This week the knives in the White House appear to be out for adviser Steve Bannon.
Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch reportedly told President Trump that he should fire Bannon. Trump’s daughter and son-in-law also think he should go. Anonymous sources tell the New York Times that Bannon hasn’t even been in the same room with Trump in over a week. And it didn’t help that Trump’s fumbled response in the wake of the Charlottesville rally seems due, at least in part, to Bannon’s influence.
CBS News has cited two sources saying Bannon will be fired by the end of the week. Then again, similar sources said the same thing about Bannon in the spring. And he’s still there.
But, in truth, firing Bannon would only be symbolic. The move wouldn’t fix the deeper political problems in the White House, since most of those issues were created by the president himself.
One only need look at the last major White House shake-up to see that nothing major will change in the West Wing if Bannon departs. In the 18 days since Reince Priebus was fired as White House chief of staff, Trump has engaged in public fights with his attorney general and the Senate majority leader, a fellow Republican. The president’s new communications director abruptly resigned after a profanity-filled tirade of an interview was published in the New Yorker. The United States has found itself on the brink of nuclear war with North Korea, prompting even Republicans to suggest that the president escalated tensions instead of calming them.
If Priebus’s departure was meant as a stabilizing influence, it didn’t accomplish that.
Now consider Bannon. He wasn’t responsible for much of the above. While he wasn’t the biggest fan of Priebus, it appears that they eventually found a way to leave each other alone. And Bannon reportedly didn’t want Trump to hire his short-lived communications director Anthony Scaramucci. It is unclear what roles, if any, Bannon has played with the North Korea.
Dumping Bannon would only make him a scapegoat. And at this point, it is unclear what firing him would even accomplish. Back in the spring, when Trump hit the 100-day mark of the presidency, Bannon’s position as a White House power player was solid. Firing him then would have signaled the president was moving in a different, more centrist political direction. But letting him go now, as he’s faded mostly into the background, would make less of a statement.
It won’t stop a single Trump tweet or any of those self-inflicted White House controversies.
Indeed Trump may have an incentive to keep Bannon around. While he’s on the payroll, Bannon has at least some responsibility to promote the president’s agenda. Outside of the administration — and likely angry about it — Bannon could become a major liability.James Pindell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jamespindell or subscribe to his Ground Game newsletter on politics:http://pages.email.bostonglobe.com/GroundGameSignUp