Trump battles with Bannon

Trump battles with Bannon

Washington is the site of another falling out among friends.

It's hardly surprising that President Donald Trump has a new sparring partner. When he's not engaged in a feud with someone, no matter what their social status, he's looking for a fight.

But just whom Trump's new sparring partner is comes as a big surprise.

The president is engaged with rhetorical warfare with one of his former chief political advisers, the enigmatic Steve Bannon.

After a reasonably long run as a Trump campaign manager and White House adviser, Bannon left the Trump team to promote what he said was his own and Trump's political agenda.

That included promoting former Judge Roy Moore's Republican candidacy for the U.S. Senate from Alabama, an extremely unwise and politically disastrous move that resulted in a Democrat winning in a solid Republican state.

Trump, to say the least, wasn't happy about that. But he kept his silence.

But the dam broke last week after Bannon was quoted making a series of unflattering remarks about the president's family in the new book "Fire and Fury" by Michael Wolff.

Trump also has responded to the book in characteristic fashion, directing one of his lawyers to demand that Wolff and his publisher "cease and desist from any further publication, release or dissemination" of "Fire and Fury." That guaranteed even more lurid publicity that will generate sales for the work that includes a highly unflattering portrayal of the Trump White House.

Trump's penchant for using lawyers to attack and intimidate his critics is one of his least attractive features. But he'll abandon that practice the day after he stops tweeting.

What's new here is his falling out with Bannon, who often was described as someone who could channel Trump's political instincts into winning policy proposals. Obviously, that was giving Bannon too much credit.

Anyone who would back a candidate so manifestly unfit as Moore for the U.S. Senate does not deserve much respect as a political analyst.

What Bannon really is — and this is part of his appeal to Trump — is a self-described "aginer" who can't figure what he wants from government but knows what he doesn't like.

Well, that approach doesn't cut it — elected official must govern in an environment that frequently requires compromise.

Trump has learned, to his chagrin, that the presidency, while quite powerful, isn't as powerful as he thought or hoped it would be. Bannon's scorched-earth approach to government and politics had the effect of making Trump's job harder during and after the adviser's White House sojourn.

Still, the harsh rhetoric Trump directed at his former aide was striking.

"He not only lost his job, he lost his mind," Trump said in response to Bannon's insulting characterizations of Trump's daughter, Ivanka Trump ("dumb as a brick") and Trump's son, Donald Trump Jr. ("treasonous").

The treason reference stems from a controversial and stupid meeting Trump Jr. held during the 2016 presidential campaign with representatives of the Russian government who claimed to have, but apparently did not offer, derogatory information about Hillary Clinton.

That meeting has helped fuel speculation about Russia's role in the election and the extent to which the Russians offered, and the Trump campaign accepted, assistance in defeating Clinton.

That question has resulted in a criminal investigation being led by special counsel and former FBI Director Robert Mueller.

This back-and-forth is, of course, an embarrassment, or at least it ought to be.

This kind of petty and public personality fight used to be beneath the dignity of a traditional politician. But Trump is anything but traditional, and his endless displays of rhetorical excess will, undoubtedly, continue.

Some people like it. Many people do not. But voters knew what they were getting when they elected this businessman/political celebrity as president. More decisively, they knew what they were not getting — Hillary Clinton — when they opted for Trump.

That why this country is where it is and will stay where it is.

Sections (2):Editorials, Opinion