’s fair to suggest that while we technically have a president and a White House staff supporting him, we don’t really have a president in the traditional, moral sense. Instead, we have a group of show-folk — sideshow hacks and pretenders going through the motions without accomplishing much of anything. Which is definitely a good thing, given the twisted politics of their dysfunctional collective, don’t get me wrong. It reminds me of a Little Rascals short in which Spanky, Darla and Alfalfa pretend to do adult things, but only manage to imitate the most superficial aspects of whatever it is they’re doing. 

This is one of many reasons why we’re seeing everyone who’s not physically handcuffed to the White House resigning en masse. 

In the past several days alone, two entire presidential councils collapsed and evaporated. The president’s committee on arts and the humanities disappeared due to the entire panel walking away from a poisonous chief executive, and it did so using some of the harshest terms yet, calling upon Trump to resign if he can’t grasp the difference between Nazis and anti-fascism protesters. Earlier in the week, the Strategic and Policy Forum, along with the Manufacturing Jobs Initiative each ceased to exist due to all of the participating CEOs walking away from the toxic president.

It gets worse. Late Friday, while we were still making sense of Bannon’s departure and what it means for Trump’s future, we learned that all 15 members of the Commerce Department’s Digital Economy Board of Advisors up and quit due to Trump’s corrupt leadership. And don’t forget, Trump’s commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, has been linked to the Trump-Russia scandal, given his former gig as a vice-president of the Bank of Cyprus, a reputed money-laundering front.

But wait. There’s more. Here’s CNN’s complete scoreboard of all the bad news to hit the Trump White House in the past four weeks alone.

Again, this isn’t a presidency. It’s a clusterfuck.

Which is all to say, no, Bannon’s departure alone doesn’t necessarily portend a war by the far-right aimed at Trump. But what it absolutely signifies is yet another major cataclysm layered onto Trump’s growing slagheap of nightmares, with zero good news to balance it out. The hemorrhaging, by the way, is being monitored closely by congressional Republicans who not only heard Bannon’s threats of retribution loud and clear, but they’re also witnessing a White House that’s not improving with time but, instead, a White House that seems to be getting less competent and less centered and less capable as time goes on. 

One last thing. There’s a reason why certain rules, systems and traditions have been established for stewards of the American presidency. The hard lesson Trump should be learning, but isn’t: If you deviate from the guidelines, you do so at your own peril. Reinventing how presidential politics is engaged requires much more than crazy eyes and a Twitter feed. It requires massive amounts of political capital and a presidency that’s riding high with 60+ approval polls. Trump has none of that. On top of these obstacles, it must be confounding to Trump to see one version of (fictitious) reality on Fox News every day, while observing a separate and distinct reality in national security and policy briefings from experts. I wonder if Trump is growing more obnoxious and more erratic as those two diverging realities chip away at his grasp on what’s real and what’s fake. Food for thought. 

(Thanks to Sean Domnick, Fred Cunningham, and Jeanmarie Whalen.)

Bob Cesca is the host of the Bob Cesca Show podcast, a twice weekly political talk show. He’s also a contributor to Salon.com. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook.