File photo taken on Feb. 15, 2017 shows White House Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon (1st R) at the White House in Washington D.C., the United States. Multiple U.S. media reported on Aug. 18 that U.S. President Donald Trump has decided to fire White House Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon, in a major White House shakeup. (Xinhua/Yin Bogu)
by Matthew Rusling
WASHINGTON, Aug. 18 (Xinhua) -- White House chief strategist Steve Bannon was fired on Friday from U.S. President Donald Trump's administration, amid months of butting heads with key officials.
The move was simply the last straw in a constantly volatile relationship between Bannon on one side and other staff members on the other. Moreover, the hard-right Bannon was seen as a bad influence on a White House bedeviled by controversy.
"Bannon's position had become increasingly untenable, as his influence was seen by many ... to be a negative influence for the administration, in terms of stability and messaging, and an impediment to legislative success," Dan Mahaffee, senior vice president and director of policy at the Center for the Study of Congress and the Presidency, told Xinhua.
"The controversy surrounding Charlottesville and Bannon's perceived ties to the alt-right only furthered this criticism of Bannon," he added, noting last week's protest of white power advocates in the U.S. state of Virginia, which ended in the death of a 32-year-old woman.
It remains unknown whether this is the start of more house cleaning, or whether the White House's staff roster will retain the same team members going forward.
To be sure, this is not the first time the billionaire businessman,famous for the slogan "you're fired" on a U.S. TV reality show, has let employees go in his short time in office. Just over a month ago, Trump replaced White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus with John Kelly, the former Homeland Security chief.
Bannon often locked horns with the president's son-in-law Jared Kushner, also a senior White House adviser. The populist Bannon - a sharp contrast to the more moderate Kushner - saw himself as tasked with making sure Trump carried out the populist policy vows he made on the campaign trail.
Bannon also recently criticized the president's strategy on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), as tensions rise between the two nations.
"Bannon committed the cardinal sin of criticizing Trump's (DPRK) strategy. He basically said there couldn't be a U.S. military option because of the retaliation risk. That seriously undermined Trump's approach by giving confidential information to the (DPRK)," Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Darrell West told Xinhua.
Bannon blasted other team members as being too globalist and, in his mind, as lacking nationalist and patriotic credentials. That often stirred friction with more moderate team members, who characterized Bannon as not being a team player.
It remains unknown whether this marks a shift away from Trump's more populist policies and toward an administration that is more moderate in its view on a number of issues.
"His departure could enable establishment Republicans to gain more influence. That could put Trump on a more traditional path. (White House Chief of Staff) John Kelly will be in a stronger position to exercise discipline in the White House," West said.
Still, the move is unlikely to factor into Trump's support with his base, mostly white, working class men, since it was Trump that they voted for, not Bannon.
But while Trump's supporters continue to back him, the clock is ticking for the president to enact major legislative change that will bring jobs and prosperity to his base.
Trump lost a major battle in recent weeks when he failed to fulfill an eight-year GOP promise to repeal and replace Obamacare - the controversial healthcare system that is derided by a large chunk of Trump's base. Trump's bill did not receive enough votes in Congress, with a couple of key GOP senators voting against it.
More such losses could destroy Trump's credibility, and erode his supporters' hopes that this president will dial back years of job losses and economic stagnation in rural areas.
While jobs are plentiful in major cities from Washington D.C. to New York to San Diego, the situation is sharply different in America's rural areas - the stronghold of most Trump supporters - where people are struggling to make ends meet.
While Bannon's ouster is unlikely to shake supporters' confidence in Trump, the president's own failure to enact legislation, if current trends continue, could eventually lead to reduced backing from his supporters.
After serving as chief executive of Trump's campaign, Bannon later joined Trump's administration as White House chief strategist.
"Bannon's approach towards economic nationalism and his use of the Breitbart platform (the conservative newspaper he ran) reshaped how Trump communicated with his supporters and attracted white working class voters that had previously stayed home during elections," Mahaffee said.
Bannon's ouster could bring a more orderly White House, although it remains unknown whether Trump will curb what many see as his off-the-cuff statements via social media.
"While this may bring some further discipline to the White House and some of the order that John Kelly has wished to put into place, the wild card will continue to be Trump's own decision-making and communications-via Twitter and other unscripted statements," Mahaffee said.