On Monday morning, President Donald Trump decided that there was an urgent matter he needed to clear up for the public. "I call my own shots, largely based on an accumulation of data, and everyone knows it," he tweeted. "Some FAKE NEWS media, in order to marginalize, lies!"
It may seem odd that the president of the United States would feel compelled to remind the country that he is actually in charge. But over the past week and a half of Trump's young presidency, a narrative has been gaining steam in the media and among political observers that it is not Trump but in fact White House chief strategist Steve Bannon who is actually running the show.
In the wake of the chaos following Trump's order banning entry into the US from nationals of seven majority-Muslim countries — and in the wake of reports that Bannon was the chief architect of the policy — the hashtag #PresidentBannon began to spread on Twitter, and images of Bannon as a puppet master pulling Trump's strings became commonplace. A Saturday Night Live skit concluded an Oval Office session with its version of Bannon asking Trump for the president's desk back, and Alec Baldwin as Trump responding, "Yes, of course, Mr. President."
Perhaps most prominently, Time magazine put Bannon on a striking cover and dubbed him "The Great Manipulator." Just whom he might be manipulating was left unstated.
MSNBC host Joe Scarborough cited the Time cover in a Morning Joe segment Monday as an example of how "this Steve Bannon thing just keeps coming up, people are saying 'President Steve Bannon.'" Scarborough added that it was very unusual for a White House staffer to develop such a high profile so quickly, and though he professed to believe that "Donald Trump is the final decider," he said that other people keep wanting to hear about Bannon's influence. (Trump's "I call my own shots" tweet, which came less than an hour later, may have been a direct response to this exchange, and it also calls to mind President George W. Bush's "I'm the decider" remark.)