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Outside D.C., Are People Paying Attention To The Trump-Bannon Rift?


The schism between President Trump and Steve Bannon is getting deeper, and it's getting a whole lot of attention here inside Washington. It started with a book called "Fire And Fury" that quotes Bannon extensively taking swipes at the president and his family. Trump responded with a scathing statement, saying Bannon, quote, "has lost his mind" when he left the White House.

So what effect, if any, does this have outside Washington for voters and for conservatives and, in particular, for Trump supporters? We're joined now by Chris Buskirk. He's a conservative talk show host from Phoenix. He is on the line with us again. Chris, thanks so much for being back.

CHRIS BUSKIRK: Oh, it's my pleasure, Rachel. Thanks.

MARTIN: What are your listeners saying? What are they saying about this Trump-Bannon split? Do they care?

BUSKIRK: Well, the funny thing is how little they're saying. That's what's really interesting. I mean, for those of us who work in or around politics on a day-in-and-day-out basis, this has been one of these stories that people can't get enough of. When it comes to sort of your man on the street, woman on the street, your average voter, then they have surprisingly little to say.

It just doesn't seem to be of that much interest, which I guess is not that surprising because when it comes down to it, people are interested in the policies - the agenda that they think are going to make their lives better and kind of look past the gossip and say, well, what's going on with North Korea, or what's going on with an infrastructure bill or the tax bill? And these people inside the Beltway - OK, they're going to have their spats. And people are going to try their powerplays. And there's going to be gossipy books that come out. But that doesn't really impact me on a day-to-day basis. So what's going to happen in Congress when they come back in session?

MARTIN: Right. But Steve Bannon was exceptional. I mean, Steve Bannon was the president's chief political adviser, the architect of the Trump movement. He was seen as this renegade rule breaker, whereas, someone like a Reince Priebus was on the establishment side of the Trump administration in the beginning. It was Steve Bannon who really spoke for the base. Is that not resonating, in some way, that now he's on the out?

BUSKIRK: Yeah. I think there's something there, sure. But you said something interesting. And this is really, I think, where the rubber meets the road - is that Bannon was the architect of Trump-ism or of the Trump agenda. That's something the president disputes. I think it's something that most listeners disagree with it, too.

Is he important? Of course. I think people respect the work that Bannon did on the campaign, at Breitbart, what he has done since then. But, really, when it comes right down to it, it's the person who sits behind the Resolute Desk - the person who's in the Oval Office. And nobody is bigger than the president - no aid, no adviser, no strategist. Nobody is bigger than the person they work for.

MARTIN: So now I'm going to ask you to put on your political analyst hat because...


MARTIN: ...Steve Bannon is in hot water, it seems. I mean, Roger Stone, longtime Trump confidant, has called his participation in this book by Michael Wolff a, quote, "stunning act of betrayal." Rebekah Mercer, one of Donald Trump's main financial backers and a shareholder in Breitbart, is now cutting ties with Bannon. And there's talk that he may be out of Breitbart altogether. Do you think he's done, Steve Bannon?

BUSKIRK: Well, yeah, I don't know what done means. I don't think that he is done...

MARTIN: Will he still be a voice in national politics? Will he still be able to galvanize Trump's base?

BUSKIRK: I think that to the extent that Steve Bannon stays true to the ideas that are really embedded into the Trump agenda, sure. And he's built up goodwill with the base. And, yes, that's true. But, you know, really where - the power relies in the political branch. It relies - it lies with the president, with Congress.

And so does Steve Bannon have the sort of influence that he might have had a week or a month or two months ago? I don't think so.

MARTIN: Do you think any of this has to do with the loss in Alabama that - Steve Bannon supporting Roy Moore in that race, losing that race?

BUSKIRK: Yeah. I think - does it play into it? Sure. I think that's part of it. But I think this really has a lot more to do with the book - with the Michael Wolff book and some of the things that are purported to have been said by Bannon while he was in the West Wing. That is something that any president would be very upset with. You cannot talk about your boss from the West Wing in that way. If, in fact, those quotes are accurate, you can't do that and expect to have no consequences.

MARTIN: The GOP establishment's real happy about this. They would have preferred that Steve Bannon be on the outside, on the outs of all conservative politics for a long time. So what does that mean for you as someone who was championing the anti-establishment wing of the GOP?

BUSKIRK: Yeah. I think the ideas still remain the same. The ideas that are - that resonated with the Trump base that are in Donald Trump's agenda - they continue to go forward. And when you look at the primaries next year - oh, sorry, gosh, it's this year now. But whether you're talking about somebody like a Josh Hawley in Missouri or Josh Mandel in Ohio or here, in Arizona, Kelli Ward - these are ideas that have lots of voices. And you're going to hear from them up and down the line during the primaries. And I say, you know, let's have a good strong primary debate.

MARTIN: Chris Buskirk, conservative talk show host, publisher of the website American Greatness. Thanks so much, Chris. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.