Once long-time CNBC commentator Larry Kudlow settles in as head of the White House National Economic Council, replacing former Goldman Sachs president Gary Cohn, Donald Trump will have some serious competition for cable TV tube time.
To survive the White House, Kudlow must avoid the path taken by another one-time Trump confidante, Steve Bannon, a guy who knew how to work the media.
The 70-year-old pinstripe suited Kudlow, ex-chief economist at Paine Webber and Bear Sterns and a veteran of Ronald Reagan's administration, is a cable TV superstar.
Will he be comfortable in playing the role of Trump’s TV surrogate?
Cable TV shapes Trump’s worldview. One senses that Trump knows little or even cares about Kudlow’s economic philosophy. But he likes the way Kudlow looks on TV, just as he thought Rex Tillerson was Hollywood central casting’s idea of a Secretary of State.
The Wall Street Journal editorial page notes that Kudlow has been critical of slapping tariffs on steel and aluminum. It warns that the new economic chief may have to counter Trump to hold the line on “new bursts of spending, special pleading by industries, and above all a wave of trade protectionism.”
The WSJ editorialist says Kudlow is less than a brawler than Cohn and wonders “how such a nice guy will fare in the Trump Hall of Knives.”
But The ghost of Bannon is a bigger threat to Kudlow’s second tour of the White House.
Bannon, whom Trump referred to as “My Steve” during the campaign for the vital role that he played in putting Team Trump on track, eventually tumbled to “Sloppy Steve.”
The campaign strategist’s fall from grace began with the Time magazine cover that hailed him as “The Great Manipulator.” The accompanying “Is Steve Bannon the Second Most Powerful Man in the White House?” reportedly didn’t sit well with Trump, who is not one to share the media spotlight.
Michael Wolff’s book “Fire and Fury” completed Bannon’s downfall. As Trump put it, “When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind.”
Can Kudlow keep his ego in check and thrive as Trump’s cable TV publicist? He could always give Bannon a call for some pointers.