If there is anything we have learned about Donald Trump since he descended his golden escalator 18 months ago to announce his presidential campaign, it’s that his ego is easily bruised and that he holds a grudge against whoever did the bruising. He gets and remains angry at people who have criticized him, belittled him or stolen his spotlight, and feels compelled to lash out.
For the brief moment in the campaign when Ben Carson surged ahead of him in the polls, he lashed out at the celebrated brain surgeon, comparing him to a child molester. When members of Congress make headlines criticizing him, he goes after them personally on Twitter. The idea that he didn’t win the popular vote gnaws at him enough to spawn an investigation of massive voter fraud that nobody with real knowledge of the electoral system believes in for a moment.
Given Trump’s sensitivity to slights and his anger at the suggestion that he is not as popular or as strong a leader as he believes he is, it seems reasonable to ask: How long is he going to be able to tolerate headlines declaring that it appears to be Steve Bannon, President Trump’s chief White House strategist, that’s running the administration, and not Trump?
Because there are a lot of them out there right now. The New York Times on Tuesday ran an editorial headlined simply, “President Bannon?” GQ magazine carried an article that states, “In Case It Wasn't Clear Yet, Steve Bannon Is Our President.” Politico ran with “The man behind Trump? Still Steve Bannon.” And Foreign Policy writes about “President Bannon’s Hugely Destructive First Week in Office.”
The unkindest cut of all, for a president addicted to Twitter, may have been when the hashtag #StopPresidentBannon began trending on the social media platform after the administration’s controversial executive order on refugees was released on Friday.
In the past, Trump has exploded when actors on Saturday Night Live portrayed him as an egotistical naif whose top advisers (and potential adversaries, like Russian President Vladimir Putin) are leading him around by the nose.
How much more will it irk Trump to see the question of who is really running the White House being asked openly is the media that he professes to despise, but consumes voraciously? It’s a question that must be consuming a lot of people in the White House right now, not least of them Steve Bannon.