Stephen Bannon

The Making of an Economic Nationalist

The Wall Street Journal has a must-read profile of White House adviser Stephen Bannon:

There were many factors that turned Steve Bannon into a divisive political firebrand. But his decision to embrace “economic nationalism” and vehemently oppose the forces and institutions of globalization, he says, stems from his upbringing, his relationship with his father and the meaning those AT&T shares held for the family.

“Everything since then has come from there,” he says. “All of it.”

The Nomad Who Rose to be Trump’s Top Adviser

“In the three years before he became Donald Trump’s chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon lived as a virtual nomad in a quest to build a populist political insurgency,” the Washington Post reports.

“No presidential adviser in recent memory has followed such a mysterious, peripatetic path to the White House. It was as though he was a man with no fixed address… In the digital age, when most Americans leave a clear footprint of their whereabouts, Bannon left a meandering trail filled with ambiguity, contradictions and questions.”

The Book to Understand Steve Bannon

White House adviser Stephen Bannon tells Jonathan Swan that The Revolt of the Elites by Christopher Lasch is one of his favorite books and helps explain the current moment.

“Reading The Revolt of the Elites gives you a deeper appreciation of the populist nationalist movement that propelled Trump to the presidency. It also gives you deeper insight into how Bannon thinks — his disdain for experts and party establishments, his skepticism on multinationals, his commitment to information warfare and the Breitbart comments section, his antipathy toward ‘globalists’ and his particular distrust of the West Coast elite Lasch writes feel more loyalty to Hong Kong and Singapore than they do to ‘Middle America.'”

Key passage: “At this point in our history the best qualification for high office may well be a refusal to cooperate with the media’s program of self-aggrandizement. A candidate with the courage to abstain from ‘debates’ organized by the media would automatically distinguish himself from the others and command a good deal of public respect.”

Bannon Once Praised Joseph McCarthy

Donald Trump’s chief White House strategist Steve Bannon said in 2013 that Sen. Joseph McCarthy was right in his 1950s campaign claiming widespread Communist infiltration into the United States government, CNN reports.

Said Bannon, in an interview with a book author: “Alger Hiss is a hero, right? Richard Nixon’s a villain? Joe McCarthy is a villain. Your book makes very plain that these guys were right. The place was infested with either traitors that were on the direct payroll of Soviet military intelligence or fellow-travelers who were kind of compliant in helping these guys get along. I mean, there’s absolutely no question of it. How has pop culture so changed it that white is black and black is white?”

What Steve Bannon Is Thinking

Michael Gerson: “As the ideologist in Trump’s inner circle, Bannon is a practitioner of Newt Gingrich’s mystic arts. Take some partially valid insight at the crossroads of pop economics, pop history and pop psychology; declare it an inexorable world-historic force; and, by implication, take credit for being the only one who sees the inner workings of reality.”

“For Bannon, it has something to do with ‘the fourth turning,’ or maybe the fifth progression, or the third cataclysm. At any rate, it apparently involves cycles of discontent and disruption. Lots of disruption. Across the West, as he sees it, the victims of globalization — the victims of immigration, free trade and internationalism in general — are rising against their cosmopolitan oppressors. Institutions will crash and rise in new forms. And this restless world spirit takes human form in . . . Nigel Farage and Donald Trump.”

“Like many philosophies that can be derived entirely from an airport bookstore, this one has an element of truth. The beneficiaries of the liberal international order have not paid sufficient attention to the human costs of rapid economic change… But there is a problem with the response of economic nationalism and ethno-nationalism. It is morally degraded and dangerous to the country.”

Trump Would Reconsider Bannon’s Role If Asked

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said that if President Trump’s newly appointed national security adviser wanted to remove chief strategist Steve Bannon from the National Security Council’s principals committee, the president would “take that under serious consideration,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

Said Spicer: “The president has made clear to him he’s got full authority to structure the national security team the way he wants.”

NSC Staffer Quits Over Trump’s ‘Disturbing’ Actions

The spokesman for the National Security Council says President Trump’s “disturbing” and repeated attempts to undermine the U.S. intelligence community prompted him to resign last week, the Huffington Post reports.

“In a scorching Washington Post column published Monday, Edward Price … pointed to several instances in which he said Trump had questioned the integrity of U.S. intelligence agencies, including the president’s tepid response to reports that Russia hacked U.S. officials in an attempt to influence the 2016 presidential election.”

But the “final straw” was Trump’s decision last month to make chief strategist Steve Bannon — whom Price calls “a media champion of white nationalism” — a member of the National Security Council.

Bannon Delivered Different Message Before Pence Visit

“In the week before U.S. Vice President Mike Pence visited Brussels and pledged America’s ‘steadfast and enduring’ commitment to the European Union, White House chief strategist Steve Bannon met with a German diplomat and delivered a different message, according to people familiar with the talks,” Reuters reports.

“Bannon, these people said, signaled to Germany’s ambassador to Washington that he viewed the EU as a flawed construct and favored conducting relations with Europe on a bilateral basis.”

Pillow Talk in the White House

Stephen Bannon and Reince Priebus tried to prove to New York magazine that they’re friends:

“I’m quite aggressive, and Reince is a calming influence on hey — bang bang bang, here’s how we ought to think about doing that,” Bannon said, explaining how their personal styles complement each other.

“We talk a lot, pretty much all day long,” Priebus said. “And then we communicate at night —”

“Until we fall asleep,” Bannon interjected with a laugh.

Priebus cut in, “Until somebody falls asleep … You fell asleep last night.”

“I did,” Bannon said.

“I think, like, a quarter to 11,” Priebus added.

“I did,” Bannon said.

“He became unresponsive,” Priebus laughed.

Rosie O’Donnell as Steve Bannon?

“Rosie O’Donnell, perhaps President Trump’s ultimate nemesis, answered the call within one minute. Twitter had decided that she should play White House strategist Stephen K. Bannon on ‘Saturday Night Live,’ and O’Donnell understood the idea almost instantly,” the Washington Post reports.

Tweeted O’Donnell: “Available. If called, I will serve.”

Scarier Than Karl Rove

“Democrats spent years turning George W. Bush strategist Karl Rove into a bogeyman whose mere mention sent liberals’ blood boiling. Now, members of Congress are doing the same to top Trump hand Steve Bannon — but in much darker terms,” Politico reports.

“Increasingly, Democratic lawmakers are labeling the former Breitbart chief a ‘white supremacist’ who has no business at the highest echelons of American power.”

The Book Bannon Wants the White House to Read

“Over the past three months, Steve Bannon has been reading David Halberstam’s book, The Best and the Brightest. (A NYT reporter spotted him with the book in an airport in December.),” Axios reports.

“It’s a devastating account of self-regard, delusion, and the tragic series of miscalculations that led America into Vietnam. The book shaped Bannon’s thinking during the transition, and he recommended it to associates, including Jared Kushner and Anthony Scaramucci, as a warning against hubris.”

White House-Cabinet Battle Brewing Over Trump Order

Josh Rogin: “White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon wanted to stop Kelly in his tracks. Bannon paid a personal and unscheduled visit to Kelly’s Department of Homeland Security office to deliver an order: Don’t issue the waiver…”

“The confrontation between Bannon and Kelly pitted a political operator against a military disciplinarian. Respectfully but firmly, the retired general and longtime Marine told Bannon that despite his high position in the White House and close relationship with Trump, the former Breitbart chief was not in Kelly’s chain of command, two administration officials said. If the president wanted Kelly to back off from issuing the waiver, Kelly would have to hear it from the president directly, he told Bannon.”

“Bannon left Kelly’s office without getting satisfaction. Trump didn’t call Kelly to tell him to hold off. Kelly issued the waiver late Saturday night, although it wasn’t officially announced until the following day.”