At least once in every generation a person enters the limelight that has the skill, the temperament, the intelligence and the motivation to dramatically shape world events. I think Stephen K. Bannon is one of these persons. He wants to be a game changer on the world stage but his objectives are definitely not consistent with American values.
After being appointed by President Donald Trump as chief strategist, Bannon arguably became the second most powerful man in the White House. He became even more powerful when Trump appointed him to the National Security Council Principals Committee. This means Bannon’s views and politics will influence national security deliberations. According to reports this will be the first time in recent history that a political operative has had a front-row seat on the Council.
Bannon was elevated from a low profile to national prominence in a very short period of time. He has never held public office and information on him has not been widely publicized until recently. But here is what we do know from his biography on Wikipedia and other sources.
Bannon is well educated, holding a bachelor’s degree in urban planning from Virginia Tech and a Master of Business Administration degree from the Harvard Business School. He served seven years as an officer in the navy in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Next Bannon worked as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs. In 1990 Bannon and several colleagues formed Bannon & Co., which was purchased by Société Générale in 1998. Needless to say, Bannon made himself a very wealthy man.
Bannon became involved in the Hollywood film and media business in the 1990s and produced 18 films. Among these were “In the Face of Evil” (a documentary about Ronald Reagan), “Fire from the Heartland: The Awakening of the Conservative Woman”, “The Undefeated” (about Sarah Palin), and “Occupy Unmasked.”
From his involvement in other media projects and his writings it appears that Bannon formed a radical, irrational opinion of Islam in the mid-2000s. He claimed that the “American Jewish Community”, the ACLU, the CIA, the FBI, the State Department, and the White House were “enablers” of a covert mission to establish an Islamic Republic in the United States.
Perhaps Bannon assumed his most controversial position in 2012 when he became executive chair of the parent company of Breitbart News, a far-right news and opinion website. In 2016 Bannon called Breitbart News “the platform for the alt-right (white supremacists and neo-Nazis).” This website has been labeled as racist, sexist, xenophobic, anti-gay and anti-Semitic. And there are credible reports that brand Bannon himself is a harasser and abuser of women.
But it doesn’t end there. The alt-right and Bannon have sent strong signals that they align with Russian President Vladimir Putin, his anti-gay policies and his “traditionalist” views. Bannon casts himself as a traditionalist, which among other things means he does not accept gays, gay marriage or multiculturalism. To me these traditionalists are the Christian equivalent of the Islamic traditionalists that form the nucleus of the Islamic State, but without the vicious behavior.
Although he later said that he had no recollection of it, Bannon told a writer for The Daily Beast, in late 2013 “I’m a Leninist. Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal, too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.”
During a Breitbart interview on December 30, 2016, Bannon said, “I think we’ve lived through an historic time. I think we’ll talk about what happened in this year politically for many, many decades to come.” Bannon went on to say that 2017 will be as much of an “exciting time” as 2016 was.
Well, I’m not sure if Bannon equates “exciting” with “chaos” but apparently he does. It seems certain that Bannon was deeply involved in the chaotic executive order that implemented the immigration ban on January 27. As they say, his finger prints are all over that order.
The Washington Post reported that Bannon had a strong disagreement with Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly over issuing a waiver for lawful permanent residents (green-card holders) from the seven countries whose citizens had been banned from entering the U.S. Supposedly Bannon ordered Kelly to not issue the waiver. Kelly refused saying he would have to hear it directly from the president. Then he issued the waiver in spite of Bannon’s objections.
In later discussions on this issue Kelly, Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of State designee Rex Tillerson reportedly presented a united front against Bannon. They complained about the process that led to the issuance of the executive order on immigration and the fact that they were not properly consulted. In the end the cabinet officers evidently won.
But here is what to look for: These types of disagreements among such powerful, strong-willed administration officials rarely continue. Someone has to yield or someone has to resign. Perhaps Trump can moderate Bannon, although he seems to share Bannon’s views. But if Bannon wins in this intra-administration battle, our nation is in real trouble.