There won’t be a whole lot to say about this right now, but I know some of y’all will want to talk amongst yourselves.
The word has come down. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus is Donald Trump’s selection for chief of staff. And Trump has chosen Steve Bannon, the former executive chairman of Breitbart LLC who became Trump’s campaign CEO, as his chief counsel and strategist — the role Valerie Jarrett has filled for Obama.
Newt Gingrich approves.
The Bannon-priebus team is a tremendous choice by President elect Trump. Bannon for key strategies,priebus for daily management. great team
— Newt Gingrich (@newtgingrich) November 13, 2016
Priebus’s tenure as RNC chairman has been marked, notably, by a very limited emphasis on the political philosophy behind policy positions. In fact, it has tended to give policy positions themselves short shrift, in favor of a greater emphasis on the mechanics of party tending, campaigning, and getting out the vote.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Trump’s choice of Priebus as chief of staff probably means mostly that Trump wants a familiar face, one who has had a relationship of trust with a lot of the GOP’s senior ranks, standing sentinel at the Oval Office. The chief of staff is a privileged gatekeeper — a position that a CEO in business likes to keep fiercely loyal, comfortable in the executive suite, and apolitical. That would be my take on what Trump is after.
Bannon is reported by almost everyone to be abrasive and outspoken, sometimes hard to work with. But he’ll be an idea-management guy, someone to chart a course with Trump’s priorities, assuming he fills that aspect of Valerie Jarrett’s role. My prediction is that we can expect President Trump to be more hands-on, in key ways, than Obama has been much of the time. Trump won’t leave the head work of strategizing all to Bannon. But he’ll want a pit bull in the role of big-picture priority setter.
Bannon is usually referred to by his unsympathetic critics as basically an “alt-right” weirdo. I’m still trying to pin down what that means. “Alt-right” too often seems to mean “stuff I don’t like about the non-leftists who aren’t just like me.” People in my circle of acquaintance who have worked with him are firm that he is absolutely not anti-Semitic, which is one of the most frequently cited discriminators for the “alt-right.” If there were any kind of paper trail showing anti-Semitism (or racism) on his part, we can be pretty sure it would have been found already.
No telling how long Bannon will survive in his prospective role. I tend to prefer more philosophical grounding than Priebus will bring, and more of a spirit of conventional workplace harmony than we are led to expect from Bannon. But it’s Trump who got elected, and his team who will have to coalesce and work together. So I wish them all the best. It should be an interesting ride.