Former White House chief strategist and man who, if you didn’t know he was a multi-millionaire, might easily be mistaken for one of the homeless people living in Grand Central, Steve Bannon, is “at war.”
You’ll recall that back in August, Trump accidentally sealed Steve’s fate in the administration by launching into a racist diatribe about Thomas Jefferson’s slaves at a press conference following the tragic events that unfolded in Charlottesville. Reports suggested that Bannon was already planning on leaving, but to the extent that decision was still up in the air, Trump made it a foregone conclusion by outing himself as a bigot. Once you inadvertently confirm that you’re a closet racist, you can’t very well keep an openly bigoted lunatic on as your chief adviser because if you do, it makes it seem like you aren’t even trying to improve the optics. So Bannon had to go.
After he left, he started talking about how he’s “got his hands on his guns” and Breitbart’s crack squad of bullshit artists started tweeting about open “war” with a GOP establishment they imagine is conspiring to undermine Trump’s populist agenda by elevating neocons to prominent positions in the administration and just generally being pains in Trump’s ass when it comes to passing legislation.
Some of that conspiracy theory is of course true, but there’s something odd about someone who is objectively out of his mind (Bannon) accusing neocons of being out of their minds.
Since then, Bannon’s “war” has come to include a push to unseat mainstream Republican candidates during next year’s midterms. Predictably, the people Bannon has so far supported as part of this “war” are even crazier than he is (see Roy Moore for “Exhibit A”).
Well now, allies of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have apparently heard just about enough from ol’ Steve. Because as the Washington Post reports, “a super PAC aligned with McConnell [has] revealed plans to attack Bannon personally as it works to protect GOP incumbents facing uphill primary fights.” Here’s more:
Yet the retaliatory crusade does not aim to target Trump, whose popularity remains high among Republican voters. Instead, the McConnell-allied Senate Leadership Fund (SLF) will highlight Bannon’s hard-line populism and attempt to link him to white nationalism to discredit him and the candidates he will support. It will also boost candidates with traditional GOP profiles and excoriate those tied to Bannon, with plans to spend millions and launch a heavy social media presence in some states.
As the Post goes on to remind you, this is just another manifestation of the growing concern among the GOP that Trump’s brand of populism represents an existential threat not only to the Republican party, but in fact to the entire country and indeed to the entire world.
Jeff Flake’s impassioned plea delivered earlier this week and Bob Corker’s ongoing verbal assault on Trump have served as something of a wake up call to a party that has, so far, been willing to subjugate moral duty to legislative expediency. But that’s about to end. Here’s WaPo again:
In the wake of Flake’s announcement, the SLF called Arizona state Sen. Kelli Ward, Bannon’s pick to replace Flake, a “conspiracy theorist” and promised to ensure her defeat.
Bannon’s critics argue that he is causing unnecessary internal divisions that could make it harder to pass tax legislation — and to win general elections next fall. They also point to Sen. Luther Strange’s defeat in last month’s Republican primary in a special Senate election in Alabama as an example of a dynamic they worry could repeat itself across the next year if left unchecked. The SLF spent more than $10 million to help Strange.
“This is a guy who is more interested in seeing his name in the headlines than he is in any kind of accomplishment for the president,” said Josh Holmes, a former chief of staff to McConnell who has been increasingly outspoken in his opposition to Bannon. “It comes at great cost to the president’s term, the Republican Party and any hope they can have at working as a team.”
On Wednesday, the SLF’s Twitter account mocked Danny Tarkanian — a frequent conservative candidate in Nevada who is challenging Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) — for suggesting that Heller join him in pledging to oppose McConnell as majority leader.
The tweets also turned the spotlight on Bannon.
The SLF tweeted a 2016 headline from the New York Daily News — “Anti-Semitic Trump campaign CEO Stephen Bannon not a big fan of ‘whiny brat’ Jews, ex-wife says” — with space for Tarkanian’s signature.
In an email, SLF President Steven Law said he expects Bannon to become a liability for any insurgent candidates he supports in 2018.
“But his real impact would be felt in general elections, where Bannon’s well-documented, toxic views and alt-right paper trail could become a liability for candidates who are perceived as closely tied to him,” Law said.
So it looks like Steve is going to get his “war.” And make no mistake, he’ll lose.
For one thing, Bannon’s populism is false. Steve is a multi-millionaire former Goldman banker whose entire shtick rests on a patently absurd story about how watching his father lose his ass in AT&T shares awakened something in him. Kind of seems like if Steve was that worried about it, he could have just transferred a couple of his millions into Marty’s account.
Further, anyone who knew Bannon when he was a failed Hollywood screenwriter will attest that Steve is a complete joke. You’d be forgiven for thinking that maybe being shunned by Hollywood might have left Steve feeling a little sour grapes-ish.
Finally, Bannon grossly overestimates Breitbart’s influence. Breitbart is the online equivalent of a supermarket rag. It has no credibility and no one takes it seriously. It’s not “a machine” (as Bannon has described it). It is simply a propaganda outlet and everyone with any sense knows it. Steve seems to have deluded himself into thinking it’s an actual news outlet.
But maybe we’re wrong. Maybe Bannon can take up the populist/nationalist cause that Trump has been forced to abandon. And see there’s the irony: by backing Trump as the poster child for this bullshit, Bannon may have ultimately ensured that the agenda can’t succeed. Because by the time Steve gets a chance to actually run these clowns he’s backing, Trump will have become so much of a standing joke, that no one will risk voting for Steve’s “cause” ever again.