Check-mated in his alt.right corner |

 

It is lovely to see this rogue administration and its enablers devouring themselves in a circular firing squad. As Tillerson, Cohn and Ryan publicly criticize Trump, Trump’s fired and disgraced former advisor, Steven Bannon, instructs his minions at Breitbart to wage war on the apostates: Breitbart writer Matthew Boyle charges Trump with “letting these people get away with [their] public humiliation of him,” and charges this “shows weakness on [Trump’s] behalf.”

Meanwhile, in another part of Breitbart, another Bannon minion, Charlie Spiering, trashes Ivanka and Jared for supposedly being “West Wing Democrats.” “It’s unclear how long the pair will remain in Washington D.C.,” he writes, rumor-mongering of the highest sort.

No doubt Breitbart/Bannon and their minions devoutly hope that all sources of “moderation” will depart Washington and go back to New York, to do whatever elite things they like to do, thereby letting Trump be Trump—by which they mean, nationalistic, racist, homophobic, insulting good people left and right, belligerent overseas, cutting taxes on the rich and slashing government funding at home, except for the military. I myself don’t care much for anyone in this administration or in Trump’s family, but how ironic it is that we have to hope the “moderates” stick around long enough to rein in Trump’s more sinister impulses.

Jared is coming under particular attack at Breitbart. The website’s Editor-at-Large, Peter Schweizer, yesterday launched a fierce attack on Trump’s son-in-law, accusing him of “hubris” and suggesting he is not “following ethical rules.” He called for “higher scrutiny” of Kushner, in things like “disclosing his financial assets.”

Schweizer is surely correct to state the obvious, but it took Bannon’s getting fired for Breitbart to start coming down on the “West Wing Democrats,” which is proof that Bannon now is an angry, resentful alter cocker, determined—as he vowed—to even scores with those he believes undid him.

This development, of the alt.right wing of the Republican Party going after Trump and his “moderate” advisors, is very clever, in the sense that it appears to position Trump further to the center, i.e. more in alignment with his traditional politics of being a Democrat. It could thus help to boost his poll ratings with independents and moderate-right voters, who distrust the Democratic Party and yet want nothing to do with the alt.right crazies.

On the other hand, it could profoundly alienate the alt.right, which has been Trump’s base. Every once in a while, it’s considered smart for a President to disassociate himself from the more radical elements of his base, as Bill Clinton famously did with his Sistah Soljah remark.

But letting Gen. Kelly fire the Bannon-Gorka-Priebus crowd and let the Tillerson-Cohn-Jared-Ivanka crowd remain untouched is hardly a Sistah Soljah moment for Trump. He hasn’t yet had one, despite many opportunities, because he’s not brave enough to declare one. The closest he came, or tried to come, was in his speech condemning white supremacists, the KKK and Nazis, but that speech was thoroughly repudiated by his previous and subsequent remarks exonerating them.

And, in fact, there is nothing Trump can do to unpaint himself out of his extremist corner. He placed himself there, deliberately, to appeal to the alt.right, in order to get elected president. Strategically, it worked. But he now owns the alt.right, and the irony is that he’s pissing them off. He’s alienated his base, he’s alienated moderates, and liberals detest him anyway. About all he has left, frankly, is the Joe Arpaio crowd. That doesn’t sound like a master of 14-dimensional chess, it sounds like a novice who overplayed his hand, and is now about to find himself check-mated.

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