Sunday, July 30, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia: 30.7.17

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain. 

If you've arrived here because of an interest in Galicia or Pontevedra, see my web page here.

Life in Spain:-
  • Here's more on the macro/micro divide in Spain that I bang on about.
  • I regularly receive short promotional videos from Tur Galicia, highlighting the delights of our lovely region. But, as they're all in Galician/Gallego, I can't help wondering who the target audience is. It surely can't be the folk who already live here and might able to understand the soundtrack. Here's the latest one anyway. Given what you're about to read, it's rather appropriate.
  • One night last week here in Pontevedra, we had a Blues concert starting at 10.30, a large temporary fairground and fireworks at midnight. So, a busy night. And obviously the perfect time to close the city's largest free carpark adjacent to the fairground for re-tarmacing. If I were a cynic, I'd say this must have been beneficial for the owners of our underground carparks. Oh, I think that's the same people - the local council - who ordered the re-tarmacing . . .
Life in Galicia

My two Dutch guests and I travelled north yesterday, for one of Galicia's numerous summer gastronomic fiestas. This one, in Cerceda, offered spit-roasted suckling pig. Cochinillo in Spanish and Cochiño in Galician. Not something I associate with this region, as it happens. More so with Castilla y León.

Anyway, having eventually found the Parque Aquatico where it was being held, we established where to buy the tickets for 3 portions and then joined the shorter of the 2 queues near the serving counter. And then unjoined it, after I'd discovered it was for octopus.

After 20 minutes or so we reached the counter, to be told we'd been queuing for ribs and should have been in a 3rd queue.

I say 'queue' but, in fact, we were directed to an empty table near the spits:-

There I was given a large dish of roasted piglet:-

Finding seats and a table at the bar - after being ejected from the fully booked marquee - we then discovered that, among the pieces of meat, there was . . . .

An ear:-

A snout:-

And a tail plus accompanying arse:-

So, either all of these are considered delicacies by the locals, or the guy dishing it all out saw this guiri coming. Given that absolutely none of said locals was queuing for the roast piglet, I suspect it was the latter.

Either way, we declined to consume any of the above and gave most of them to the dog we'd brought with. So, at least one of us was happy. But it was something of a waste of €30 for the 3 humans among us.

I've been warned more than once over the years never to go to a fiesta gastronomica for the local speciality, as this would alway be of lower quality but higher price than at any other time of the year. Pity I was never told: But, if there any any available, always go for the delicious ribs.

Which reminds me . . . The worst aspect of all was that the portions of ribs and sausages which all the locals were buying looked stupendous.

Happily, though, we could see the funny side of things and chalked it up to life's experiences.

Moving on to a wider perspective . . .

Trump: How on earth to understand what's going on in Washington? Here's a couple of apposite comments:-
  • A friend said to me today that in a rational world, Scaramucci would have been fired for that interview. But in a rational world, Scaramucci would never have been hired. And in a rational world, Donald Trump would not be the president of the United States. We’re well past the rational world.
  • If all this really were the plot of a television show, critics would say it was unfeasible. Perhaps only Shakespeare could have described Washington over the past week. “Hell is empty,” he wrote in The Tempest. “And all the devils are here.”
Below this post is a valuable 5-part Guide to the feuding factions behind the President, from the Daily Telegraph. It's fascinating but bear in mind as you read it that some of the actors might have been chucked off the stage by the time you finish it.

Finally . . . In the normal Spanish disjointed way - you can displease all the people all the time - a couple of gardeners have been laying turf in my neighbour's garden during the last 2 weeks or so. The grass looks very good. I'll have to check but I'm sure it isn't the bloody gramón that I moaned about recently. The horrible stuff that's taken over my lawns that was much lauded by my other neighbour, Ester, and her visiting plumber.

Today's cartoon:-

"Well, so much for Plan A"


Inside Trump's White House Part I: Your guide to the feuding factions behind the President

Donald Trump came to power promising to shake up Washington and so revolutionise America. So far his biggest impact has been on something very different – the way the White House operates.

He has brought his distinctive management style, developed at the Trump Organisation, to the West Wing, where competing factions battle each other for influence and the chance to shape policy.
The result is a complex web of alliances and enmities, where key players build their own internal organisations, complete with chiefs of staff and spokesmen, all arranged in five factions:
  • An inner circle of family members and former Trump Organisation staffers 
  • Anti-establishment radicals
  • Establishment figures from the traditional Republican Party core
  • The "Generals"
  • Wall Street
Best known among the groups, largely because of the way their animosity has spilled into the press, are the competing anti-establishment and Trump family wings of the White House.

Steve Bannon, the former head of Breitbart News, arrived late in Mr Trump’s campaign but his brash brand of economic nationalism had long informed the candidate’s populist worldview.

“Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment,”   he once told a Daily Beast reporter(in a conversation he claims he does not recall).

Although he once worked for Goldman Sachs, he was never going to see eye-to-eye with the bankers and billionaires that fill other key posts in the White House.

Take Jared Kushner, a politically moderate multimillionaire who inherited his family’s business and has donated to the Democrats in the past. His internationalist outlook could not be more different from Mr Bannon’s, but having married Ivanka, his position as Mr Trump’s son-in-law makes him untouchable and puts him at the centre of a close-knit inner circle, alongside loyal retainers carried over from the Trump Organisation.

To supporters, the result is the sort of creative, chaotic tension that has been the hallmark of Mr Trump’s businesses. To detractors, the chaos is hampering Mr Trump’s ability to get things done. The first weeks of this administration were dominated by damaging reports of bitter infighting as the two big players butted heads over strategies for replacing Obamacare, intervening in the Syrian war and efforts to tackle immigration.

There are moderating influences among the alpha males that the president admires so much. The grown-ups include his generals – Jim Mattis at the Pentagon and HR McMaster, his National Security Adviser – and the pragmatists among the bankers brought in from Wall Street (or Goldman Sachs to be more precise). Anthony Scaramucci, brought in to replace Sean Spicer as Communications Director, is the latest Goldman graduate to join the Trump White House. 

And there are the political insiders from the Republican establishment perhaps best represented by Reince Priebus, White House chief of staff. Their job is to liaise with the Party leadership in Congress, translating the president’s agenda into legislation.

Those competing power centres make this White House unlike any other in history. Although clashes over policy inside an administration are nothing new, such deep divides over tone, direction and philosophy are unprecedented so early in a presidency. The fortunes of the factions will dictate the direction of the Trump presidency. 

But will Trump allow just one group to dominate the others? Or is his plan to maintain competing, creative tensions,  while taking obvious delight in his status as the ultimate disruptor. 

 Over the next five daily instalments, I will introduce the factions, their ideologies and temperaments, their backgrounds and politics, and explain how this very unconventional presidency makes a topsy turvy sort of sense.

Inside Trump's White House Part II: The untouchable inner circle of Donald's family and entourage

When Donald Trump fired James Comey, the director of the FBI, he knew it needed a trusted hand.
So he turned to Keith Schiller, his director of Oval Office operations, to deliver the manila envelope to FBI headquarters in New York.

At six foot four with a buzzcut, he still looks like the transport cop who used to travel back and forth everyday on the number three subway line from Harlem to deepest Brooklyn, shuttling between what were then two of New York’s toughest neighbourhoods. He joined the Trump Organisation in 2004 as bodyguard, before expanding his role to be Mr Trump’s body man and sounding board.

Today that gives him a powerful position at the heart of the White House – an unofficial gatekeeper known as a trusted confidant and something of a Trump whisperer. Win him over, say insiders, and you have the ear of the President.

His rise is emblematic of the way Mr Trump has organised his White House. Among the competing factions, the biggest, most powerful bloc is made up of friends, family and employees from the Trump Organisation. People he knows and trusts.

Their value lies in their history. They fought alongside Mr Trump through his turbulent business life, the legal challenges and bankruptcies, the marriages and divorces, then the primaries and the polls that wrote off his presidential run.

So when Donald Trump launched his campaign to become president two years ago with his promise to build a wall on the border with Mexico, the core of his White House team was already in place watching from positions stage right in the atrium of Trump Tower.

His daughter Ivanka stood out among the sober business suits in a striking ivory dress. Beside her, fiddling with his tie, was her multimillionaire husband Jared Kushner.

And among the crowd of journalists and professional cheerers (hired at $50 a pop) stood assorted loyal retainers from the Trump Organisation, who had descended from its headquarters on the floors above to support their boss in what many must have thought would be nothing more than another brief vanity project.

Instead many of the family and Trump employees have followed their patriarch and employer to the White House where they have formed the most powerful faction in his administration.

Mr Kushner has perhaps the most consequential post as an unpaid senior adviser. His portfolio is extraordinarily broad. He shuttles back and forth to the Middle East trying to broker peace between Israel and Palestine. He also heads Mr Trump’s delivery unit, the White House Office of American Innovation, as well as co-ordinating with visiting heads of state.

His wife is one of the highest ranking women in the White House, and has an almost unlimited portfolio, from women’s rights to business and foreign policy. Although first daughter is not an official title, she has recruited a chief of staff adding to a sense that she is building her own power centre.

It is difficult to know how effective either can be. Both were associated with Democratic politics in New York, making them political outsiders in this administration. And while both have recruited staffs around themselves, they don’t head the sort of agencies that might easily serve up policy wins.
However, their status as daughter and son-in-law give them softer, hidden influence across almost all the President’s thinking.

Ivanka has let it be known that she sees herself as a moderating influence on a president elected on a nativist, nationalist vote. Officials have let it be known she has taken to reviewing draft executive orders, for example, in order to avoid the furore over initial attempts to ban travellers from certain Muslim countries.

And she is thought to be one of the few people who can deliver bad news or criticism to a famously thin-skinned president.

In addition, Mr Kushner’s support was thought to be crucial in persuading Mr Trump to launch punitive missile strikes on Syria after its use of chemical weapons at a time when Steve Bannon, the other major power centre, was arguing such a move would not advance the America First agenda.

That axis has provided most of the clashes inside the White House so far. Mr Bannon and his allies have referred dismissively to a “New York” internationalist and liberal tendency.

At one stage things got so bad – with Mr Bannon calling his rival a “cuck” (a favoured alt-Right term of abuse) and a “globalist” behind his back – that the President had to intervene and demand a truce.
That leaves a festering struggle at the heart of the White House between two sets of outsiders who would never have been appointed by any other administration.

Mr Bannon’s friendship with Mr Trump goes back further than the campaign. But he cannot compete with blood relatives or Trump Organisation stalwarts.

Take Dan Scavino, who runs White House social media, but got his start caddying as a teenager for Mr Trump and became one of his golf club managers. Or Jason Greenblatt who works as Middle East envoy despite his main qualification being that as company attorney his office was two doors away from Mr Trump’s (and one of those doors was a supply cupboard).

The one thing to understand about this White House is that Mr Trump’s family and company loyalists hold the advantage in an administration run by a thin-skinned president whose lack of political experience means he is reliant on personal allegiance alone to get things done.

As one insider put it to me: “Analysts keep talking about clashes between conservatives and liberals, or putting people on a nationalist-internationalist divide, moderates and revolutionaries and that sort of thing.
“That’s all wrong.

“The only thing that matters – the only thing – is how long have these people been part of the team?”

Inside Trump's White House Part III: The Republicans struggling for influence and the party line

Sean Spicer’s wild ride through the first six months of this White House tells you all you need to know about the place of the Republican establishment in this administration. From day one as press secretary he found himself cast as kicking dog for both president and press, forced to defend indefensible claims about the inauguration crowd size.

He became both a TV show punchline – lampooned by a merciless Melissa McCarthy on Saturday Night Live – and a Washington celebrity, sought out by tourists for selfies. The journalists who had once hung out with him when he was a useful source of gossipy titbits in previous Republican posts on Capitol Hill came to pity him, wondering how many times he could get up after being put down.

The final straw came on Friday. When Mr Trump appointed a New York financier with no communications experience as communications director Mr Spicer finally said enough was enough and quit.

The appointment of Anthony Scaramucci, a long-time Democratic donor, demonstrated Mr Trump’s attitude to the wing of his staff with a traditional Republican background: It is utterly dispensable.

Mr Spicer, who had served as spokesman for the US trade representative under George W Bush, was one of them. Another is Reince Priebus, who was chairman of the Republican National Committee before becoming White House chief of staff. Few other party figures made the jump. There was too much mutual suspicion to overcome.

Mr Priebus’s calculation was different He feared the party would take the blame if Mr Trump lost heavily in the election and threw his weight behind the brash New Yorker once he had clinched the party nomination with 14.5 million primary votes, more than any previous nominee.

After the election, his reward was a plum job at the heart of the White House (bringing with him Mr Spicer, his strategist) and his role has largely been to act as conduit to Republican leaders in Congress, the men and women who must try to deliver the President’s legislative agenda.

The still leaves the party apparatchiks with a problem inside the White House: they are outsiders to the small crew which launched Donald Trump’s campaign.

That, according to one veteran Republican operative, is the best way to understand the under currents of this White House: Not by considering conservatives and moderates, or establishment versus anti-establishment but by measuring time served.

It’s the Band of Brothers syndrome. Observers compare the late arrivals with the new faces arriving to serve in 101st Airborne's Easy Company, well after it had forged a camaraderie through training for and then fighting in months of warfare. The replacements were never going to fit in easily.
“It’s great that you are with us now but you didn’t fight your way off the Normandy beaches,” is how he put it.

The result is that Mr Priebus has taken more than his fair share of blame for White House blunders. The president reportedly took to asking Oval Office visitors for their opinion on his chief of staff’s performance as the Republican healthcare bill struggled to make it through the House of Representatives.

It is a case of last in, first out – as Mr Spicer has discovered.

To survive this far they have had to build alliances with Steve Bannon’s anti-establishment faction to fend off the rising influence of Jared Kushner and the family wing. But that’s a micro thing, backing each other on a case by case basis, rather than a macro move, according to an administration source.
That offers a survival strategy inside the White House. But outside they are still viewed with hostility by Mr Trump’s hard core who are intent on draining the swamp.

The Republican stalwarts are blamed for diverting Mr Trump from his populist agenda and replacing it with a conventionally conservative plan, cutting taxes for the rich and focussing too much time and attention on Obamacare.

In particular they reserve maximum ire for another of the Republican apparatchiks – John DeStefano, who serves as director of presidential personnel.

His position gives him extraordinary power across the administration, identifying picks for senior positions that need Senate confirmation as well as the more than 3,000 lower level posts that don’t.
His background, in traditional party politics before becoming political director for former House speaker John Boehner (an establishment figure ultimately toppled by the forces that gave rise to Donald Trump), means he is suspected of using the recruiting office to stymie their hopes for upending federal government.

The economic nationalists see every vacancy – of which there are still thousands – or incumbent left in place as a victory for inertia and an entrenched elite.

Government on autopilot, is the frequent cry from American Firsters who want their revolution now.
That leaves Mr Priebus and what is left of his Republican cadre in a precarious position. Their motives are scrutinised and their loyalty questioned.

And so long as Mr Trump’s strategy is to rile up his narrow base against a “fake news” media and biased establishment, the party apparatchiks inside his administration will find themselves in the firing line.

Inside Trump's White House Part IV: The Wall Street millionaires fighting the globalist corner

There aren’t many people in this White House who would have served under any other president. Misfits, outsiders and political neophytes make up the bulk of appointments.

One of the outstanding exceptions is Gary Cohn. His 25 years at Goldman Sachs, history of political donations, and personal connections mark him as a typical appointee. But in this topsy turvy administration, those three qualities also count as handicaps.

Those donations were to Democrats, those connections were to liberal causes (his wife served on the board of Planned Parenthood) and his career has been spent at the bank depicted as the centre of a global political conspiracy by his new boss.

Throughout the campaign, Donald Trump echoed the imagery of a Rolling Stone writer who once described Goldman Sachs as a “vampire squid”. The candidate’s populist rhetoric blamed bankers in general for the great recession and that one bank in particular for its hold on American politicians, such as Ted Cruz and his Democratic opponent.

“I know the guys at Goldman Sachs. They have total, total control over [Cruz]," he said. "Just like they have total control over Hillary Clinton."

Things became so bad that the bank banned its employees from making donations to the campaign.
So it was something of a surprise to see the bank’s chief operating officer arriving at Trump Tower in November – scheduled between boxer Floyd Mayweather and rapper Kanye West – and heading up the golden elevator to a meeting with Mr Trump.

After an hour explaining such basics as why a strong dollar was not necessarily good for the American economy, he was offered a job as director of the National Economics Council, the central White House policy forum.

As such, he has been at the heart of almost every big political decision.

For now, the Wall Streeters are on the rise

During the run-up to the G20 his was the loudest voice arguing against the protectionist populists who wanted tariffs on steel imports of as much as 25 per cent. The consequences, he warned, would be a trade war with China.

He was opposed to withdrawal from the Paris accords, disputing publicly Mr Trump’s claim that it would help keep the US coal industry alive.

And he was among the group of internationalist and pragmatic figures who successfully urged the president to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement rather than torpedo it (with an executive order drafted by Steve Bannon and his economic nationalist allies).

As such, Mr Cohn and a handful of others carry the hopes of optimists who still believe Mr Trump might be nudged to more centrist positions.

They are the grown-ups, the people who know how the world works and have the expertise to resist the isolationists in the White House.

Among them are Steve Mnuchin, another Goldman Sachs alumnus who founded several hedge funds before being appointed Treasury Secretary. At $300 million, he has the sort of eye-catching wealth that impresses Mr Trump. Anthony Scaramucci, a luxuriantly coiffed Democratic donor and financier, arrived on Friday as the new director of communications. And there is Dina Powell, one of the most senior women in the White House. She headed Goldman Sachs’ charitable foundation before being approached by Ivanka Trump to become an adviser to the president on entrepreneurship and women’s empowerment.

Since then she has been profiled repeatedly as a rising star, promoted quickly to become Deputy National Security Adviser and was the only woman present with Mr Trump and his core team at Mar-a-Lago on the night he launched missile strikes on Syria.

Her Republican bona fides – she served in George W Bush’s White House – and friendship with Ivanka, mean she bridges some of the divides within the White House, insulating her from the barbs of the Bannonites who see the New York contingent as Democrats, globalists and late arrivals to the Trump project.

Even so, they could yet prove crucial to Mr Trump’s success. In particular this is the wing most anxious to press ahead with tax reform and deliver a much needed legislative win.

They have numbers on their side. Mr Cohn’s NEC has about 30 staff, giving it the sort of weight other factions lack. And there is the New York alliance with the Kushners to fall back on.
Mr Cohn himself is spoken of as a possible future chief of staff, should the president finally decide to put Reince Priebus out of his misery.

For now, the Wall Streeters are on the rise. The recent arrival of The Mooch – as Mr Scaramucci is known – suggests that when Mr Trump is in trouble he returns to his roots, bringing in talent from New York City whatever their past political leanings might be.

Inside Trump's White House Part V: The retired generals holding the isolationists at bay – for now

Moments after being sworn in as America’s 26th defence secretary, Jim Mattis stood behind the president’s left shoulder, his face fixed so as to betray no emotion. Donald Trump sat before a giant mock-up of the Medal of Honour in the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes signing an executive order banning the arrival of travellers from seven mostly Muslim nations.

As a retired Marine general, Mr Mattis knew the costs. He had fought in Iraq alongside local troops and translators who would no longer be allowed into the country they had served.

It was day one in the job, but the bargain he had just made with the Trump administration was clear.
So when the Pentagon issued a statement later in the day it made no mention of the ban.

The pen used to sign the ban was given to Mike Pence, the vice president, who had nodded along enthusiastically to Mr Trump’s sales pitch. Poker-faced Mr Mattis accepted a second pen used to sign a second executive order committing the government to building up military forces.

The episode illustrates two aspects of this administration: Mr Trump’s enthusiastic embrace of the military, its alpha males and its symbolism; and their reluctance to endorse the president’s more extreme pronouncements.

The generals (former and current) in this administration – including HR McMaster, National Security Adviser, and John Kelly, another retired Marine general who runs the Department of Homeland Security – bring prestige, credibility and know-how. They provide ballast to a White House filled with officials whose main qualification is friendship or kinship with Mr Trump.

But, like the Wall Street faction in this White House, their can-do success story is accompanied by lessons learned the hard way, making them a check on the president’s wilder impulses.

So although introducing his defence secretary by the nickname of “Mad Dog” may give Mr Trump a TV thrill, it misses the fact that few of Mr Mattis’s friends use it.They know him as a sober scholar-soldier, whose world view is shaped by three wars and the lives lost in them.

He made that clear in his confirmation hearings, laying down a clear red line in his relationship with the commander in chief.

“History is clear,” he told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “Nations with strong allies thrive, and those without them wither.”

That sets the generals at odds with the isolationist, anti-interventionist America First sentiments of Steve Bannon, which did so much to propel Mr Trump’s election. – despite what Mr Trump may have said about Nato, for example.Instead the generals find themselves working to reassure allies that America is not trying to break down the post-war international order

They are harder on Russia, softer on China and more inclined to commit American troops around the world than their boss. In short, their outlook brings a more conventional foreign policy than might have otherwise been expected.

And they have already scored wins. Mr Trump has denounced Russia’s support of Syria and reaffirmed America’s commitment to Nato, last month confirming his backing for the alliance’s mutual defence pact (despite the opposition of the Bannonites).

The generals’ role in national security and foreign policy have had conflicting impacts on another senior figure. Their portfolios overlap with that of Rex Tillerson, the Secretary of State who finds himself in danger of becoming the forgotten man in this administration.

At times he has worked with Mr Mattis on trying to heal divisions in the Middle East, reining in Mr Trump’s angry rhetoric on Qatar (blamed by the president for supporting terrorists) in an effort to end the Saudi-Emirati blockade of Doha.

The generals, it seems, can get away with diverging from their president, protected by the epaulettes that Mr Trump finds so appealing. When Mr Tillerson, on the other hand, has tried to row back the more extreme White House positions he has been contradicted in public for his trouble.

Already there talk of a Rexit, with growing whispers in Washington that a disgruntled secretary of state could jump before he face further humiliation.

Exactly how the foreign policy dynamic plays out will become clearer this summer, as the White House finalises its Afghanistan strategy.

Gen McMaster is pushing for a mini-surge of several thousand troops with a long-term commitment to increase pressure to force the Taliban to negotiate – a sort of status quo plus. Mr Mattis and Mr Tillerson have quietly cautioned against the plan, telling their colleague that the proposal won’t fly with a president who wants a more outside-the-box solution. To Mr Bannon's American Firsters sending more soldiers sounds like a step down the slippery slope to nation building, the trap that ensnared previous presidents.

The outcome, when it finally arrives, will provide a Litmus test of whether the generals have been able to keep the isolationists at bay. Fail and they will be compared with Colin Powell, a respected and popular general who as George W Bush’s secretary of state was ultimately squeezed out of the big policy decisions.

Inside Trump's White House Part VI: The watch-it-all-burn, America First Bannonites

Steve Bannon has been many things: an officer in the US Navy, investment banker, director of the research project Biosphere 2, Hollywood mogul, media executive and part of a company mining and selling virtual gold in online games.

His peripatetic career, jumping from one fad to the next, made him easy to dismiss as he circulated through the world of Republican politics. A “political grifter seeking to profit from the latest trend,” was how the journalist Joshua Green saw him in 2011, dismissing him as just another chancer looking for an empty set of coattails.

Six years later he is chief strategist to the president of the US, and very possibly the second most important person in the White House.

​Mr Green’s new book, Devil’s Bargain, details how Mr Bannon found in Donald Trump the perfect vehicle for his synthesis of blue-collar values, apocalyptic philosophy and sweeping historical analysis. His genius was to harness the candidate’s anger and name recognition in pursuit of a populist programme of economic nationalism.

With it, he brought an understanding of the electorate and the modern political landscape, informed as much by that odd venture into online gaming (“These guys, these rootless white males, had monster power,” he later said about an underground economy that was getting 1.5 billion page views a month) as much as his time as head of Breitbart News.

So when the Trump campaign was accused of running a TV ad riddled with anti-Semitic triggers – complete with nods to a global financial conspiracy and namechecks for Jewish money men and women such as George Soros – it was Mr Bannon who whispered in his boss’s ear to double down. “Darkness is good,” he told his candidate. “Don’t let up.”

His reward in power was to be appointed chief strategist, keeper of the populist flame inside the White House. Around him he has allies who are wedded to his belief that protectionism, restrictive immigration policies and non-interventionism represent the future of the Republican Party.

He has long been close to Jeff Sessions, going back to the years when the Senator from Alabama was kept at arms length by much of the Republican Party for his outlying views on immigration and history of racist comments. At one time he was the figure Mr Bannon wanted to run for president: He would not have won but he would have reset the debate on immigration that seemed to be tilting towards a liberal win.

Instead, as Mr Green’s new account describes, he persuaded Mr Sessions to endorse Mr Trump’s run, ensuring that immigration rose to the top of his candidate’s agenda.

And it brought Stephen Miller, who worked for the senator, into the team.

While Mr Sessions is now attorney general, busily toughening controls on illegal immigrants, Stephen Miller is Mr Trump’s senior policy adviser and author of some of his most notable speeches.
Bannonite blood course through this administration.

Sebastian Gorka, for example, joined the campaign team as a national security expert with an understanding of radical Islamist terrorism. His clash of civilisations analysis chimed with Mr Bannon’s worldview and he worked for a time as an editor at Breitbart News.

But in power, he has been kept away from national security by the generals who dominate the portfolio and are intent on pursuing a more conventional policy. Instead, his throaty British accent is a fixture on cable news networks where he has frequently been Mr Trump’s go-to defender when times are tough.

In May, speculation swirled that he was on his way out, dogged by allegations that he was a member of a far-Right order in his father’s native Hungary. That he survived was in part down to the patronage of Mr Bannon plus the golden rule of this White House: It does not matter whom you anger – the media, the opposition, the Republican hierarchy – just so long as you display sufficient loyalty to the President himself.

Mr Bannon too has learned how to ride the ups and downs. At one time his celebrity threatened to overtake that of his boss (remember that Time magazine cover headlined “The Great Manipulator") and rumours of his impending downfall swirled.

But by last month, he was back taking a prominent position in the White House rose garden soiree, where a jazz band played as Mr Trump announced he was pulling the US out of the Paris climate agreements – a big win for the Bannonites.

So although his clashes with Jared Kushner and the family wing overshadowed the early weeks of the presidency, he has since managed to find common cause with the fragile Republican establishment faction to consolidate his position.

With a shake-up of the administration expected over the summer, he has learned the great lesson of political gurus and practitioners of the dark arts. The best place to be is not in the headlines, but operating quietly in the shadows, managing and manipulating rival factions.

“I am Thomas Cromwell in the court of the Tudors,” is how he put it in an interview last year.

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