One Police Plaza
No Time for Bannon
April 17, 2017
Is the alt-right, America-firster Steve Bannon on his way out of the White House? As The New York Times explained it: "To Mr. Trump there is only one person on his team worthy of attention: himself. ... And he was said to be especially bothered by Mr. Bannon's appearance in February on the cover of Time Magazine."
Remember the last person who appeared on the cover of Time and was fired for it? It was Bill Bratton in his first term as NYPD commissioner. And the person who fired him was then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Trump's buddy, who some regard as Trump's alter-ego -- although he hasn't been heard from recently, ever since he lobbied loudly for the Secretary of State job.
Taking office in 1994, Rudy spent the next two years, insisting it was he, not Bratton, who deserved credit for New York's precipitous drop in crime. By 1995, Bratton appeared to have gained the upper hand when he was profiled in the February 6 issue of the New Yorker with nary a mention of the mayor.
Giuliani said nothing publicly about the profile. But behind his tough-guy facade lurked a cunning Machiavelli. He retaliated by forcing the resignation of Bratton's spokesman, John Miller.
A year later, Bratton, photographed in a trench coat under the Brooklyn Bridge, appeared on the cover of the Jan. 15, 1996, issue of Time. Its headline, in capital letters read: "FINALLY WE'RE WINNING THE WAR ON CRIME. HERE'S WHY."
Again, Giuliani said nothing publicly about the article. "Nice trench coat," he told Bratton.
Shortly afterward, Bratton signed a $350,000 book contract with Random House. As Bratton wrote in his book "Turnaround," Giuliani killed him with a thousand cuts.
First, he questioned the ethics and legality of Bratton's using his public positon for private gain. Then Giuliani's corporation counsel leaked details of two out-of-town trips Bratton had made to Colorado and the Dominican Republic on the private plane of Wall Street titan Henry Kravis. Meanwhile mayoral aides pointed to Section 104.3 of the NYPD Patrol Guide, which prohibits police department officials from accepting "any reward, gratuity, gift or other compensation ... as a result of or in connection with their duties as public servants."
On March 26, 1996, just two months after he appeared on the cover of Time, Bratton submitted his resignation.
Giuliani wouldn't leave it at that. As Bratton's successor, he appointed Howard Safir and for the next four years called him "the greatest commissioner in the history of the city."
So will Trump take a page from Giuliani's playbook and force Bannon's resignation. Or more like Machiavelli, will he keep Bannon around in a marginalized capacity?
He seems to be laying the groundwork for either. Although many feel Bannon's populist rhetoric helped elect Trump, the president told New York Post columnist Michael Goodwin last week: "I like Steve but you may remember he wasn't involved in my campaign until very late."
Copyright © 2017 Leonard Levitt