Is Steve Bannon the Second Most Powerful Man in the World?

Bannon, second from right, paces the Oval Office Jan. 28 as President Trump speaks with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Andrew Harnik—AP

Most modern Presidents chart their opening moves with the help of a friendly think tank or a set of long-held beliefs.

Donald Trump’s first steps had the feel of a documentary film made by his chief strategist and alter ego Stephen K. Bannon, a director who deploys ravenous sharks, shrieking tornadoes and mushroom clouds as reliably as John Ford shot Monument Valley.

Act I of the Trump presidency has been filled with disruption, as promised by Trump and programmed by Bannon, with plenty of resistance in reply, from both inside and outside the government. Perhaps this should not be surprising. Trump told America many times in 2016 that his would be no ordinary Administration. Having launched his campaign as a can-do chief executive, he came to see himself as the leader of a movement–and no movement is complete without its commissar. Bannon is the one who keeps the doctrine pure, the true believer, who is in it not for money or position, but to change history. “What we are witnessing now is the birth of a new political order,” Bannon wrote in an email to the Washington Post.

This forceful presence has already opened cracks in West Wing. The Administration was barely a week old when, on the evening of Jan. 27–with little or no explanation to agency heads, congressional leaders or the press–Trump shut down America’s refugee program for 120 days (indefinitely in the case of Syrian refugees), while barring travelers from seven majority-Muslim countries. Almost immediately, U.S. customs and border agents began collaring airline passengers covered by the order, including more than 100 people whose green cards or valid visas would have been sufficient for entry if only they had taken an earlier flight. Protesters grabbed markers and cardboard scraps and raced to airports from coast to coast, where television cameras found them by the thousands….

 

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