Earlier today, The Guardian ran a story containing a preview of what’s being billed as an “explosive new book” about the Trump White House.
The book, by Michael Wolff, is described as follows:
Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, is reportedly based on more than 200 interviews with the president, his inner circle and players in and around the administration, [and] is one of the most eagerly awaited political books of the year.
Well in one excerpt seen by The Guardian, Steve Bannon says the following about the infamous Trump Tower meeting that has been a veritable obsession for America since it was revealed last year:
Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad shit, and I happen to think it’s all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately.
According to Wolff, Bannon went on to suggest that if such a meeting was actually necessary, it “ should have taken place in a Holiday Inn in Manchester, New Hampshire, with your lawyers who meet with these people.”
Other fun excerpts include this on the Mueller investigation:
You realise where this is going. This is all about money laundering. Mueller chose [senior prosecutor Andrew] Weissmann first and he is a money-laundering guy. Their path to fucking Trump goes right through Paul Manafort, Don Jr and Jared Kushner … It’s as plain as a hair on your face.
And this on Trump Jr.:
They’re going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV.
Needless to say, that is not – I repeat not – something Donald Trump wants to hear from his former chief strategist. Here is Trump’s just released response:
The White House statement is equally derisive:
White House says Michael Wolf's book "is filled with false & misleading accounts from individuals who have no access or influence with the White House. Participating in a book that can only be described as trashy tabloid fiction exposes their sad desperate attempts at relevancy"
— Kaitlan Collins (@kaitlancollins) January 3, 2018
And Mitch McConnell is openly mocking Bannon:
— Team Mitch (@Team_Mitch) January 3, 2018
In light of all that, and in preparation for the bitter war of words that’s now inevitable, we thought we’d reprint our recent piece on Steve Bannon possibly running for President in 2020 because clearly, it’s more relevant than ever…
Back in August, after leaving the White House amid the Charlottesville debacle, Steve Bannon said the following in an interview with The Weekly Standard:
The Trump presidency that we fought for, and won, is over.
Upon returning to Breitbart following his rather unceremonious exit from 1600 Penn., Bannon and his surrogates began talking up what they’ve variously described as a “war” on the GOP establishment. Long story short, Bannon intends to run challengers to Republican incumbents in 2018 with the goal of replacing the mainstream GOPers with Bannonites.
We got a preview of what this will look like in September when the Bannon-backed Roy Moore managed to beat the Trump-backed Luther Strange in the Alabama party primary.
Bannon was emboldened.
Around two weeks after Moore vanquished Strange (setting the stage for what should have been an easy victory over Democrat Doug Jones had it not been for the whole dating teenagers thing), Bannon said the following at the Values Voter Summit in Washington:
Even before Corker’s remarks, some West Wing advisers were worried that Trump’s behavior could cause the Cabinet to take extraordinary Constitutional measures to remove him from office.Several months ago, according to two sources with knowledge of the conversation, former chief strategist Steve Bannon told Trump that the risk to his presidency wasn’t impeachment, but the 25th Amendment—the provision by which a majority of the Cabinet can vote to remove the president.
When Bannon mentioned the 25th Amendment, Trump said, “What’s that?” According to a source, Bannon has told people he thinks Trump has only a 30 percent chance of making it the full term.
Despite Bannon’s efforts to refute that bolded bit, we’d be willing to bet it’s some semblance of true. Here’s what we said about the clip shown above:
So beyond the obvious (which is that Donald Trump probably isn’t even going to be President in 2020 let alone run again let alone win again let alone win 400 electoral votes), I hope you see the contradiction in what Bannon said.
“The populist, nationalist, conservative revolt” that drove Donald Trump and Roy Moore to victory is no longer part of Donald Trump’s plan because that mentality has led directly to legislative roadblock after legislative roadblock and will continue to do so.
So when Steve Bannon talks about Moore and Trump in the same sentence, you’re encouraged to remember that Trump went out of his way to back Moore’s opponent even as Breitbart when of its way to ensure Moore’s victory. Which brings us right back to the Vanity Fair piece. To wit:
- Trump’s ire is being fueled by his stalled legislative agenda and, to a surprising degree, by his decision last month to back the losing candidate Luther Strange in the Alabama Republican primary. Alabama was a huge blow to his psyche. He saw the cult of personality was broken.
See the inconsistency in Bannon’s message? I hope so, because you can bet Steve understands it all too well.
That very dynamic ended up compelling Trump to openly back Roy Moore despite the allegations against him and despite the numerous examples of ol’ Roy saying things so egregious that even Trump wouldn’t dare tweet them.
The problem for Trump was that his endorsement of “Big Luther” ran counter to Steve Bannon’s endorsement of Moore. When Moore won the party primary, it was widely seen as a testament to the idea that voters are still sympathetic to the populist message that got Trump elected – that would be the same message Steve Bannon is still pushing. So to Trump, there was a sense in which Moore’s victory was “proof” that abandoning Bannon’s populism for mainstream Republican politics is not a good idea.
Once the allegations against Moore starting piling up, it became clear that Bannon had made an egregious miscalculation. The Washington Post story about Moore came just a day after Bannon called for Mitch McConnell to step aside, and as the furor grew over Moore’s alleged misdeeds, so did the backlash against the Steve’s “war” to replace GOP incumbents with “outsiders.” Bannon stood by Moore, but people close to the Breitbart boss would later reveal that he had his misgivings.
For Trump, it was a lose-lose proposition. Backing Strange was a way to curry favor with the mainstream Republicans Trump needs to push his agenda forward, but not backing Moore was seen as a move away from the populism that helped win Trump the election.
You’d think, given the allegations against Moore, that it would have been an easy call for the President. But it wasn’t. Because Trump had already thrown Roy under the bus once by endorsing Strange. To throw him under the bus again would have been to effectively double down on the same kind of mainstream Republican politics that his base despises and that Bannon spends every waking hour railing against. So what did Trump do? Well, he decided to roll the dice with Moore, only to throw him under the bus on Twitter immediately after he lost:
The reason I originally endorsed Luther Strange (and his numbers went up mightily), is that I said Roy Moore will not be able to win the General Election. I was right! Roy worked hard but the deck was stacked against him!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 13, 2017
That tweet came on a morning when Steve Bannon was enduring a veritable deluge of criticism from the GOP which universally blamed him for delivering Alabama to Democrats for the first time in a quarter century. Even Matt Drudge piled on.
Now (re)enter the above-mentioned Gabriel Sherman from Vanity Fair who recently accompanied Bannon on what Sherman describes as “a whirlwind tour around the globe.”
In a piece out late this week, Sherman suggests that Bannon could ultimately decide to take matters into his own hands in 2020. Here’s Sherman:
Bannon’s core message—a clueless, corrupt ruling class (many of whom, of course, reside in blue states) has sold out American workers to a hegemonic China, and it’s up to a vanguard to take our country back before the world tips toward cataclysm—is the same, whether he’s speaking to Alabamian Roy Moore voters or Chinese dissidents. But he adjusts his vocabulary to fit his audience—here in Tokyo, he was in full prophetic mode.
The message is that the world needs saving—but who’s going to save it? Looking around, it’s not hard to see Steve Bannon’s best answer. Four months ago, Bannon was a supporting player, with a whiteboard and telephone. Now he’s made himself the star—not only the chief strategist but in many ways the candidate, the frontman of his own movement. With his motorcade, retinue of advisers, and security men, his Asia trip was a mirror of President Trump’s.
The primary insurgents Bannon has tried to recruit, dubbed “The League of Extraordinary Candidates” by Breitbart, is a ragtag band including former Arizona State Senator Kelli Ward; Blackwater founder Erik Prince; mega-donor Foster Friess; and Danny Tarkanian, son of U.N.L.V. basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian, all of whom inarguably fall far short of Bannon’s stated populist principles.
Yes, the candidates “fall far short of Bannon’s stated populist principles.” Of course Bannon’s “principles” are horse shit. As we never tire of reminding readers, he is a false prophet. Bannon is a failed Hollywood screenwriter, a former Goldman banker, and a multi-millionaire. So if anyone “falls short” on the populist principles front, it’s Steve Bannon.
But disillusioned Americans are a gullible bunch and Steve has become quite adept and manipulating them with stories of lost American greatness and ridiculous fairy tales about how his transformation to “economic nationalist” stems from watching his father lose money in AT&T shares. Here’s Sherman again:
Bannon’s frenetic pace is part of his strategy. “I realized if you’re not out there for the hobbits, you’re not in their lives,” Bannon said, using his affectionate moniker for Trump voters. During the week I traveled with him from New York to Tokyo to South Florida, for what was Bannon’s first major profile since leaving the White House, he made a half dozen speeches to conservative groups, hosted Breitbart’s talk-radio show, and helped market a new biography Bannon: Always the Rebel. Inside the right-wing echo chamber, Bannon is lionized as a conquering folk hero. Well-wishers flock to snap selfies, press the flesh. At one event I chatted with an elderly man waiting his turn on the receiving line. “If I could ask him one question, it would be, why aren’t you president?’”
That has at least been a passing thought. In October, Bannon called an adviser and said he would consider running for president if Trump doesn’t run for re-election in 2020. Which Bannon has told people is a realistic possibility. In private conversations since leaving the White House, Bannon said Trump only has a 30 percent chance of serving out his term, whether he’s impeached or removed by the Cabinet invoking the 25th amendment. That prospect seemed to become more likely in early December when special counsel Robert Mueller secured a plea deal from former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Bannon has also remarked on the toll the office has taken on Trump, telling advisers his former boss has “lost a step.” “He’s like an 11-year-old child,” Bannon joked to a friend in November.
You are strongly encouraged to read the full piece for yourself, but the bottom line here is the same as it’s been for months and months. Namely that Steve Bannon knows Donald Trump does not care about (let alone embody) the message that got him elected. So if the midterms turn out to be a bust for Bannon, pushing the envelope on populism may mean running another presidential candidate. And in that regard, Bannon seems to have fallen hook, line, and sinker for his own bullshit. He actually believes that he – a former Goldman Sachs banker who is filthy rich – is the voice of the downtrodden American white working man.
“I’m not a political operative, I’m a revolutionary,” Bannon is quoted as saying in Sherman’s piece. We would disagree. Bannon is no “revolutionary.” He’s a disgruntled opportunist with a readily apparent knack for coming across as profound to people who don’t know any better.
Bannon regurgitates things he’s read in a haphazard way with no discernible thread to bind the narrative beyond some imagined link to the downfall of the American middle class. It’s impressive to people who aren’t educated, but to anyone who has read the same things Bannon has read, he comes across as a talking encyclopedia that randomly selects passages from itself and rattles them off while drunk. To people who knew him before he went into politics, he’s considered an outright joke.
People are fond of parroting this line (or some iteration thereof): “don’t underestimate Steve.” That’s probably the wrong way to look at it.
It’s not that Steve Bannon is smarter than people think, it’s that the American electorate is stupider than anyone except Steve Bannon realizes.
That’s the danger.