There’s a lot we can say about Steve Bannon, the latest campaign chief to sit atop the Trump trash heap. But none of it is good.
We can talk about his anger-fueled propaganda empire, Breitbart News, which is widely nicknamed “Trump’s Pravda.” We can quote the conservative Wall Street Journal editorial page, which today invoked the nickname – while noting that “Pravda is more subtle.”
We can quote Republican strategist Matt Mackowiak, who says that Bannon runs Breitbart “as a Trump super-PAC full of sensationalized stories and Trump fan fiction.”
We can quote Republican strategist Rich Galen, who says that with Bannon in charge, “the campaign has been driven off a cliff.”
We can quote Ben Shapiro, a former Breitbart editor at large, who says that Bannon will reinforce the worst instincts of Trump’s “turd tornado.” (His wording yesterday, live on CNN.)
We can quote Republican strategist John Feehery, who says that Breitbart’s “unhinged” stories “are not journalistically credible,” and that if Trump is planning “a Breitbart-type campaign, we are going to get 30 percent of the vote.”
Or we can simply quote some of Bannon’s own pearls of wisdom, like calling conservative Bill Kristol “a renegade Jew,” and telling female victims of online harassment that they should stop “screwing up the Internet for men.”
So, as you can see, Bannon and Trump are perfect together. They stoke each other’s most vile instincts. In Trump’s latest senior staff shakeup (the third in recent months), Trump has tapped a guy who will let Trump be Trump. It’s hard to fathom how Trump thinks he can win a general election by tripling down on his primal scream, but maybe Bannon is on board for another reason – to plan a post-election media marriage, to monetize the populist anger and degrade our political discourse for years on end.
Either that, or perhaps, deep within his very best brain, Trump realizes that he’s already DOA – he’s only two points ahead in scarlet red South Carolina, for Pete’s sake – and so he just wants to run out the clock and hunker in the bunker with the flamethrowers who love him most.
Unless you surf the Breitbart site, or hew to the values of the lowest troll, you probably never heard of Bannon until Trump brought him in. I’ll share two episodes that should give you the measure of the man.
Last month, Breitbart staffer Milo Yiannopoulos wrote a negative film review of the “Ghostbusters” remake. He was particularly incensed about the actress Leslie Jones, singling out her race. He attacked her “flat-as-a-pancake black stylings,” and said the cast was “full of female characters that are simply stand-ins for men, plus a black character worthy of a minstrel show.” The trolls who populate the Breitbart comment board duly launched a racist twitterstorm against Jones, and it got so bad that Twitter banned Yiannopoulos from its site.
Did Bannon regret what his man Milo had unleashed on the black actress? Nah. Bannon thought the whole thing was awesome. It was buzz! It was heat! When Bannon met with an interviewer during the height of the controversy, his first words were, “Did you hear about Milo? It’s great.”
The other episode also involved a black woman. It happened in November ’14, within hours after President Obama tapped federal prosecutor Loretta Lynch to be the new attorney general. One of Bannon’s reporters posted the revelation that Lynch had “represented Clintons during Whitewater,” that Lynch was a “member of Bill Clinton’s defense team during the 1992 Whitewater probe,” and that “the Clintons escaped any convictions in that probe.”
It was a tad sloppy to write that the Clintons “escaped any convictions” in Whitewater (the murky ’80s real estate deal in which the Clintons lost money) – because, in truth, they were never charged with anything in the first place. But that’s not what made the Breitbart story so notable. This was:
Bannon’s reporter got the wrong Loretta Lynch.
Turned out, there was more than one Loretta Lynch in America. The woman who signed on to briefly help the Clintons in ’92 was a different Loretta Lynch – a California attorney and law lecturer who later served on the state’s Public Utilities Commissioner. And she was never a federal prosecutor.
Was Bannon horrified by this Mickey Mouse error? Nah. He ran a semi-coherent clarification without taking down or revising the erroneous stories. And he refused to rebuke the reporter. According to a recent profile of Bannon, “The embarrassed reporter asked for time off. Bannon, allergic to any hint of concession, refused….He shrugs. ‘We’re honey badgers,’ he explains. ‘We don’t give a s—.'”
Traffic in lies, never apologize. Is this guy the perfect Trump helmsman, or what? He and Trump are bellicosity squared.
Granted, most Republicans view Bannon as the antithesis of perfect – his website routinely attacks Paul Ryan and other Washington leaders; his ascent will further stoke the ire of the GOPers who want to sever the party’s monetary ties to Team Trump – but the die has apparently been cast. In the words of Stephen Hayes at the conservative Weekly Standard: “The campaign overhaul means that Trump is choosing to end his campaign living in the alternate reality that Breitbart creates for him on a daily basis – where everything he does is the best, where everyone who questions him is an idiot or a traitor.”
Unless there’s a fourth shakeup. Hey, we still have 82 days. Ann Coulter, come on down!