If you polished and repackaged the "deconstruction of the admin. state" for a nat'l TV audience, you'd get this speech.— Robert Costa (@costareports) March 1, 2017
And Trump's speech came just days after Bannon made a rare public appearance — at the Conservative Political Action Conference just outside Washington — to tout his views, mostly on the media. “It's going to get worse every day for the media,” Bannon promised the crowd in a not-so-subtle threat to the press.
Bannon — and Bannonism — is ascendant, a possibility that not even the man himself could have dreamed of 365 days ago.
Below, Bannon and the rest of my rankings of the most — and least — powerful members of the Trump Big Four. These rankings are the result of a carefully crafted algorithm — so, yes, this is my personal assessment based on a reading of White House tea leaves that includes what Trump has said about each, their influence on his policy (and tweets), their TV appearances and the media coverage of them.
Don't agree? There's always next week! To the White House Power Rankings!
1. Stephen K. Bannon
Bannon wasn't in the House chamber for Trump's speech on Tuesday night, but his fingerprints were all over the address. “A new chapter of American greatness is now beginning,” Trump said at one point. “A new national pride is sweeping across our nation.” That sort of rhetoric is right out of Bannonworld and evidence of just how much influence Bannon has over Trump. (Previous ranking: 2)
2. Reince Priebus
The tone of Trump's big speech — calmer, more conciliatory — was pure Priebus. And the fact that Trump didn't take to Twitter on Wednesday morning to slam the “failing New York Times” or pursue some other pointless distraction is a credit to Priebus's influence. Priebus drops from the top slot, however, because of the negative press he got from revelations this past week that he contacted a top FBI official to ask for help in pushing back against reports regarding the Trump campaign's contacts with Russian intelligence officials. It's not clear Priebus did anything improper, but it didn't look good — and Trump doesn't like bad press created by staff. (Previous ranking: 1)
3. Kellyanne Conway
Conway was at the center of the stupidest story of the week — the fact that she was photographed kneeling on a sofa in the Oval Office. But other than that, it was a relatively quiet week for the White House counselor. She remains, to my mind, the best TV surrogate for Trump. And the White House cleared her Thursday of any purposeful wrongdoing in relation to her pitch for Ivanka Trump's products. (Previous ranking: 3)
4. Jared Kushner
Taken in isolation, Kushner, Trump's son-in-law, seems nearly nonexistent these days. But, Kushner's wife, Ivanka, clearly has considerable sway over her dad and seems to be his near-constant companion. I'm not sure what that tells us about Kushner's sway with his father-in-law. And there's this report in Vanity Fair that Kushner is quietly building a power center within the West Wing. For the moment I am leaving Kushner in the rankings cellar. I'm not totally convinced he deserves to be there.
With Peter Stevenson