Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

The Mephisto Waltz of 2016 How an Opportunist and a True Believer Won the White House

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

The Mephisto Waltz of 2016 How an Opportunist and a True Believer Won the White House

Article excerpt

"DEVIL'S BARGAIN: STEVE BANNON, DONALD TRUMP, AND THE STORMING OF THE PRESIDENCY"

By Joshua Green

Penguin Press ($27)

The most refreshing thing about Joshua Green's new book on the president and his alleged archmanipulator is that it belies its own title. "Devil's Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency" doesn't really demonize the White House chief strategist at its center. Delicious from page one, a tad stale down its home stretch, it is a nearly balanced look at the intellectual underpinnings of last year's electoral revolution, and at a right-wing rebel at the right hand of power - for the moment.

Mr. Green, of Bloomberg Businessweek, spent most of 2015 studying Steve Bannon, a Navy man turned financier who was then running the alt-right website Breitbart News. While Mr. Green isn't shy about placing Mr. Bannon and Breitbart on the political "fringe," and calling out xenophobic and racially charged excesses, this is no screed. Mr. Bannon is humanized in close-up during the delightful first two-thirds of "Devil's Bargain," before Mr. Green switches to the wide-angle lens to chronicle the closing stages of the 2016 campaign. The details sweeten this tale of men who gleefully compare themselves, and each other, to the ferocious quasi-weasel known as the honey badger.

For instance, if you ever wondered if the rise of angry nationalism could be connected to video gaming, Mr. Green takes you to their junction. A dozen years ago Mr. Bannon was immersed in the "gold farming" business, in which low-wage foreign workers spend long days in online fantasy worlds, then sell their virtual treasure to Western gamers - for real money. That business didn't end well for Mr. Bannon, but it introduced him to the cyberwarrens of the legions of sun-starved men later drawn to Breitbart and then to Mr. Trump.

And if you've speculated about the social lives of the super-rich oddballs who buy the political process with their billions, Mr. Green has a morsel for you. He details the 2015 Christmas party at which hedge fund general Robert Mercer dressed as Douglas MacArthur and Mr. …

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