Conservatives fear ouster may be a win for White House centrists

For Chief of Staff John Kelly (above), the departure of Mr Bannon, a caustic presence in a chaotic West Wing who frequently clashed with other aides over various issues, spells victory.
For Chief of Staff John Kelly (above), the departure of Mr Bannon, a caustic presence in a chaotic West Wing who frequently clashed with other aides over various issues, spells victory.PHOTO: NYTIMES

WASHINGTON • Conservatives groused that they lost a key advocate inside the White House and worried aloud that US President Donald Trump would shift left, while cheers erupted on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange when headlines about Mr Stephen Bannon's ouster appeared.

His removal is a victory for Chief of Staff John Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general whose mission is to impose discipline on White House personnel. A caustic presence in a chaotic West Wing, Mr Bannon frequently clashed with other aides as they fought over trade, the war in Afghanistan, taxes, immigration and the role of government.

In an interview last week with progressive magazine The American Prospect, Mr Bannon mocked his colleagues, including Mr Gary Cohn, one of the President's chief economic advisers, saying they were "wetting themselves" out of a fear of radically changing trade policy.

Mr Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, daughter Ivanka Trump, deputy national security adviser Dina Powell and Mr Cohn have all been the target of unrelenting attacks by Mr Bannon's ultra-conservative Breitbart News and others on the right for their efforts to draw Mr Trump to the political centre.

The site has routinely dismissed Mr Cohn as a "globalist" and a "swamp creature"; in headlines, his name would sometimes appear bracketed by globe emojis, to underscore the point - also an allusion to the triple parentheses that anti-Semites on social media use to denote Jewish names.

Breitbart has mocked Ms Powell and Mr Kushner for partying together in the Hamptons with members of the "fake news" media and Democratic politicians.

"We're going to have a keen eye to see if Trump is able to continue connecting with his base, as the numbers just become more overwhelmingly globalist, centrist, establishment Democrat, all of those in the mix, and a lot less populist-nationalists," Mr Alex Marlow, Breitbart's editor-in-chief, said.

Now the scenario that many conservatives long feared is reality: The centrist aides are going to be largely unchecked.

"With Bannon gone, who is left to help the President shepherd his agenda through the establishment morass that wants to sink it?" said Ms Laura Ingraham, a conservative radio host and author who is a proponent of the tighter immigration and trade policies the President campaigned on.

"Conventional Wall Street Republicans didn't elect Donald Trump, and they won't save him. A laser beam focus on advancing his policies on trade, tax reform, immigration and infrastructure will."

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 20, 2017, with the headline 'Conservatives fear ouster may be a win for White House centrists'. Print Edition | Subscribe