Russia losing to neo-Nazis as the new Mojo to remove Trump from office
Monday, 21 August 2017

The ousting of White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon marks the biggest political victory to date for opponents of US President Donald Trump. Seven months after taking office, Trump’s presidency now looks like a hollow shell.

We have become accustomed to tumultuous politics ever since Trump won the US presidential election last year. But the past week reached a new height of chaos. It kicked off with deadly protests last weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, where Nazi-flag-waving white supremacists clashed with anti-fascists.

The week proceeded with the demolition of American Civil War statues – seen as icons of the white supremacists; then there were denunciations of President Trump for appearing to give succor to the neo-Nazis; next, numerous business leaders resigned in protest from Trump’s advisory panels; and finally, the ousting of Bannon from the White House staff.

His departure was preceded by several other firings in the White House last month, going back to the forced resignation of National Security Advisor Michael Flynn in February over alleged secret dealings with Russian officials.

Trump came under intense pressure to get rid of Bannon, who has been depicted by critics as a Svengali figure, infiltrating the presidency with far-right ideology. Bannon has reportedly rejoined the right-wing news website Breitbart News, where he previously worked as editor before being recruited to the Trump election campaign last summer. 

Bannon is described by the Washington Post as the “architect” behind Trump’s stunning presidential election victory over Democrat rival Hillary Clinton. After Trump’s inauguration in January, the new position of White House “chief strategist” was created for Bannon. Political opponents decried the appointment as representing a radicalization of the White House owing to Bannon’s supposed strident views on nationalism, immigration, and Muslims.

When Trump made his equivocal condemnation of the racial violence last weekend, in which he appeared apologetic for the white supremacists, equating the violence of Neo-Nazis with that of anti-fascists, it unleashed a political firestorm in the US media. Bannon was fingered as the toxic influence on the president, renewing calls for his resignation. Democrats have been aiming for him to be fired from the outset.

Trump hinted that his chief strategist’s position was in danger when, in a rancorous press conference on Tuesday, he sounded ambivalent about Bannon’s future at the White House. “We’ll see,” Trump said to media questions about the staffer’s job security. 

As with much of this week’s events in the US, there seemed to be a large measure of hysteria. A day before rumors of his ousting, Bannon gave a surprise interview to a left-wing publication, in which he stated his condemnation of white supremacist groups. He called them “clowns.” Maybe it was just a cynical foil, but the public repudiation tends to negate opponents’ claims that Bannon was a toxic bigot marring the presidency.

In any case, Bannon is out. He has reportedly said that the radical populist agenda of the Trump presidency is now over. Recall that Trump vowed to shake up Washington’s political establishment – “drain the swamp” – and return governing power to the forgotten masses of ordinary, working Americans. Although an ex-Wall Street financier, Bannon is believed to have engendered the populism in Trump’s manifesto to ‘Make America Great Again.’

That’s all over, says Bannon. So, the question is: what becomes of the Trump presidency? Will it just be another rubber-stamp for the US establishment, corporate America, Wall Street banks and the political yes-men and women in Congress?

In truth, the Trump presidency was perhaps always that conformist creature. His early appointment of billionaires and Wall Street bankers to cabinet positions in his administration testified to that. But at least with people like Bannon in the inner-circle, there was a faint hope among grass-roots supporters that the Trump presidency might deliver on a radical shake-up of Washington to benefit the “little guy.”

That brings us to the bigger picture of political forces behind this week’s tumult around the president. It can be argued that Trump was never accepted as the elected president by powerful elements within the American political class. The so-called ‘deep state’ of the intelligence-military apparatus, influential media organizations like the Washington Post, the New York Times, and CNN, in conjunction with the Democrats, did not want Trump in the White House.

His potential for populist agitation against the political establishment was seen as a threat to vested interests.

But more than anything, it was Trump’s willingness to normalize bilateral US-Russia relations that alarmed his opponents, especially those in the deep state whose geo-strategic worldview is predicated on military dominance in foreign relations.

This systematic hostility towards Trump explains why for nearly seven months of his presidency, the US media have run an unrelenting campaign accusing him of being complicit in, or at least a beneficiary of, Russian meddling in the election.

However, the trouble for Trump’s opponents is that the ‘Russia-gate’ affair has failed to gain any traction. Lack of credible evidence to support the sensational claims has made the Russia-gate “scandal” look contrived, threadbare and, frankly, ridiculous in its overblown pretensions of being another Watergate – the scandal that caused President Richard Nixon’s ouster in 1974.

Trump has dismissed the claims of collusion with Russian state hackers as “a giant hoax.” Russian President Vladimir Putin has also blasted the claims of Russia meddling as “amusing rubbish.” Julian Assange, the editor of WikiLeaks, the whistleblower site which released emails damaging Hillary Clinton over wide-ranging corruption, has consistently denied US intelligence claims of Russian hackers involved in the election.

Recall that it was the US intelligence agencies, primarily the Central Intelligence Agency, which spearheaded the Russia-gate story. That is proof it was shadowy unelected powers of the deep state which were orchestrating the political-media campaign to disenfranchise Trump.

With the Russia-gate ploy failing to further a soft coup against Trump, his opponents are scrabbling for an alternative means to damage his presidency.

The sudden emergence of turmoil over racial politics, white supremacists, and neo-Nazis appears to provide the sought-after alternative lever against Trump. It seems rather strange that such a fringe issue over Civil War statues and relatively marginal political groups should dramatically ascend to such national prominence.

Trump’s equivocation over white supremacist groups is certainly appalling. There is no doubt such hate-groups are odious clowns, as Stephen Bannon said.

But there is more than a suspicion that the racial controversy is being amplified way beyond reasonable proportions. The agenda seems to be back to the orchestrated effort to get Trump out of office, or to at least emasculate his presidency to a rubber-stamp status.

Former CIA chief John Brennan pilloried Trump this week as “a national security risk” over his alleged racism. Editorials in top media outlets deplored Trump for bringing the US into international disrepute. The Joint Chiefs of Staff of the US military also issued highly unusual rebukes of their supposed civilian commander-in-chief.

Where Russia-gate failed, the deep state playing the racial card seems like the new, improved mojo for sabotaging this president. //Finian Cunningham

 




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