Steve Bannon: A Story in Three Parts

Part One: Steve Bannon calls a Trump-critical writer at the lefty political magazine The American Prospect, under the auspices of appreciating an article he wrote on China, then gives an interview to that writer, during which Bannon pretends he's not a dedicated purveyor of white supremacy and simultaneously just happens to hand the perfect argument to lefties who believe that "identity politics" — that is, caring about the specific concerns of people other than straight, white, cis, able-bodied men — is a losing strategy for Democrats.
I asked Bannon about the connection between his program of economic nationalism and the ugly white nationalism epitomized by the racist violence in Charlottesville and Trump's reluctance to condemn it. Bannon, after all, was the architect of the strategy of using Breitbart to heat up white nationalism and then rely on the radical right as Trump's base.

He dismissed the far right as irrelevant and sidestepped his own role in cultivating it: "Ethno-nationalism—it's losers. It's a fringe element. I think the media plays it up too much, and we gotta help crush it, you know, uh, help crush it more."

"These guys are a collection of clowns," he added.

From his lips to Trump's ear.

"The Democrats," he said, "the longer they talk about identity politics, I got 'em. I want them to talk about racism every day. If the left is focused on race and identity, and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats."
Suffice it to say that a founding member and former executive chair of Breitbart does not believe that white supremacy needs to be crushed. And suffice it to say that any lefty who takes political advice from Steve Bannon is a fool.

Naturally, this article got lots of attention, for a number of different reasons. So many people publicly wondered why Bannon had done this interview, as if there were any other explanation besides: Trump values strength and this was a major power play to foment existing divisions on the left, just at the moment when the administration risked the left rallying together against white supremacy.

Part Two: At Axios, an outlet known for its highly-placed White House sources, Jonathan Swan reports: "Steve Bannon thought he wasn't giving an interview."
Steve Bannon's White House colleagues can't believe what they're reading tonight — and here's the twist: neither can Bannon.

The White House chief strategist has told associates he never intended to do an "interview" with an editor at the American Prospect, a left-wing publication. ...Apparently Bannon never thought that the journalist might take his (very newsworthy) comments and turn them into a story. It's Anthony Scaramucci all over again (minus the curse words.)

The result is not good for Bannon, who is already under pressure, with colleagues lined up against him and a president who agrees with him ideologically but tells associates he thinks Bannon is a leaker.

Here's what one of Bannon's colleagues — somebody who's not an enemy of his — told me after reading the piece: "Since Steve apparently enjoys casually undermining U.S. national security, I'll put this in terms he'll understand: This is DEFCON 1-level bad."
So, here we're meant to believe that the incredibly media-savvy former Breitbart chief Bannon didn't expect for anything he said to a reporter he called to be published. He never requested that any of it be off the record; he's working for a White House plagued by leaks; and he asked to meet the reporter in person (though settled for a phone call) — but he never imagined that it would be printed. Sure.

I guess it's just extraordinarily good luck, then, that he offered a carefully crafted argument designed to divide the left one day after the president for whom he works used the term "alt-left" for the first time, sending many lefties into endless arguments about the use of the term.

Gee, I hope Bannon didn't get in BIG TROUBLE with his boss after being tricked into such a useful interview!

Part Three: Bannon tells the Daily Mail that his interview was a perfect distraction.
Steve Bannon said Thursday that his controversial interview with a liberal magazine writer was a positive for the White House since it slowed down the media's momentum in covering [Donald] Trump's remarks about the weekend's violence in Virginia.

Bannon told that his remarks "drew fire away from POTUS"...and that he successfully "changed the [media] narrative" with a single phone call.

...Separately, a White House aide told that Bannon's interview would be seen internally as a positive in one respect – his dismissal of "constant arguments about racism" as a prudent political strategy and his strong criticism of white nationalists as a "collection of clowns."

"The president doesn't like all the Democrats' focus on racism, and it's good that Steve mocked it as politically stupid," the aide said.
Wow, it's almost like Bannon knew what he was doing all along — and just coasted through this entire storm of media manipulation with the confidence of a man who knows he will be afforded good faith no matter how unearned, and no matter how absurd it might be to believe that an experienced rightwing media executive might be able to outsmart a reporter with flattery.

The Mail notes: "It's unclear if there has been any blowback in the West Wing from Bannon's unexpected on-the-record remarks to the magazine." I think we all know the answer to that.

Shakesville is run as a safe space. First-time commenters: Please read Shakesville's Commenting Policy and Feminism 101 Section before commenting. We also do lots of in-thread moderation, so we ask that everyone read the entirety of any thread before commenting, to ensure compliance with any in-thread moderation. Thank you.

blog comments powered by Disqus