28 October, 2017
He is the scariest name in the US politics (and overseas) these days…
New political candidates are lining up, trying to land a photo op with him, if not a full endorsement.
Incumbents – on the other hand – are trying not to irritate the man, who has declared WAR on many of them except for Senator Ted Cruz and on the Republican National Committee.
His long title – The Executive Chairman of Breitbart and former Chief Strategist of the Trump Administration – says it all. While other people who were fired from the Trump administration have vanished, Steve Bannon, has a platform! He went directly from his office at the White House, to what he likes to call: “The Breitbart Home”. By now – he enjoys both worlds: The “Outsider” with the knowledge (and some contacts) of an “insider”.
There are people who hate him or fear him, or follow him blindly.
Nobody is indifferent to THE X FACTOR in US politics today.
Bannon, whom I’ve met a couple of days ago, is charming. He and I have tons of mutual friends: Politicians, big donors, Hollywood figures. Couple of my close friends are famously perceived by him as big enemies! And no, Steve Bannon does not believe in the option of not confusing ideological disputes with personal ones.
But we will get to names later…
He tells us in the exclusive interview that his chief mission is to contest any Republican incumbent, with his hand-picked new candidates, and to shake the establishment as well as its leaders (He is mentioning Mitch McConnell, Majority Leader of the Senate). He continues: “This is like the French Revolution”.
And that brings us to another advantage he has: Bannon is smart, quick and educated. When he argues passionately, he is inserting names of books, must read articles (written by both right and leftwing writers), historical events. His knowledge is part of his power!! And I suspect that some people find it hard to rise to the occasion and argue back.They feel, somehow, unequipped to match him.
So here is what Bannon is thinking about the topics which matter;
“THE PAINFUL TRUTH ABOUT N. KOREA”
Bannon shocked many, when he said to a reporter that – despite his then boss, Trump’s threats – there is not really a military option about North Korea, without killing, “ten million people in Seoul in the first 30 minutes of any US military attack …”
Many believe that, that was the last straw, which caused him to be ousted from the White House.
Bannon doubles down on his infamous remark by now.
I ask if he stands by, “They got us…?”
He says shortly: “No military solution” for the North Korean crisis.
But he is aiming towards, at least two “more dangerous situations, people should pay attention to…”
“MOST DANGEROUS – TURKEY”
“Turkey is the biggest danger for us (US)!” He tells us with conviction. “No, not even close to (its neighbor) Iran…” He waves his hand in total rejection.
“No! We don’t read well what is going on in Turkey right now, under (President Recep Tayyip) Erdogan!! This is an issue I am going to pursue hard.”
“THE MUST ISOLATION OF QATAR”
Bannon simply loves to declare a new war. In fact – when he was fired from the White House, it took, a senior editor of Breitbart, seconds to tweet #WAR.
His next global war – he shares with a smile – is against Qatar.
“I credit Donald Trump on the measures taken against Qatar by the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The boycott happened shortly after the (Trump) visit to Saudi Arabia, just like that…”
According to Bannon, Trump said that he backed Saudi Arabia’s stance even if he recently said he wanted to mediate this dispute.
Bannon added: “Qatar is as dangerous as North Korea! People should pay attention to this important situation.” He was referring to accusations against Qatar of backing extremist and terrorist groups.
“MISUNDERSTANDING ABOUT CHINA”
We are mentioning Trump’s upcoming trip to five countries in Asia. China is the first stop.
While Trump says, he has established friendship and mutual understanding with the Chinese leader, Bannon is doubting it!
“Re China: We don’t just make a small mistake… It is a big strategic mistake… If you listen to President Xi’s (recent) speech, it was not about how China is going to be superpower with the US. No! It was about They, are going to have a hegemony.
This mistake had started with the Bush and Clinton administrations. They thought that if we let China into the World Trade Organization, and treat them favorably, they would become a liberal democracy as they get bigger…Well, the Chinese have already run the tables on us.”
“AMERICA FIRST VS GLOBALISM”
Trump put a budget of 30 billion dollars to update the readiness of the US military. “It was a law, because of the wars we have been fighting for 17 years.”
“This is like the entire defense budget of Germany… Europe does not make any attempt to defend itself. They are protected by the USA,” Bannon said. “The US is committed to protecting Gulf states and the same applies to Japan and South Korea.”
“I don’t suggest it, but we have become ‘Isolationists.’ It is not that we are going to walk away from the world… No! But – we are going to start acting like adults.”
“MY ROLE IN BREXIT”
British politician Nigel Farage has been a friend, says Bannon. “I was proud, that the morning after we won, Nigel announced: “If it had not been for Breitbart London, there would have not been Brexit…”
I tell Steve, that I know Nigel, and recall, how he was having coffee with me, early in the morning, in Washington DC, plotting how to see Trump.
But first – he would, “Stop to see Steve and we will see…”
That meant, that the way to President Trump was with one stop at Bannon…
Steve is smiling, not disputing it.
In fact he was playing a bridge between two surprising victories on both sides of the Atlantic.
Back to internal topics: One of them is of course the mid-term elections (2018) where the Republican establishment will try to maintain their majority in both houses, which will affect Trump’s ability to govern, and his next elections on 2020.
Bannon is enjoying the glory of, “Winning Alabama Over!”
His candidate Judge Moore, who is considered by some Republicans, as super-extreme won big time in that state! Trump and VP Mike Pence had campaigned in person for his rival.
Bannon explains: Naturally – after such a victory, more and more candidates want his “Magic Touch.”
“The blessing of a King Maker”? I ask. We laugh.
I then mention my recent conversation with billionaire Mark Cuban. The one-time friend of Trump, has become his big enemy! In fact – he was sitting in the front row, during the first Presidential debate, as a guest of Hillary Clinton.
Like Trump, he is a reality show star (“Shark Tank”) and therefore – a household name. They are both wealthy. And yes, Cuban told both Bannon that he is thinking about running, since he is “that concerned” about the Trump Presidency.
Here Bannon surprises me, when he adds: “Yes, he has been asking for my advice… He has been talking with me about running… I guess, he wants me to run his campaign.”
Bannon says, casually that he would not run a campaign against Trump.
Yet it is clear, how much he is enjoying being “In demand” only few weeks after he was fired by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly.
I was at the West Wing, for meetings, on the “Monday after Cannon was fired”. Some senior advisers and I stared at the Eclipse through these fun glasses. But the conversation was about Bannon. Some seemed so relieved. Others were wondering: “Who is next? ”
Bannon repeats his claim that he had planned to leave anyway: “It was a year after I took over the Trump Campaign. I had planned to give it a year. ”
However – his emotions about the people he calls “Globalists” are strong! Among them: Jared Kushner, Gary Cohn and mainly – NSA H.R. McMaster.
“MCMASTER IS MY ENEMY!”
“I know, he is your friend. No, no way to repair any relations…There will never be relationship… and we will win.”
McMaster had removed Bannon from the National Security Council, after Mike Flynn was fired by Trump. He then – fired some of Bannon’s allies, who had reportedly continued to report to Bannon.
So, ideology aside: it has become very personal.
Bannon is surrounded with security people at all time. We were all staying at a secure floor in the hotel. Even then, there were security people outside his suite as well.
His extreme visions as well as his growing power, are reasons for concern for some.
I ask him if he is scared.
He says: “Even if someone kills me, this revolution has already started…Nobody can kill it… Others will carry on…”