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Politics In The News: 'Fire And Fury' Leads Headlines


The current White House adviser took a chance over the weekend to attack a former adviser. On CNN, Stephen Miller critiqued Steve Bannon, the adviser who spoke in a book of a presidential campaign meeting with Russians as treason.


STEPHEN MILLER: It's tragic and unfortunate that Steve would make these grotesque comments so out of touch with reality and obviously so vindictive.

INSKEEP: Now, the host, Jake Tapper, eventually cut off Stephen Miller, accusing him of playing to an audience of one, the president, who in fact did soon after tweet praise of the TV appearance. Jonah Goldberg has received hardly any praise tweets from the president lately. He's senior editor of the National Review He's in our studios again. Good morning, Jonah.

JONAH GOLDBERG: Great to be here, Steve.

INSKEEP: So what does Steve Bannon's flame out, if that's the phrase, say about the Republican Party right now?

GOLDBERG: I actually hope it's something of a return - normalcy is a high bar these days.


GOLDBERG: But it's a step in the right direction. As I wrote over the weekend, it would take a heart of stone not to laugh at what's happened to Steve Bannon. And I think he was a force for polarization for pushing the Republican Party to a kind of white identity politics. And the fact that he is now finding himself isolated and alone I think is a welcome thing. I do think it's a little creepy to watch people like Stephen Miller, who were longtime friends of Bannon's, almost in a Soviet way have to personally denounce this wrecker (ph) for his role in badmouthing or denigrating the supreme leader. I mean, there's a weird creepiness...

INSKEEP: Because he and Bannon had been seen as allies very much so.

GOLDBERG: That's right. That's right.

INSKEEP: And now he has to say the opposite, or does say the opposite.

GOLDBERG: And he's not alone. Everyone has to sort of come forth and theatrically rend their cloth about how terrible Steve Bannon is now.

INSKEEP: So there's this other issue that's come up, because of this book by Michael Wolff, having to do with the president's mental fitness. Wolff said that having spent time with a lot of White House staffers he felt that they all did not believe the president of the United States was up to the job. The president chose personally to respond over the weekend by saying I'm, quote, "like, really smart" and "a very stable genius." These are quotes from the president of the United States in writing. Does that put the question to rest?

GOLDBERG: (Laughter) No. I mean, there's a very old rule - I think goes back to Mark Hanna or maybe Colonel House - in American politics that says if you have to tell people you're a stable genius...

INSKEEP: (Laughter).

GOLDBERG: ...You got a problem.

INSKEEP: I didn't know that phrase was part of the American political tradition up to now.

GOLDBERG: But, you know, in fairness, I do think a lot of this sort of armchair psychoanalyzing is probably a bad precedent. And simply because a lot of people in a chaotic White House in the beginning said that the president wasn't up to the job, that it's different from saying - from offering a cogent psychological analysis. I don't think this is a healthy place to go. At the same time, the president's tweets invite this kind of speculation. And I think...

INSKEEP: You don't think it's healthy because we can't diagnose this person from the outside - is that what you mean by that?

GOLDBERG: I don't like the intrusion of psychoanalysts or psychiatry into politics. There's too much of that already where people think that differences of politics have to do with different, you know, with altered mental states, you know, from Bush Derangement Syndrome, you know, that kind of thing, going forward. And I just think it's a conversation that is - can lead to a lot of bad places.

INSKEEP: OK. So Axios over the weekend reported that they'd gotten a hold of a copy of the president's real daily schedule, and the story is not really denied at all by the White House, just an effort to explain it. And they find that the president doesn't start practically at dawn the way George W. Bush did or start work at 8 or 9 like President Obama did. He starts about 11. He takes a couple of meetings during the day, and then much of the day is blocked off for what's just called executive time. What's executive time?

GOLDBERG: It's good work if you can find it. I think it's sort of fascinating. Apparently, it is a deviation. Apparently, he did have a fuller schedule earlier on. Apparently, the president - there's a certain Nixonian thing maybe of him wanting to sort of brood and watch TV.

INSKEEP: And tweet.

GOLDBERG: And tweet. And the White House doesn't actually deny it. I have a feeling that we're going to hear the phrase executive time creep into pop culture pretty quickly where, you know, lazy sitcom dads are going to say, you know, dammit, I need more executive time.

INSKEEP: (Laughter).

GOLDBERG: And it does point to a larger problem my friend Yuval Levin calls the supernumerary president where a lot of this White House, a lot of this government, is run on essentially autopilot as the party regulars and the bureaucracy and the political appointees are sort of on autopilot.

INSKEEP: Jonah, thanks. I'm going to let you head off and get some more executive time.

GOLDBERG: I appreciate it. Thank you.

INSKEEP: That's Jonah Goldberg of the LA Times and National Review. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.