"President Trump’s decision to remove Stephen Bannon, his chief political adviser, from his post as a principal on the National Security Council has led to no end of speculation in Washington, some of it inspired by Mr. Bannon’s rivals in the White House, that this is the beginning of the end of Mr. Bannon’s outsize influence and payback for his role in the administration’s early missteps. But whatever the fallout bureaucratically, on a substantive level the move was a welcome course correction, removing a contentious and extremist political voice from a vitally important policy-making body and thus making it more likely that people with actual expertise will help an inexperienced president make tough choices. That need was driven home as reports came in that the administration had ordered air strikes in Syria in response to its use of chemical weapons.
No presidential adviser in recent memory had so brazenly tried to consolidate power as Mr. Bannon, who moved quickly to establish himself not just as Mr. Trump’s Svengali, but as a kind of de facto president. One sign was an executive order, framed by Mr. Bannon, and issued after the inauguration, that named him to the council’s principals committee, which includes the vice president, secretaries of state and defense and other top officials. It is the primary policy-making body that decides national security questions that do not rise to the level of the president, and it frames the debate over matters that do.
Previous presidents have decided that such decisions should be separate from politics; Karl Rove, George W. Bush’s chief political adviser, was barred from council meetings. Mr. Bannon’s appointment was thus widely condemned, not only because he was a political adviser but also because he was a particularly combative one. Mr. Trump, angry he was not warned about the implications of the appointment, briefly considered rescinding it immediately, then did not, fearing even more furor.
The new order has to be seen as a victory for Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, the new national security adviser and a respected professional who reportedly insisted on purging Mr. Bannon in an effort to ensure that profound decisions about the country’s security are made without regard to political calculation.
Mr. Trump’s order also corrected another error in the original directive, restoring the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of national intelligence to the committee. The committee membership has been expanded, and will now include the energy secretary, the C.I.A. director and the United Nations ambassador.
Mr. Bannon, aided by Breitbart News, the alt-right platform he brought to prominence, has tried to spin his removal as a natural evolution in the administration’s governance strategy. He says he was put on the committee to watch over Michael Flynn, Mr. Trump’s first national security adviser, and that with Mr. Flynn out of the picture, his presence was no longer required. Yet if the White House leak machine is to be believed, his influence was already in decline and he had lost favor with other advisers, including Mr. Trump’s daughter and son-in-law, who have been embarrassed by big defeats on important issues like health care and immigration that Mr. Bannon has had a hand in.