It occurs to me that many of us who’ve gone through a divorce could be mighty helpful right now to Steve Bannon.
We know what it feels like to experience that personal earthquake that leaves you wondering, “Did I ever mean anything to this guy? Was it all a lie?”
Barely a week has passed since the release of Michael Wolff’s book “Fire and Fury,” which depicts the president as unhinged and unstable and Bannon as hellbent on alienating anyone who ever liked him even a little. Now Bannon is finding himself to be many formers: former presidential whisperer to Donald Trump, former executive chairman of Breitbart News, former Sirius XM talk show host.
Jeepers, Steve. This gale wind of change in one’s identity is one of the hardest things about divorce. One minute you’re setting the (im)moral compass for your loved one, and the next thing you know, he’s tweeting stuff like this about you to his 46.4 million followers:
“Michael Wolff is a total loser who made up stories in order to sell this really boring and untruthful book. He used Sloppy Steve Bannon, who cried when he got fired and begged for his job. Now Sloppy Steve has been dumped like a dog by almost everyone. Too bad!”
Those last two words were so unnecessary, and not just because everyone knows that Trump didn’t mean them. But there’s that.
Depending on which expert you consult, there are anywhere from seven to 142 steps to follow when going through a separation and divorce.
For now, let’s settle on four for Steve.
1) Accept that it’s over, even if you don’t want it to be. You’re going to want to respect yourself someday, perhaps for the first time, and you can’t do that as a hanger-on.
Trump is bad-mouthing you — in front of everyone. “Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my presidency,” he said in a public statement. “When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind.”
Pot calling the kettle a fruit fly. Still, that had to hurt.
His henchman, Stephen Miller, who used to be your henchman (ouch), called you “tragic” and “vindictive” on national television. White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley piled on while he was on Air Force One — which, by the way, is really rubbing your face in your exile, if you ask me — by calling your attacks on Trump’s family “repugnant” and “grotesque.” Then he added, “I don’t believe there’s any way back for Mr. Bannon at this point.”
Granted, Gidley was speaking with the hopeful voice of the shiny new spouse wannabe, but this is your new narrative. Remember that when Trump secretly tries to sweet-talk you back into his circle of hell. Anyone who sees you out together will think, “Aw. Poor Steve. After all Donald did to him, too.” They won’t say it, but you’ll hear it.
2) Remember the definition of resentment: when you drink the poison and expect the other person to suffer. There’s the title of your memoirs right there.
You will lose friends. Your right-wing billionaire funder Rebekah Mercer, for example? Gone. Your protege Stephen Miller? See above.
People pick sides. It’s so unfair. Sing it with me: Let it go! Let it go-o!
3) Remember who you are. This includes recognizing who you are not. You are no longer the president’s right-hand man. Even if he were an octopus, there’d be no hand for you.
Also, you’re going to want to find a new hobby. As Wolff wrote, “Bannon collected enemies.” On that score, your curio is full, brother. Time to collect something less soul-sucking. Etsy’s website is full of old things you don’t even know you want yet but you will once you start searching. I spent an entire afternoon discovering everything with a Schlitz beer label.
A Schlitz switch plate? Who knew?
4) Finally, don’t deny all that you are feeling. Stop blaming the rest of the country for your sour mood, and take charge of your own recovery. Divorce is hard. The only thing you can control is your response to all that hurt coming at you with the speed of a presidential tweetstorm.
In other words, that revolution you’ve been talking about?
It’s the journey within.
Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and professional in residence at Kent State University’s school of journalism.
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