Steve Bannon, Donald Trump’s chief strategist in his 2016 presidential campaign, is trying to make a comeback. He was forced to leave his job in the White House and had other positions taken away from him, including his running of Breitbart.com. But I argued in The Daily Beast in 2018 that it would be a folly to write his obituary.
No, the White House has not invited him to return, but Bannon is determined to help Trump weather the impeachment storm and win in 2020. To implement this strategy, Bannon and two associates, Jason Miller, former communications director of Trump’s 2016 campaign, and Raheem Kassam, a former editor at Breitbart, are broadcasting on a small Virginia radio network run by John Frederick.
Bannon’s voice can now be heard as well on “War Room: Impeachment” as a podcast, on which you can hear all the programs, including the one each day that is broadcast live from 9 to 10 a.m. He is presently negotiating with other radio stations to run the program. They will broadcast daily until Trump’s trial in the Senate is over.
It is clear that the president needs a new strategy. His poll numbers are steadily declining, with around half of voters now believing an impeachment inquiry is necessary and that he deserves to be impeached and removed from office.
Bannon argues that it is crucial that the public’s perception of Trump change. Instead of attacking the mainstream media, he thinks the anti-Trump narrative can only be altered by using it to their own advantage. Bannon stresses that the major newspapers and liberal cable TV outlets would actually jump at the chance to give them space and publicity.
Therefore, he advises that Trump conservatives should stop going on Sean Hannity or Laura Ingraham’s Fox News programs and try instead to go on outlets like CNN and unfriendly media venues. (So far few have taken that option.)
Rather than smear mainstream journalists as promoting “fake news,” Bannon refreshingly notes that journalists who write for and edit the major publications are professional, serious journalists and would all welcome input from the pro-Trump side. Clearly, Bannon would not approve of Trump’s edict that all government agencies end their subs to The New York Times and The Washington Post.
Bannon announced his new radio program by giving an exclusive interview to Jeremy Peters of the Times, proving his argument correct. Indeed, the Peters story on Bannon’s new venture reads like a press release. In accepting the offer for an interview, Peters and the Times fell right into Bannon’s trap.
As Peters wrote, Bannon countered the usual right-wing memes, arguing against “deep state” conspiracy theories, that showing a majority for impeachment is not “fake news,” and that those willingly testifying before the House Intelligence Committees are not, as Trump’s press secretary Stephanie Grisham wrote in a statement last week, a bunch of “far-left lawmakers and radical unelected bureaucrats.”
In the three broadcasts I listened to, Bannon stressed that people like diplomat William Taylor are “professionals” with a background of patriotism and service to the nation. In Taylor’s case, in the military during Vietnam, and as an appointee to major government posts. While it is ridiculous to accuse him of being part of the “deep state,” he is, according to Bannon, guilty of being part of the “permanent political class” that serves the existing system rather than the American people.
In the second episode, Bannon told listeners that Kassam would go through Taylor’s testimony and prove that he was completely unable to show there was a quid quo pro offered to President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine. Yet Kassam only repeated the same talking points used by the Trump acolytes in the media and the House GOP; he claimed—but could not prove—that there was no quid pro quo.
For anyone who doubts that they have not proved it, read last Friday’s syndicated column by Mona Charen, in which she laid into Trump’s congressional apologists. Like those she cites, Bannon and his crew also have become “wind-up toys,” hoping that constantly repeating there was no quid pro quo will somehow convince people that there wasn’t one.
But more generally, Bannon says that rather than go after people like Taylor, what Trump supporters should emphasize is that the Democrats are not playing fair and are using blitzkrieg methods to constantly push their own false narrative.
Thus Nancy Pelosi, Kassam added, has figured out how to use the legislative process to the Democrats’ advantage. “There’s a very serious failure,” he said, “to take this whole process seriously from the Republican side.” Pelosi is able to gain an advantage, Bannon says, by using her position to release selective leaks, such as Taylor’s opening statement.
Bannon’s bark is louder than his bite. He is trying his best to become Trump’s most able supporter, without the president asking him to be that (and he probably wants his White House job back, which almost surely isn’t happening). And while he is media savvy and knows that talking to their own tribe will not help Trump, he too is actually talking only to them, and not saying anything that is different about a quid pro quo than those he criticizes on the Trumpist right.
Save your time, Steve, and reschedule all those great foreign trips and appearances you have temporarily put aside, which you told listeners is a great sacrifice that you are making. At least in Europe, the authoritarian far right and even some neo-fascist groups await your presence.
I’m certain that Viktor Orban’s followers in Hungary, the leaders of the Law and Justice party in Poland, Geert Wilders’ party in the Netherlands, and the neo-fascist “Alternative for Germany” party, the AfD, will quickly reschedule his appearances if asked. Bannon’s absence from the United States will hardly register.