Despite recent reports that White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon had been sidelined within the administration, it appears he may be winning back the President’s favor.
In an interview with Bloomberg, Trump defended Bannon, describing him as a “very decent guy who feels very strongly about the country” and had received a “bad rap” from the media.
Trump also disputed the media’s portrayal of Bannon as an ‘alt-right’ figure, stating that he sees Bannon as “alt-left”, on the basis that “Bannon’s more of a libertarian than anything else.”
In response to reports of tensions between Bannon and Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, Trump said, “they’re getting along fine.”
Trump went on to downplay reports that Bannon would be leaving the White House, saying: “I’m very happy with our group. We’re doing very well.”
Bannon is said to have made an unlikely comeback within the White House, having reportedly been behind the Trump administration’s recent criticisms of Canada’s abuse of NAFTA, according to The Hill.
Trump’s characterization of Bannon as a libertarian is certainly unusual, given Bannon’s previous dismissal of the Cato Institute and Austrian economics.
However, it is not unheard of, with Bannon himself stating “I’m a big believer in a lot of libertarianism” in a 2014 speech to the Human Dignity Institute. Bannon then went on to criticize “the Ayn Rand or the Objectivist School of libertarian capitalism,” which he considers “a capitalism that really looks to make people commodities, and to objectify people, and to use them almost.” This suggests that Bannon, if he is indeed a libertarian, perhaps has more of a paleolibertarian outlook, combining libertarianism with a deep-seated cultural conservatism.
Regardless of Bannon’s personal ideology, his anti-establishment outlook has made him an ally for libertarians who wish to see Trump adhere to his ‘America First’ campaign platform, with Bannon reportedly pushing back against attempts by National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster to escalate U.S. involvement in Syria and by Kushner to keep the United States in the Paris climate agreement.