This is the second part covering particularly strong influences on leadership figures. Here is the first part, about the the myriad of Russian names that side next to Putin for power.
The field of top advisers around Donald Trump is not nearly as crowded as that around Putin. Of course Trump has not had nearly as many years in power, let alone politics; but with fewer figures potentially it is easier to discern which direction the power relationship flows. However it suits him (not just for ease of governance, I’ll assume) to create a field around himself alike Putin’s: uncertain of who holds the real power with changing allegiances, delegating and doubling roles in the same responsibilities, as well as creating competition for his attention and favour to influence a nation.
Critical coverage mostly goes to two outsiders. The first, and most obvious choice here is Steve Bannon – long-time public supporter of Trump. Portrayed by the American sketch show Saturday Night Live in a Grim Reaper costume, and trading desks with Baldwin’s Trump, there’s quite the visceral image of how the “MSM” mainstream media perceives Bannon and his influence over the President. Perhaps more important however is how Bannon sees himself. His comparison to Thomas Cromwell might want to be reconsidered though.
Bannon is well-read, and while it received a lot of coverage at one point, it is probably still unusual to most to learn his admiration for the Bhagavad Gita, part of the epic that charts Hindu history. The bigger picture tells of two warring factions of a family, with the Gita (as it is also known for short) focusing on the final warring show-down, and the crisis of faith of Prince Arjuna when he considers needing to kill family. Arjuna is counselled by Krishna (an important deity in the faith), that sometimes the fight is necessary to restore balance.
This piece in The Diploma posits that Bannon considers himself a Dharma Warrior. His position on the National Security Council should come in handy for that fight, which decides on actions that can lead to war. His experience at Breitbart (a post he had to leave to serve in the White House) was perfectly outlined in this Bloomberg profile from back in 2015 (oh what irony that back then his news outfit crucially was required to anchor left to pivot right), and also covered by The Atlantic more recently. The CNN’s coverage of his CPAC speech this month guides his current strategy, as he spoke of Trump’s agenda.
The other man in Trump’s life from the “Breitbart Side” is Stephen Miller. A figure courting controversy, practically from the day he hit puberty, he cut an impressive path (though straightforward) through American politics, to mastermind the Executive Orders on the travel ban from seven mainly Muslim countries at the beginning of the year at the tender age of 31. He is oft described as a true believer in what Trump spouts, though the order of who said what to whom is questionable when Miller was the author behind the biggest of Trump’s speeches. MTV – not the usual source of news, but probably easily accused of being part of the liberal elite – posits this is not where his ambition will end.
And finally there is really only Jared Kusher left. Husband to the daughter whom Trump would date if they were the same age, Kushner’s life story could be a facsimile of Donald Trump’s own past. A father in property development with legal issues, and no experience in politics whatsoever. This newness may have helped in the approach to marketing of the campaign, and tipping the electoral scales. Perhaps this familiarity is what bonds the two of them (besides their mutual attraction to Ivanka). Kushner also has the advantage of having moved to DC, unlike Trump’s wife and son, meaning Ivanka is assumed to take on traditional First Lady duties – that said, nobody had a problem leaving the First Lady of Japan on her own when her husband was in town for a State Visit.
Ultimately the space around Trump isn’t as crowded as the myriad of people in Putin’s circle of influence. We can’t discern whether his own unpredictability is an effect of those he is surrounded by, or causes him to surround himself with people like Bannon, Miller and Kushner. But their signals toward the mainstream media, as well as direct communication, are the best sources for guidance on what Trump will do next. And judging by their personalities, I don’t see everyone making it to the end of the 4 years (my bet is on Miller if you’d force me make a choice on who goes first).
(Photo credit goes to the White House)