Trump Staff Shakeup — And Trump Pivots….. 360 Degrees

Ken AshfordElection 2016Leave a Comment

There was something about Trump’s rally yesterday in Michigan that was odd.  I tweeted about it.  He was reading from a teleprompter, but this wasn’t a policy speech (which is the only time he uses a teleprompter).  This was a message speech.  It was, for the most part, directed at the African-American community (although there were none in the house).  And he literally said that the problems of the inner cities were due to Obama’s immigration policies.  It was as if he was inviting the African-American community to join his cause in hating Muslims.

He had done this a few times with the LGBTQ community, pointing out that gays were killed by the Islamic terrorist in Orlando, and that “Hillary Clinton’s” Clinton Foundation had accepted money from Islamic countries that kill or torture or ban homosexuals.  Again, this was Trump inviting a traditionally non-Republican demographic into the Muslim-bashing fold.

I found it all quite odd.  It was kind of a perversion of Clinton’s campaign slogan — “Stronger. Together.”  Trump’s version says, “Together, Stronger, Against Muslims/Terrorists”.

This morning, I got confirmation of what is going on (I think):

Donald J. Trump has shaken up his presidential campaign for the second time in two months, hiring a top executive from the conservative website Breitbart News and promoting a senior adviser in an effort to right his faltering campaign.

Stephen Bannon, the executive chairman of Breitbart News LLC, will become the Republican campaign’s chief executive, and Kellyanne Conway, a senior adviser and pollster for Mr. Trump and his running mate, Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana, will become the campaign manager.

Paul Manafort, the campaign chairman, will retain his title. But the staffing change, hammered out on Sunday and set to be formally announced Wednesday morning, was seen by some as a demotion for Mr. Manafort.

The news, first reported by The Wall Street Journal, was confirmed early Wednesday by Ms. Conway in a brief interview, but she rejected the idea that the changes amounted to a shake-up and said that Mr. Manafort was not being diminished.

“It’s an expansion at a busy time in the final stretch of the campaign,” she said, adding that Mr. Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates, would remain in their roles.

“We met as the ‘core four’ today,” Ms. Conway added, referring to herself, Mr. Bannon, Mr. Manafort and Mr. Gates.

People briefed on the move said that it reflected Mr. Trump’s realization that his campaign was at a crisis point. But it indicates that the candidate — who has chafed at making the types of changes his current aides have asked for, even though he had acknowledged they would need to occur — has decided to embrace his aggressive style for the duration of the race.

There are three takeaways from this piece of news:

(1)  Trump knows he’s in trouble.  He’s trailing in national polls by an average of about seven points, per RealClearPolitics; he’s behind in almost every battleground-state poll we’ve seen, including our NBC/WSJ/Marist polls from last week; and he’s losing to Clinton in the NBC battleground map.

(2)  Trump’s turn away from Manafort is in part a reversion to how he ran his campaign in the primary with then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. Lewandowski’s mantra was ‘let Trump be Trump’ and Trump wants to get back to that type of campaign culture. The idea of a “pivot” does not work for him.  Which is too bad — Trump did in fact close in on Clinton in the polls when he was mostly following Manafort’s advice and staying on message — that is, between his attacks on Judge Gonzalo Curiel and the Khans.

(3)  Trump is doubling down on nationalism and being an outsider: No conservative news organization better reflects Trump’s nationalism and outsider status than Breitbart News, and Trump has now hired its chairman.  What Trump is trying to do, as I suggest up top is to broaden his nationalism to include non-whites, gays, etc.  That is his stategy — a populism and nationalism for ALL Americans.

By the way, the demotion of Manafort is timely:

Donald Trump’s campaign chairman helped a pro-Russian governing party in Ukraine secretly route at least $2.2 million in payments to two prominent Washington lobbying firms in 2012, and did so in a way that effectively obscured the foreign political party’s efforts to influence U.S. policy.

The revelation, provided to The Associated Press by people directly knowledgeable about the effort, comes at a time when Trump has faced criticism for his friendly overtures to Russian President Vladimir Putin. It also casts new light on the business practices of campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

Under federal law, U.S. lobbyists must declare publicly if they represent foreign leaders or their political parties and provide detailed reports about their actions to the Justice Department. A violation is a felony and can result in up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

But that’s almost irrelevant now, as Bannon — who has no actual campaign experience — comes to the fore.

Trump’s campaign and jargon was already very Breitbartian in many ways.  The hogwash about illegal aliens killing people right and left is ripped from the Breitbart headlines.  Breitbart isn’t like Newsmax — it strives for factual correctness.  But it is not above spinning conspiracy theory. “Clinton Cash” is the brainchild of Bannon. Also, a really big Palin propagandist back in the day.

Breitbart News hates Clinton. Breitbart’s tone rests in the belief that Fox News is too polite.  This is the Ann Coulter wing of the GOP. Check out a profile of Bannon from a few months ago.

Bannon is controversial even among other conservatives, including The Weekly Standard editor William Kristol, who said, “I hate the fact that it’s called Breitbart News. If they changed the name and called it Right Wing Intolerant Mean-Spirited News, that would be fine.”

Kellyanne Conway is a right-wing pollster, former adviser to Newt Gingrich, and last year headed up a Ted Cruz super-PAC. She’s a specialist on testing how ideas and language work within a campaign, a frequent TV talking head, and a free-roaming conservative meme generator.

So this is going to be more of an ugly campaign than before.

Hey, remember when Trump said he was going to hire the best people?  This is what he meant.

This is all happening on a day where the Trump campaign, for the first time, is airing ads in swing states.  Not a LOT of ads, mind you, compared to Clinton:


But some ads.

And it comes after word that Fox News sexual harrasser Roger Ailes is also advising the Trump campaign for debate prep.

So the strategy clearly isn’t to pivot, but to keep on Trumping away.  I guess the thinking is that most of America is with Trump’s base and you just have to keep getting the message out.  I guess.

I think there is some relief on the left about Trump’s decision to be Trump.  Everything that has hurt the Trump campaign has come from one thing: Trump’s mouth.  If these guys are going to let Trump be Trump, that is, I would think, a gift to Democrats everywhere. Trump’s campaign is also likely to look more extreme, which cannot help the flailing candidate in the suburban, highly educated precincts in states such as Pennsylvania, Virginia, Colorado and North Carolina where he is hemorrhaging more upscale Republican votes. Bannon’s fascination with Palin, who turned off many such voters to John McCain after he chose her as his running mate in 2008, could aggravate rather than ease this problem.

And if the theme of this latest bit of Trump court intrigue is a return to the “Let Trump be Trump” philosophy, Clinton’s operatives will only cheer. Trump being Trump is precisely what led him to this crisis point.

On the other hand, we could be seeing some huge lies and conspiracy theories regarding Hillary.  And ads that make Willie Horton ads look like children’s cartoons.

UPDATE:  Conservative jerk Ben Shapiro knows Bannon, and gives us eight need-to-knows:

1. Steve Bannon Turned Breitbart Into Trump Pravda For His Own Personal Gain. Back in March, I quit Breitbart News when it became clear to me that they had decided that loyalty to Donald Trump outweighed loyalty to their own employees, helping Trump smear one of their own reporters, Michelle Fields, by essentially calling her a liar for saying that she had been grabbed by then-Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.

2. Bannon Uses Celebrity Conservatives To Elevate His Personal Profile. Bannon began receiving conservative media attention for his documentary Generation Zero. And he began elevating his profile by latching onto Michele Bachmann with his documentary Fire From The Heartland. But he truly insinuated himself into the circles of conservative power by making a 2011 documentary about Sarah Palin, The Undefeated. His connection with Palin upped his brand in the movement significantly. He soon began appearing on Fox News with Sean Hannity fairly regularly, became personal friends with Hannity, and met Andrew Breitbart. He insinuated himself into Breitbart’s business by lending him office space, then made a documentary starring Breitbart, Occupy Unmasked. When Breitbart died, his business partner Larry Solov offered Bannon chairmanship of the company. Bannon then turned Breitbart into his personal domain…

3. Bannon Took At Least One Major Breitbart Investor For A Serious Ride. One of the main investors in Breitbart News is Robert Mercer. The Mercer family put millions of dollars into a Ted Cruz super PAC during this election cycle, even as Bannon manipulated Breitbart News into a Cruz-bashing Trump propaganda outlet. The spokesperson for the Mercer family was Kellyanne Conway, who has now been installed as Trump’s campaign manager. I have been reliably informed by sources associated with the pro-Cruz super PAC that for months, as Bannon was using Breitbart News to promote Trump, the Mercers were defending Bannon’s neutrality to other Cruz supporters worried about Breitbart’s dishonest coverage about Cruz.
4. Breitbart’s Staff Lusts After Trump Involvement. Long before the billionaire officially entered the presidential race, Bannon was close to him; in April 2014, the Trump offices described Bannon thusly: “MAJOR SUPPORTER OF MR. TRUMP.” The new team at Trump headquarters will undoubtedly include all the Breitbart staffers who openly lusted after power within the Trump campaign: Joel Pollak, the Breitbart lawyer who desperately wanted to be a Trump speechwriter, and wrote a disgusting hit piece about me personally when I left and accurately accused the website of becoming an adjunct to the campaign; Matthew Boyle, the pseudo-journalist who reportedly bragged about becoming Trump’s press secretary; Milo Yiannopoulos, the Trump-worshipping alt-right droog stooge. They’re all in with their Godking, now.

5. Under Bannon’s Leadership, Breitbart Openly Embraced The White Supremacist Alt-Right.Andrew Breitbart despised racism. Truly despised it. He used to brag regularly about helping to integrate his fraternity at Tulane University. He insisted that racial stories be treated with special care to avoid even the whiff of racism. With Bannon embracing Trump, all that changed. Now Breitbart has become the alt-right go-to website….

6. This Is Precisely The Sort of Corrupt Media Relationship Breitbart Used To Abhor. Andrew Breitbart used his memoir, Righteous Indignation, to target one thing above all else: what he called the Democrat-Media Complex. He hated the merger of the Democrats and the media, and particularly despised their lie of objectivity. Breitbart News never claimed to be objective. But until Trump won the nomination, leadership at Breitbart News maintained that they had not become a loudspeaker for Trumpism. That was obviously a lie, and one Breitbart would hate. HATE. Now, it’s clear that Breitbart News is indeed and Trumpbart News. That’s pathetic and disgusting.

7. Trump’s Campaign Strategy Could Be The Launch Of A New Media Outlet. Because Bannon’s ambitions extend to Steve Bannon, he’ll tell Trump he’s doing a fantastic job even if he isn’t. That’s how Bannon Svengalis political figures and investors – by investing them in his personal genius, then hollowing them out from the inside. There’s a reason Sarah Palin went from legitimate political figure to parody artist to Trump endorser, with Steve Bannon standing alongside her every step of the way. There’s a reason Breitbart News went from hard-charging news outlet to drooling Trump mouthpiece. Bannon emerges from all of this unscathed. So what’s next on his agenda? If Trump wins, he’s in a position of high power; if Trump loses, Bannon could head up a new media empire with Trump’s support and the involvement of new Trump supporter and ousted former Fox News head Roger Ailes. Look for Sean Hannity to be a part of any such endeavor.

8. Bannon Is A Legitimately Sinister Figure. Many former employees of Breitbart News are afraid of Steve Bannon. He is a vindictive, nasty figure, infamous for verbally abusing supposed friends and threatening enemies. Bannon is a smarter version of Trump: he’s an aggressive self-promoter who name-drops to heighten his profile and woo bigger names, and then uses those bigger names as stepping stools to his next destination. Trump may be his final destination. Or it may not. He will attempt to ruin anyone who impedes his unending ambition, and he will use anyone bigger than he is – for example, Donald Trump – to get where he wants to go. Bannon knows that in the game of thrones, you win or die. And he certainly doesn’t intend to die. He’ll kill everyone else before he goes.

The Clinton team is holding back any: