Strategist Steve Bannon has likened himself to Thomas Cromwell as he, chief of staff Reince Priebus, and adviser Jared Kushner seek the president-elects ear
One by one they came, walking by the marble walls, the cascading waterfall, the ogling tourists and the eager cameras, into the shiny lifts and up to the 26th floor to kiss the ring of the new king.
This week, Trump Tower was a hive of scurrying courtiers, from a prime minister, media mogul and nonagenarian diplomat to senators, congressmen and businessmen. And as the palace intrigue deepened, it was apparent that three men, in particular, had the ear of President-elect Donald Trump.
I am Thomas Cromwell in the court of the Tudors, Steve Bannon, Trumps chief strategist, told the Hollywood Reporter, likening himself to Henry VIIIs righthand man and master manipulator (who, in a fact he may have overlooked, was ultimately executed for treason). Bannon did not propose historical roles for Reince Priebus, chief of staff, or Jared Kushner, an intimate adviser married to Trumps daughter, but they are his rivals for Trumps attention.
Shaun Bowler, associate dean of political science at the University of California, Riverside, likened the plot to Hilary Mantels historical novel Wolf Hall. Her account of people tiptoeing around a character like Henry VIII strikes me as providing lots of insight into what life for advisers will be like inside the White House from now on, he said. What we probably can say is that whatever the actual pattern of influence we can be pretty sure that at least one of them will end up leaving after a blow-up.
The scenario seemed unthinkable just two weeks ago, when polls showed Hillary Clinton on course for the White House and the Republican party hurtling towards civil war. Then, in the most stunning upset in US politics for at least half a century, Republicans swept the board and Democrats plunged into despair. What was supposed to be a valedictory foreign tour for Barack Obama became a glum mission to soothe a panicking world, a plea to keep calm and carry on.
Until Obama hands over power to Trump on inauguration day, on 20 January, the political spotlight is on the former US capital, New York, where Trump is huddled with his transition team. Police have been forced to barricade sidewalks near Trump Tower and a no-fly zone has been imposed above it.
Last Sunday, the president-elect made his first move. He announced that Bannon would be chief strategist, triggering a fierce backlash because of the advisers executive role at the website Breitbart, which has run white nationalist and antisemitic headlines. At the same time, Trump appointed the more conventional Priebus to the more conventional role of chief of staff. The chairperson of the Republican National Committee (RNC) had been unswervingly loyal ever since the end of the primaries, even while the candidate ignored pleas to tone down the rhetoric.