Steve Bannon lifted his mask of death at CPAC
There’s a reason why political operators like Steve Bannon have never sat on the national Security Council that effectively decides whether the United States should go to war. It’s the same reason why Bannon’s new seat on the NSC is such a threat to the security of the United States and its allies: because he’s permanently at war.
“I can run a little hot on occasions,” he admitted at the conservative freak show known as the CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference). Judging from his rare public outing on Thursday, that would be an unusual example of diplomatic understatement.
The opposition party
Bannon spoke disdainfully and at length about the real threat he identified facing the nation: a critical media that he likes to call “the opposition party”. “They are the corporatist, globalist media that are adamantly opposed to the economic nationalist agenda that Donald Trump has,” Bannon yelled.
Bannon clearly shares Trump’s burning sense of resentment at being excluded from the establishment. For his boss, that reached a peak with the humiliation of President Obama’s jokes at the White House Correspondents Dinner.
For Bannon, now safely inside the West Wing, that means still seeing the world through the lens of the Breitbart website that shocked the media conscience with so much alt-right trash. At one point on Thursday, Bannon even used the phrase “we at Breitbart”, as if there were no real difference between his old job in digital far-right media and his new job as a presidential adviser.
Bannon predicted the media would fight “every day” against the Trump agenda, and that the fight would not ease off, as Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff, had just suggested. “It’s going to get worse,” he intoned.
Dumpster fire of fake news
Priebus was sitting alongside Bannon on stage, doing his best to pretend that the news reports about their rivalry were just some dumpster fire of fake news. But the need to needle each other was irresistible. “He’s not so bad,” Reince stated about Bannon. “Most of the time.”
When asked the softest of softball questions, about what they like about one another, Priebus pretended to admire Bannon’s wardrobe, which appeared to combine The Gap with The Godfather. “I love how many colors he wears,” Priebus said, transfixed by Bannon’s gargantuan old khakis. “An interesting look.”
Priebus went on to praise Bannon’s consistency, loyalty and friendship. Which made him sound like a well-trained pitbull. Bannon praised Priebus for his indefatigable steadiness, which made him sound like a donkey.
At a rare public address, Bannon let us peek at the darkness that resides inside the West Wing. The power behind Donald Trump’s throne was a spectral presence.
Only one of these animals looked and sounded like the boss. Bannon hailed Trump’s stump speeches – all those rambling lists of poll numbers and personal grievances – for having “a tremendous amount of content”. That’s like praising a teenager’s texts for the sheer breadth of vocabulary.
Bannon also described Trump as “the greatest public speaker … since William Jennings Bryan”. After four years of this kind of bluster, American history may never be the same again. Never mind that Bryan was a Democrat and a pacifist; he was also known as a great orator who preferred silver to gold. Then again, this is a White House that appears to think the career of Frederick Douglass has some ways to go.
New political order
For his part, Bannon opened a window into the darkness that resides inside the West Wing. He said that Trump was “maniacally focused” on his campaign agenda, which he hailed as “a new political order”. For would-be fascists the world over, this was no doubt immensely reassuring.
“The mainstream media better understand,” Bannon declared, “all those promises are going to be implemented.” So much for the theory that the media was stupid to take Trump literally.
For so long we have fixated on so little. The power behind Donald Trump’s throne was a spectral presence.
President Steve Bannon was a nice slogan for town hall hecklers and street protesters – and his dour face was a nice target for cartoonists. But without a voice, we had no character. Bannon was less a human being than a caricature.
For Saturday Night Live, that meant casting him as the grim reaper, orchestrating death and destruction behind a clueless and childish Trump. But with his speech at the CPAC conference, at last the SNL satirists now have some new material to play with: a living, speaking Bannon.
The only challenge is that what lies underneath is as grim as the surface. When you lift Bannon’s mask of death, all you see is a pallid soul who clearly loathes the sunshine.
(Source: The Guardian)