Why Hiring Steve Bannon Is the Same as Hiring David Duke

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Why Hiring Steve Bannon Is the Same as Hiring David Duke

No white hoods required.

Appointing Steve Bannon to an important position within the White House is precisely the same as appointing David Duke to an important position within the White House. (Photo: Getty/Drew Angerer)

As I pointed out on the electric Twitter machine over the weekend, appointing Steve Bannon to an important position within the White House is precisely the same as appointing David Duke to an important position within the White House. (If you want to quibble that I'm wrong because Bannon doesn't wear a hood to work, have at it.) However, the reaction to installing George Lincoln Rockhead in Ted Sorenson's old office has been disappointing, especially among those people who are supposed to be in a position to keep the barbarians from the gates. Fear for the gates.

First, the marginally not-insane Republicans. They preferred to Tweet their congratulations to El Caudillo del Mar-A-Lago for making obvious anagram Reince Priebus his chief of staff. John Weaver, a good man who worked for the campaign of John Kasich this cycle, was all over the electric Twitter machine being outraged.

Where in the fck is his old boss, the guy who bravely voted for John McCain rather than cast the vote that would have helped keep Steve Bannon back in the upholstered sewer where he made his previous living? His voice would be useful, as would those of Jeff Flake and Ben Sasse in the Senate. And, not for nothing, but Reince? You know what a truly principled conservative would do? He'd refuse to work in a White House that employs Steve Bannon.

Second, the elite political media. Forget about that. If they weren't praising Trump's "moderation" in hiring Priebus to get steamrolled by the crazy people, they were busy softpedalling Bannon's political sadism. Steve M. transcribes a horrendous conversation on NPR that I also heard on Sunday evening. (All weekend, you could just hear NPR losing its water in torrents over our new white-supremacist overlords.) Then, there's The Washington Post:

But the president-elect sent an opposing signal by tapping Stephen K. Bannon, his combative campaign chief and former head of the incendiary Breitbart News, as his chief strategist and senior counselor. Bannon, 62, has openly attacked congressional leadership, taking particular aim at House Speaker Paul D. Ryan ­(R-Wis.) — who recommended Priebus for his new job.

"Combative"! "Incendiary"! Christamighty. What about The New York Times?

Are you kidding?

In selecting Mr. Priebus, Mr. Trump passed over Stephen K. Bannon, a right-wing media provocateur. But the president-elect named Mr. Bannon his senior counselor and chief West Wing strategist, signaling an embrace of the fringe ideology long advanced by Mr. Bannon and of a continuing disdain for the Republican establishment. The dual appointments — with Mr. Bannon given top billing in the official announcement — instantly created rival centers of power in the Trump White House. Mr. Bannon's selection demonstrated the power of grass-roots activists who backed Mr. Trump's candidacy. Some of them have long traded in the conspiracy theories and sometimes racist messages of Breitbart News, the website that Mr. Bannon ran for much of the past decade.

Waaayyyyy out on the limb there, kids. "Some of them" have long traded in the conspiracy theories? Bannon was one of those people and now he's going to have the FBI and the CIA and the IRS on speed-dial. The president-elect went out of his way to hire a white supremacist and anti-Semite to run his policy shop.

Of course, the people closely attached to the incoming administration don't see it quite that way. For one, N. Leroy Gingrich, definer of civilization's rules and Leader (perhaps) of the civilizing forces, reassured us that Bannon was not an anti-Semite because he'd worked in movies and because he'd worked with the Jews on money stuff. From the Times of Israel:

Without Dickerson mentioning Bannon, Gingrich brought him up and alluded to the vast media attention that has been paid to his Breitbart audience and the culture they exemplify. "But the fact is, and you get this with all these smears of Steve Bannon. Steve Bannon is a naval officer, he was a managing partner at Goldman Sachs, he was a Hollywood movie producer," he said. "The idea that somehow he represents, and I had never heard of the alt-right until the nut cakes started writing about it."

(And, as an aside, we have had our fun here in the shebeen with Jennifer Rubin, the conservative blogger—and, yes, Likud cheer-team leader—at the Post, but nobody any place in the media has been as resolute in opposition to the whole terrible concept of President Donald Trump from the start as she has. Good on you, Jen. Seriously. We'll get back to arguing with you later, probably about your glib dismissal of Bernie Sanders.)

This was a pivotal moment in the transition from the administration of the first African-American president to the administration of the latest white man to take the job. This was a chance for the incoming administration at least partly to renounce the dark forces that helped propel its assumption of the presidency. It is not being seen that way. Bannon is being considered a kind of quota hire, a sop to the mindless wolverine Right, whose worst impulses will somehow be checked by Reince Priebus, the political powerhouse who couldn't stop Trump's hijacking of the party and who decided that his real job was to be the Trump campaign's Marshal Petain in Vichy Republicanism.

On Monday's edition of the TODAY show, Priebus expressed confusion as to how anyone could have an unflattering impression of his new colleague, just because that colleague had made his bones publishing headlines like the one calling Butcher's Bill Kristol a "renegade Jew." The pathetic consensus of Beltway conventional wisdom is that Bannon's hiring signals a triumph over, wait for it, "the Republican establishment," as though that's the only real damage the man can do. If the system can normalize the likes of Steve Bannon, we are well and truly lost as a nation.

What about the Democrats, you say? Well, if Tiger Beat On The Potomac is correct, they're on their way to bumfuzzling themselves again.

While it might seem like wishful thinking for Democrats to think they can do an end run around a Congress firmly under Republican control, Democrats say they could envision cutting deals with Trump on passing a public works package, killing the "carried interest" loophole, and cracking down on currency manipulation by China. Many conservatives oppose all those proposals.

It doesn't seem like wishful thinking. It seems like a bad goddamn acid trip. There is no way that Speaker Paul Ryan, the zombie-eyed granny starver from the state of Wisconsin, allows a "public works package" out of the House without stuffing it to the gills with the kind of tax-break goodies that helped cripple the Obama stimulus in 2009. Killing the carried-interest loophole is a long shot, as is cracking down on Chinese currency finagling. First, the president-elect doesn't seem to know fck-all about the job yet, and second, there's nobody around him dedicated to either one of those propositions who also knows how to get them through a Congress he simply never will control, no matter how many combative people in shiny boots he has advising him.

And here's somebody to whom the Democratic Party never should listen.

"I think Donald Trump would be very receptive to what [moderate Democrats] have to say," added Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

Objection, Your Honor. Assumes facts not in evidence. Not only that, but Manchin is a "moderate Democrat" in name only. At best, on all the issues that matter, he's now a "moderate Republican."

This is where we are, though. The auguries are all bad and crows doth sit upon the Capitol. And, out in the country, there are still people I don't understand, and there are pundits who don't understand them. The L.A. Times rounded some of them up.

"People were scared to say they were voting for him," Kaatz, 27, said as she stepped away from the bang of a cash register and the thrum of hair dryers at the upscale salon in Scottsdale where the two women work. Even now when people hear she supported Trump, said the 28-year-old Wright, "They think, 'Oh, so you must be a racist,' and that isn't fair or true."

Well, OK, ma'am, but then I read a little further down in the same story and, well…

"I never anticipated being in this situation," he said, soaking up the sun — one form of recreation he can still afford — on an 80-degree day on the Orange County coast. "My vote for Donald Trump, it wasn't out of bigotry. It wasn't out of hatred. It was about survival." Miskulin wants a better-paying job. He wants a stronger economy. He wants, among other priorities, for Trump to deal with illegal immigration, which Miskulin blames for soaring housing prices and sees as a drain on public services…I've been to the welfare office before, and a lot of people who go there don't speak English," Miskulin said. "Most of the people who go there, they're not white. They're not even black. The most people you see there are mostly Mexican.... They are illegal and they don't belong in our country."

Then, there's Frank Bruni, of the NYT, who tugged his forelock until he removed half his scalp.

Liberals miss this by being illiberal. They shame not just the racists and sexists who deserve it but all who disagree. A 64-year-old Southern woman not onboard with marriage equality finds herself characterized as a hateful boob. Never mind that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton weren't themselves onboard just five short years ago.

Frank, if that woman is not "on board" with marriage equality at this point in history, she may not be hateful. She might not even be a boob. But she's a bigot. There's no point in denying that.

It's a sad moment for this country when the best hope you have for an incoming administration is that it will be able to jettison the racism and xenophobia that was its primary fuel while fulfilling the impossible economic promises that it has made. If that doesn't happen, and the impossible economic promises do not come to pass, only the racism and xenophobia will be all that's left and over the weekend, we learned that they will have a friend at the apex of our government to keep them warm.

Charles P. Pierce

Charles P. Pierce

Charles P. Pierce is a writer-at-large for Esquire and his work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the LA Times Magazine, the Nation, the Atlantic, Sports Illustrated and The Chicago Tribune, among others.

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