Steve Bannon and the Million Dollar Question

For those of you who have not yet seen the news, there is a bombshell of a story developing. It’s the distancing of the Mercers from Steve Bannon.

As I wrote a few weeks ago in my post Bannon’s Braggadocio, it’s one thing for someone like Steve Bannon to boast about how many Republicans he is going to take out in primaries. It’s entirely another thing to back that boasting with legitimate funding.

The consensus up until today has been that there is relatively little daylight between the Mercers, specifically Bob and Bekah, and Steve Bannon. Today we all found out otherwise.

Here’s my quick take on things. It’s not that the Mercers and Bannon have dissimilar objectives. Many of us among the liberty, free market movement share the belief that there are those in Washington, DC who say one thing on the campaign trail and do a 180 once elected. And they have to be replaced with those who will fulfill their campaign promises. As these campaign chameleons do their DC kabuki dance, the country goes deeper into debt, socialized medicine becomes an encroaching reality and the difference between the two major parties, which should be stark, blends into a murky gray.

Here’s where I think the difference is. Donors like Bob Mercer want to see creative destruction, a sort of market disruption, that has an objective in mind-an actual principled, free market driven party that is intent on giving as many people as possible the greatest amount of liberty.

On the flip side of this is Steve Bannon, aider and abetter of the alt-right and a modern day (would be) Robespierre who just wants to create chaos. Articles like this one from Buzzfeed are damning. Bannon’s personal history is damning. As I have written before, we can be principled conservatives and not be with Steve Bannon. We can foment for constructive change and not have to embrace the ugliness that he embodies.

A new day dawned today in conservative and Republican politics.

And it is a good thing.


Trump Allies Fear the President May Fall to an Impeachment Vote

When Steve Bannon is in damage control mode, rather than damage creation mode, it may be time to worry.

According to a report from Vanity Fair, there is some concern from two of President Trump’s allies that recent developments are pointing to impeachment.

Bannon reportedly believes Trump’s hold on power is slipping in the wake of recent legislative failures. According to Vanity Fair, he recently did a “spitball analysis” of the president’s Cabinet to see who would remain loyal to Trump if the 25th Amendment were invoked, and is unsure if Trump would survive an impeachment vote.

“One thing Steve wants Trump to do is take this more seriously,” a Bannon confidant told the magazine. “Stop joking around. Stop tweeting.”

I don’t know that the president is joking around, or that he can stop tweeting. It’s like an obsession with him, at this point. Obviously.

One thing Bannon has been pushing for behind the scenes is for President Trump to cut the funding to special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, regarding Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election.

I can’t even begin to express what a bad idea that is.

Trump pal, Roger Stone wants it to go even further, with Trump not only defunding Mueller, but bringing in a special counsel to investigate Hillary Clinton. He suggests either former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani or Fox News personality Judge Andrew Napolitano. At some point, that would bring Mueller, himself, under investigation.

Stone is pretty much a lunatic, I must add.

Both Bannon and Stone are stressing over the recent indictments brought against former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, and his business partner Rick Gates.

I’m not sure how close they think this will get to Trump, but neither trust Republican lawmakers not to vote to impeach, should things begin to get too hot with the investigation.

This is where I point out that many of the problems Trump has have come about because of a lack of self-control on his part, and how those who want to unbridle him have done him no favors.

Two of those doing him no favors are Bannon and Stone.

You can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube, gentlemen.

Congrats Barack Obama! Steve Bannon Says You Aren’t the Worst President

Former Presidential advisor Steve Bannon gave Barack Obama some good news in California over the weekend. To thunderous applause, Bannon declared someone other than Obama “the worst President” in American history. No, not Jimmy Carter. Bannon, to the applause of the California GOP, declared George W. Bush the worst President ever.

Proving more and more how cult like Trumpism is, the Californians who had voted for Bush twice, were now willing to jeer him because Steve Bannon said so.

Bush has lots of flaws and his presidency really did lead to both Obama and Trumpism, but the man kept us safe for eight years and united the country in a way neither Obama nor Trump could. He does not deserve the label of worst President, but he gets it because he dared to call out the white nationalism that Bannon designed Trumpism to feed off of.

There have been many books written about anti-Christs and Beasts and false prophets from Revelation. I do not think Bannon is or Trump is and do not mean here to suggest they are. But given how easily they can get a crowd to cheer for things the crowd once opposed and jeer things the crowd once supported, let’s not pretend it won’t be easy when the Beast actually does show up.

And cultural Christianity makes all these things easier.

Values and the Christian Right

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” – Matthew 5:13 NIV

Salt is meant to preserve against decay, as well as to draw out what is good and flavorful in food. In the reference above, “salt” refers to the character of Christians, as we are called to do a good work of drawing out others from the world that is lost, and introducing them to the Good News, which the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

“Do not be deceived: [a]’Bad company corrupts good morals.’” – 1 Corinthians 15:33 AMP

The apostle Paul spoke these words of warning to the Corinthians, who were allowing false teachers and bad teaching to weave through the church, corrupting the true gospel and leading believers down the wrong path.

What was true in the early days of the Christian church is no less true today. When we allow ideologies that have nothing to do with this faith that we proclaim to worm their way into the Church, what we get is a watered down version of Christianity that does little to bring the full glory of Christ to a world that is growing increasingly sick.

It is, in fact, not worthy to be called Christianity, at all.

This past weekend, the Values Voter Summit, sponsored by the Family Research Council and a host of other right wing, presumably Christian organizations, was held in Washington, D.C.

The VVS began in 2006 and has boasted an impressive lineup of conservative speakers, promoting pro-life, traditional marriage, and religious freedom ideals to a receptive evangelical crowd of voters.

All of these are good and right and as Christians, we need a voice in the marketplace of ideas, especially in these days of darkness and strife.

Our nation is hurting. Moral relativism has distorted what once was, and it has set us adrift, apart from the blessings of a holy God, Who cannot look on sin. This I believe, wholeheartedly. The uglier things get in our streets, the more convinced I am.

You cannot proclaim Christ and the cross convincingly, however, when you choose to mix in the ungodly and unrepentant, for the sake of raising your profile.

That’s what happened this weekend, when the VVS chose to give a forum to Steve Bannon and Seb Gorka, two recent refugees from the Trump administration, and by every account, nasty, combative individuals.

I have to wonder how much influence President Trump had over the VVS, in allowing them to give a platform to two men who had very little to say about pro-life, pro-traditional marriage, or religious freedom issues?

Trump, himself, is an unrepentant man, having declared publicly that he had no need for God, because he’d never sinned.

We know, per 1 John 1:8, that any who says he does not sin is a liar, and the truth of God’s Word is not in him.

Apparently, that’s something evangelical voters are willing to overlook, at least, as long as the political party affiliation is right.

Trump’s words at the VVS tickled ears, but knowing how he treats people, openly displayed on social media and during his rallies, the wise should keep in mind this was a speech written for him, not by him. He was simply reciting what was given to him to say, with no heart behind those words. They were as empty and meaningless as his claim that we were ending an imaginary “war on Christmas.”

As for Bannon and Gorka, their talk was about war and getting even with political opponents.

Is this where Christians in America feel we need to be?

Unfortunately, many on the evangelical political right think we can legislate morality, and we cannot.

So confused in their battleplan are they, that they would allow men like Bannon and Gorka to bring a message of war and division into a forum where the audience in attendance are supposedly ambassadors for Christ.

It’s the same ignorance of the message of the cross that allowed for a man like Donald Trump to win the GOP nomination, and the presidency, in the first place.

Trump has promised to end the Johnson Amendment, in order to give pastors the right to promote political candidates, and has called this a “religious freedom” issue.

It is not.

Pastors in America are already protected by the First Amendment and can preach the Word of God freely. If there is any fear, it is unfounded. Allowing men to step up in the pulpit and claim that they will be the ones to fix this nation will not, in fact, fix anything.

That Trump thinks it is a religious freedom issue and that there are Christians and Christian organizations going along with it speaks ill of the condition of the American church.

No, the Johnson Amendment never should have been, but mainly because there never should have been a need for it.

Keep God’s house holy.

The Christian right are now willing to yoke themselves unevenly for political power. They give platform to reprobates to promote chaos and division, because the ends justify the means. The lines between their faith and their political leanings are blurred.

They do this, well meaning, and sadly, most won’t realize they’ve lost their saltiness, having ruined their witness to a world that needs them to be a light.

Steve Bannon Declares War On Republicans

With a call for one sitting Republican senator to resign and announcement that he plans to back primary challengers for nearly every sitting Republican in the Senate, Steve Bannon, former White House strategist and past and present chairman of Breitbart News, has effectively declared war on the Republican Party. While ostensibly still backing President Trump, Bannon’s effort also includes challengers to some Trump allies.

Bannon’s primary target at the moment is Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.). After Corker and Trump engaged in a flame war on Twitter over the weekend, Bannon called for the Tennessean to resign for his disloyalty to President Trump. In a tweet, Corker, who is not running for re-election,  likened the White House to a “day care center” and said in a New York Times interview that President Trump acted “like he’s doing ‘The Apprentice’ or something” and that his lack of diplomatic skills could put the world “on the path to World War III.”

“If Bob Corker has any honor, any decency, he should resign immediately,” Bannon told Sean Hannity on Fox News.

“This is what they think about President Trump behind closed doors,” Bannon added. “He happened to tell The New York Times exactly what he thought, it’s totally unacceptable. In a time of war, we have troops in Afghanistan, in the Northwest pacific and Korea. We have a major problem that could be like World War I in the South China Sea. In the Persian Gulf, we have American lives at risk every day.”

That Bannon equates Corker’s comments with all Republican incumbents provides insight into why he plans to try to unseat practically every Republican senator. The Washington Post notes that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is reportedly the only senator who will not be fending off a Bannon-backed challenger, but a CNN source said, “Nobody’s safe.” Cruz was a favorite of Bannon’s Breitbart until Donald Trump usurped that role. Cruz angered many Trump supporters with his long-delayed endorsement of Donald Trump and his heated exchanges with Trump in the primary.

Breitbart quotes Andy Surabian, a senior adviser to the Great America Alliance and ex-White House aide, who said, “We’re planning on building a broad anti-establishment coalition to replace the Republican Party of old with fresh new blood and fresh new ideas.” The site notes that the Great America Alliance is a “pro-Trump Super PAC.”

The Breitbart article also quotes Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, who said, “The conservative tidal wave that carried Donald Trump into the White House may soon be eclipsed by what appears to be a conservative tsunami that threatens the [Republican] establishment death grip on the U.S. Senate.”

Much of the antipathy to the “establishment” Republicans seems to stem from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) refusal to end the filibuster and change Senate rules to allow passage of bills with a simple majority, commonly referred to as the “nuclear option.” President Trump urged McConnell to change Senate rules in a tweet in August. Mr. McConnell told Politico in April, “There’s not a single senator in the majority who thinks we ought to change the legislative filibuster. Not one.”

Surabian hinted at the “nuclear option” when he noted, “The group of candidates we are looking to support in 2018 are all bound together in their agreement that the new Republican Party must be bold in their thinking and aggressive in their tactics.”

Bannon’s tactics have potential downsides. If his candidates defeat Republican incumbents in the primary, they still must win the general election. This could present a problem for some Bannon-backed candidates, particularly in moderate states. President Trump alluded to this risk in deep red Alabama when he campaigned for incumbent Luther Strange (R-Ala.) against primary challenger Roy Moore, who was supported by Bannon. With a slim majority of only two seats, Bannon’s war against Republican incumbents could tip the Senate to the Democrats.

A second problem is that, if Bannon’s plan succeeds and the filibuster is killed permanently, Democrats would have the same advantages the next time they are in power. President Trump’s agenda could be passed more easily without the cloture rule, but it would also be easier for the next Democrat majority to repeal Trump’s reforms and enact their own leftist agenda.

Bannon’s frontal assault on sitting Republicans brings the GOP civil war into the open. Trump supporters like Bannon are attempting to purge the party of traditional Republicans who represent the “establishment,” regardless of voting records or conservative credentials. CNN notes that even John Barasso (R-Wy.), typically considered a Trump ally, is a target of Bannon’s effort.

It is normally very difficult to unseat incumbents, but 2018 may be different. There may be additional retirements that leave open seats vulnerable to Bannon’s candidates. Further, polling shows that President Trump is far more popular among Republicans than congressional leaders. If Republican voters back primary challengers supported by Bannon and President Trump over party incumbents, it will signal a permanent shift in the direction of the Republican Party.

BREAKING: Steve Bannon is OUT at the White House

Given his odd, almost self-destructive behavior over the last week, including calling a leftwing journo to dish dirt on his colleagues in the White House, say there was no strategy on North Korea, and in general, talk like a man who didn’t really like his job, anymore, today’s news comes as no real shock.

Steve Bannon is out, as White House chief strategist.

Bannon has been a controversial figure in the administration, since leaving Breitbart, in order to take a position with the Trump campaign.

It was Bannon who took Breitbart towards the alt-right as it is, today, after Andrew Breitbart’s death.

While the news is still developing, there is some word that Bannon will return as head of Breitbart and continue to push the president’s agenda from that platform.

Is Bannon Falling On His Sword, Or An Evil Genius?

Steve Bannon phoned up the editor of a left-wing website, and proceeded to have a conversation about China, North Korea, white nationalism, and internal battles in the Trump administration.

The resulting piece, “Steve Bannon, Unrepentant” went so viral that The American Prospect’s servers keep crashing.

Everyone seems to have a hot take on this interview, and there’s a lot to unpack. So let me first start with why Bannon may have placed the call.

More puzzling is the fact that Bannon would phone a writer and editor of a progressive publication (the cover lines on whose first two issues after Trump’s election were “Resisting Trump” and “Containing Trump”) and assume that a possible convergence of views on China trade might somehow paper over the political and moral chasm on white nationalism.

Is Bannon laying the ground for his own termination? Is he falling on his sword to make the decision easier for Trump to fire him?

A message to Trump?

I think it’s more complicated than that. The relationship between Trump and Bannon is one of mutual manipulation. Trump used Bannon to help organize and contain his ugly shock troops, and Bannon used Trump to featherbed Breitbart and his own career. They both used each other very effectively.

Since John Kelly took over, there’s no free access to the Oval Office, even (especially) to Bannon. If he wants his views presented to Trump, Bannon has to go through the filter–and the filter is not particularly friendly to his views. Another way to reach Trump is through the media. Jared Kushner, Reince Priebus and others, past and present, in the White House, have used this method to get the boss’s attention.

So the interview may have been a message to Trump–in essence sneaking a note onto the president’s desk without going through Kelly.

It could also have been Bannon’s attempt to throw a lifeline to Trump, whose own bluster on North Korea, and utter failure to engage the Chinese and allow them to save face has painted him into a corner. Doing the end-around on Kelly may, in Bannon’s thinking, give Trump some elbow room to move, and help break the personnel logjam bedeviling Rex Tillerson at State.

Robert Kuttner, co-editor of The American Prospect, remarked that he’d never before spoken with Bannon. “I came away from the conversation with a sense both of his savvy and his recklessness,” Kuttner wrote. “The waters around him are rising, but he is going about his business of infighting, and attempting to cultivate improbable outside allies, to promote his China strategy.”

A collection of clowns

Most startling to many, is Bannon’s blasé public dismissal of the “alt-right” white nationalists he so carefully cultivated at Breitbart. Is he lying to make himself look good or is he serious?

He dismissed the far right as irrelevant and sidestepped his own role in cultivating it: “Ethno-nationalism—it’s losers. It’s a fringe element. I think the media plays it up too much, and we gotta help crush it, you know, uh, help crush it more.”

“These guys are a collection of clowns,” he added.

Efforts to paint Bannon himself as a racist have been around since he elevated his role in the Trump campaign. It’s very clear that Bannon did cultivate the “alt-right,” but Trump cultivated them first. Bannon corralled them and made money doing it, promoting the fabulous Milo Yiannopoulos.

To me, and this is likely a position counter to many conservative pundits, Bannon is not allied with the “alt-right,” particularly the racist “ethno-nationalist” movement. I believe him when he calls them losers.

In his 2014 Skype talk to the Human Dignity Institute, published by Buzzfeed in late 2016, Bannon articulated his beliefs rather clearly as nationalist-capitalist. He is not a “blood and soil” nationalist, but a capitalist who realizes national sovereignty and cultural proclivities is a means to efficient trade among self-interested nations. His main complaint about the world is the rise of cronyism that denies the benefits of capitalism to working-class people.

Questioner: Very simply put, there’s a growing movement among young people here in Europe, in France and in Austria and elsewhere, and they’re arguing very effectively against Wall Street institutions and they’re also appealing to people on an ethnic and racial level. And I was just wondering what you would recommend to counteract these movements, which are growing.

Bannon: One of the reasons that you can understand how they’re being fueled is that they’re not seeing the benefits of capitalism. I mean particularly — and I think it’s particularly more advanced in Europe than it is in the United States, but in the United States it’s getting pretty advanced — is that when you have this kind of crony capitalism, you have a different set of rules for the people that make the rules. It’s this partnership of big government and corporatists. I think it starts to fuel, particularly as you start to see negative job creation. If you go back, in fact, and look at the United States’ GDP, you look at a bunch of Europe. If you take out government spending, you know, we’ve had negative growth on a real basis for over a decade.

And that all trickles down to the man in the street. If you look at people’s lives, and particularly millennials, look at people under 30 — people under 30, there’s 50% really underemployment of people in the United States, which is probably the most advanced economy in the West, and it gets worse in Europe.

I think in Spain it’s something like 50 or 60% of the youth under 30 are underemployed. And that means the decade of their twenties, which is where you have to learn a skill, where you have to learn a craft, where you really start to get comfortable in your profession, you’re taking that away from the entire generation. That’s only going to fuel tribalism, that’s only going to fuel [unintelligible]… That’s why to me, it’s incumbent upon freedom-loving people to make sure that we sort out these governments and make sure that we sort out particularly this crony capitalism so that the benefits become more of this entrepreneurial spirit and that can flow back to working-class and middle-class people. Because if not, we’re going to pay a huge price for this. You can already start to see it.

Unemployed, disaffected, discouraged people tend to gravitate toward extreme philosophies. Whether its antifa, BLM, ISIS, or “alt-right” nationalism, the have-nots tend to find solace and acceptance in groups devoted to getting them what they don’t have and feel they can’t get themselves.

To Bannon, the natural affection of middle-class populism to Trump was an easy choice. He knew there were fringe elements that embraced racism in the mix, and dismissed them then as he does now.

By the way, even in the tea party, we have a broad movement like this, and we’ve been criticized, and they try to make the tea party as being racist, etc., which it’s not. But there’s always elements who turn up at these things, whether it’s militia guys or whatever. Some that are fringe organizations. My point is that over time it all gets kind of washed out, right? People understand what pulls them together, and the people on the margins I think get marginalized more and more.

Consistent and unrelenting

Bannon has one core principle: Governments shouldn’t pick economic winners and losers. Crony capitalism, bad trade deals, hegemony. He wants to beat foreign interests who try to beat America economically and militarily, while dismantling crony capitalism and over -regulation at home.

This, fundamentally, is a conservative message.

Where Bannon splits with many conservatives is his somewhat amoral and cynical application of strategy to achieve his goals. He uses people, like Trump uses people. He’s not a nice person by all accounts.

To his credit, Bannon seems to care that “ten million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes” of any war with North Korea. I agree with that sentiment, although I’m not sure Trump himself does.

In the end, I think Bannon simply doesn’t care if he gets fired. If it happens, he’ll fight his battle from another fort. If not the White House, he’ll go back to Breitbart or another venue. But while in the White House, Bannon will remain consistent and unrelenting in his efforts. Even if that means he has to call on someone on the other end of the political spectrum to be heard.

Is Steve Bannon on the Outs at the White House?

By now we’re used to hearing about rumors of upheaval in the Trump White House, but it’s worth nothing that multiple sources are indicating that Steve Bannon may be on the outs at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Sources state that Bannon has garnered the ire of Chief of Staff John Kelly, because Bannon is apparently pursuing an agenda of his own that doesn’t fit with the direction in which Kelly is trying to steer the administration.

National security adviser H.R. McMaster’s appearance on Meet The Press this weekend adds some fuel to the speculation. Host Chuck Todd asked McMaster about Bannon and his effectiveness at helping pursue an agenda that benefits the American people. McMaster didn’t appear to indicate that Bannon is a team player.

“Can you and Steve Bannon still work together,” Todd asked.

“I get to work together with a broad range of talented people,” McMaster said. “It’s a privilege every day to enable the national security team.”

Asked again, McMaster said, “I am ready to work with anybody who will help advance the President’s agenda and advance the security, prosperity of the American people.”

“Do you believe that Steve Bannon does that,” Todd asked.

“I believe that everyone in the White House … should be motivated by that goal,” he said.

I can’t help but wonder: with all those generals in the White House, why haven’t any of them suggested that Bannon do something with his ridiculous hair? But I digress…

Other sources have told CNN that Trump himself is fed up with Bannon, and former communications director Anthony Scaramucci hinted to ABC that Trump may let Bannon go partially because of White House leaks, but mainly because the former Breitbart mastermind’s ties to the alt-right could drag the administration down.

“If the President really wants to execute that legislative agenda that I think is so promising for the American people … then he has to move away from that sort of Bannon-bart nonsense,” Scaramucci said, using a portmanteau of Bannon and Breitbart, the outlet Bannon once said was a “platform for the alt-right.”

Does Steve Bannon have a long-term future at the White House? Will Saturday’s tragic violence in Charlottesville serve as a fitting springboard to get rid of the biggest alt-right cheerleader in the administration? I have a feeling that the answer to this question could stir up yet more controversy for the White House.