Seeking daylight for the second time since June 20 and with 79 days remaining before the November election, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump gave his faltering campaign another facelift Wednesday with the hiring of long-time GOP pollster and political strategist Kellyanne Conway as campaign manager and Breitbart media executive Stephen Bannon as campaign CEO.
Mrs. Conway, a veteran political strategist, has previously worked on the political campaigns or staffs of the late congressman Jack Kemp, former Vice President Dan Quayle, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and vice-presidential nominee Governor Mike Pence.
Mr. Bannon, formerly with Breitbart News, is a filmmaker, political strategist and media consultant, who served in the U.S. Navy, received an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School and was employed by investment firm Goldman Sachs in the company’s Mergers and Acquisitions department.
Referring to the new addition of Conway and Bannon to campaign staff, Trump averred: “(They are) terrific people . . . they’re champs.”
Campaign chairman Paul Manafort resigned on Friday.
Although Mr. Manafort had to go, the hire of Bannon and Conway is identical to a re-arranging of the deck chairs on the RMS Titanic.
In concert with the shake-up of staff, Mr. Trump expressed regret Thursday for remarks during the campaign which may have “caused personal pain.” Although both the staff overhaul and remorse are cathartic gestures designed to signal a new campaign tack, logical persons should know better by now Mr. Trump has no aim of transforming himself into a more tactful candidate. For Trump to become more judicious with his language would mean risking a large percentage of voters who were originally drawn to him for his raw locutions.
The re-shuffling of staff aside, which does indeed pose problems in itself, banishing Manafort was a gesture of immediate importance. Growing attention to the global political journeyman was proving to be an equal distraction to Trump’s numerous missteps. According to press reports including one from the Associated Press (AP) , Manafort’s political consulting efforts in Ukraine have left him owed a substantial amount of money from Operation Bloc, a pro-Kremlin Ukrainian political party with links to ousted Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych.
Manafort’s disciple in Ukraine, Konstantin Kilimnik, who worked on behalf of Manafort to collect the debt, allegedly maintains ties to Russian intelligence service, the GRU. Worse, Manafort is suspected of channeling over $2 million in funds from pro-Moscow groups to U.S. lobbying firms without disclosing the nature of his relationship to the influence peddling firms. If true and properly investigated, Manafort may be guilty of a felony.
Manafort’s departure may have cured one headache which ails the New York businessman’s bid, but the addition of Steve Bannon begets an entirely new migraine. Once described by Bloomberg as “the most dangerous political operative in America,” and who once described himself as “virulently anti-establishment,” Bannon may not be the man to rehabilitate Trump’s artless political image or resuscitate a campaign on life support.
Initially hired to lend credibility to a campaign in dire need of both direction and credibility, the enlistment of Paul Manafort to lead Trump’s effort to “Make American Great Again,” only revealed he clutched a shady past and was a man of no influence. Emblematic of Trump’s endless string of errors, the real estate mogul’s most dramatic blunder has yet to be realized: His serial gaffes are handing the keys to the White House to a woman who scarcely qualifies as slightly less incompetent than President Obama.
[Politico] [BBC] [Reuters] [Photo courtesy NBC News]