Neither Mitch McConnell's nuclear option nor U.S. airstrikes on Syria could push the Steve Bannon v. Jared Kushner power struggle off the front pages of the Washington press. Why? Because whoever prevails will be poised to fill up Donald Trump's empty vessel with their vision of governance. The New York Times writes:
The main players have grown so wary of leaving Mr. Trump’s side that it has become hard to organize meetings of senior officials without him...
Since Trump himself has no coherent organizing principle other than placing paramount importance on winning, leaving him to his own devices could amount to a free for all for whoever manages to bend his ear at any given moment.
It was Bannon's one part nativist, one part nihilist brand of governance that filled that void early on. But Bannon’s early missteps have provided Kushner's more mainstream pro-Wall Street impulses an opening of late.
Mr. Kushner and the others are said to be especially concerned about the geyser of bad headlines that have marked the president’s first two and a half months in office. They have resisted many of the more polarizing policy initiatives favored by Mr. Bannon’s side, including the travel ban and rollbacks of environmental regulation and of protections for transgender students, arguing that they undercut Mr. Trump’s election night pledge to be a president for all Americans.
As the Washington Post reports:
The ultimate argument against him, said one person with knowledge of the situation, is that “Bannon isn’t making ‘Dad’ look good.”
UPDATE: There’s now two reports that a “major shakeup” at the WH that would sideline Bannon and Priebus is coming.
Bannon's downgrade has left him forging unlikely alliances with establishment Republicans like chief of staff Reince Priebus and complaining about the "West Wing Democrats" and "the New Yorkers." Name calling aside, his current stature threatens to undermine some of Trump's most prominent populist pledges, like instituting the Muslim ban, building the border wall, and isolating the U.S. from international involvement in trade and diplomacy alike. Some of Trump’s most extreme right-wing cheerleaders, like the conspiracy site Infowars, are already blowing a gasket over Trump's airstrikes on Syria.
But even the far-right talkers who expressed support for the Syria strike are worried about Trump’s domestic agenda.
“This isn’t about palace intrigue,” Laura Ingraham, the conservative radio host and author who was one of Mr. Trump’s earliest backers, said in an interview. “This is about a full-scale assault against the Trump agenda from within. If the president allows this to continue and drifts away from his key pledges, he risks losing his core constituency and any hope of a second term.”
In fact, if there's one thing that unites that cauldron of backstabbers inside the White House, it's the realization that Trump's presidency is mostly failing—even if they disagree on why. To date, he hasn't delivered on nearly any of his big-ticket promises save one: a conservative Supreme Court justice. And the only way the Republican Senate was able to hand him that victory was by changing the rules (otherwise known as cheating).
Trump can't cheat his way through an entire presidency and be declared a winner, which matters deeply to him. At some point he has to deliver on something. The question is, what exactly? Kushner and Bannon will be key to directing where his efforts are spent.