Magazine article The Spectator

Steve Bannon: From Breitbart to the White House

Magazine article The Spectator

Steve Bannon: From Breitbart to the White House

Article excerpt

Is Steve Bannon really pulling the strings in Team Trump?

Donald J. Trump always keeps everyone guessing. Is the president-elect ditching his crazy act in order to bring in a conventional Republican government? Or ditching conventional Republican government in order to bring in his crazy act? Is he bringing together the anti-politics outsiders and the Washington insiders? Or is he playing them against each other? Are we witnessing the usual scramble for power that accompanies every incoming administration? Or is the Trump transition a new kind of shambles?

The answer to all these questions is yes, probably. Take the role of Steve Bannon, executive chairman of the right-wing website Breit-bart (aka 'Trump Pravda '), who served as the Donald's campaign manager in the run-up to the election. Bannon, a former US navy officer, has reportedly described himself as a Leninist who wants to tear down the system. The fear, among the anti-Trump press at any rate, was that he would be rewarded with the chief of staff job in the new administration. It came as something of a relief on Sunday, then, when the news broke that Trump had instead appointed Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, to be his main man in the White House.

For those craving a return to normality, however, the press release was the opposite of satisfying: 'Trump for President CEO Stephen K. Bannon will serve as Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor to the President and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus will serve as White House Chief of Staff'. Bannon and Priebus would be 'equal' partners, it said.

Nobody could fail to notice the order in which the two posts were revealed. Again the announcement threw up more questions than it answered. Was Team Trump softening the blow to Bannon's ego -- emphasising his importance as consigliere when he had in fact missed out? Was Bannon being pushed aside? Or was he still pulling the strings? Had he composed the statement himself? It certainly read like a Breitbart PR declaration.

The media, predictably enough, had a sense of humour failure and freaked out. Bannon is an anti-Semite and a white nationalist, screamed the hacks. The accusations were based on the editorial tone of Breitbart, which often flirts with racial politics in a mischievous way, as well as an allegation made by one of Bannon's ex-wives in a divorce court. Mary Louise Piccard (hardly a neutral source) claimed her former husband 'doesn't like Jews' and 'doesn't like the way they raise their kids to be "whiney brats"'. Right-wingers rallied to Bannon's defence. Newt Gingrich, a Grand Old Party stalwart and now Trump crony, countered by saying Bannon couldn't hate Jews because he had worked in Hollywood and for Goldman Sachs, which prompted a lot of chortling about what a bigot Newt must be.

Others pointed out that Bannon is a fierce supporter of Israel. On, of all places, the Democrat Alan Dershowitz came out to say that Bannon 'has very good relationships with individual Jews'.

As if all that weren't silly enough, various websites started posting articles listing Breitbart's most offensive articles, pretending these were the direct fruits of Bannon's evil mind and therefore proof that the White House was being taken over by a Nazi. Selected headlines included such gems as 'Would You Rather Your Child had Feminism or Cancer?' and 'Birth Control Makes Women Crazy and Unattractive'. …

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