Ringside With Steve Bannon at Trump Tower as the President-Elect’s Strategist Plots “An Entirely New Political Movement” (Exclusive)

The liberal firewall against Trump was, most of all, the belief that the Republican contender was too disorganized, outlandish, outré and lacking in nuance to run a proper political campaign. That view was only confirmed when Bannon, editor of the outlandish and outré Breitbart News Network, took over the campaign in August. Now Bannon is arguably the most powerful person on the new White House team, embodying more than anyone the liberals’ awful existential pain and fury: How did someone so wrong — not just wrong, but inappropriate, unfit and “loathsome,” according to The New York Times — get it so spot-on right?

.. “Darkness is good,” says Bannon, who amid the suits surrounding him at Trump Tower, looks like a graduate student in his T-shirt, open button-down and tatty blue blazer — albeit a 62-year-old graduate student. “Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That’s power. It only helps us when they” — I believe by “they” he means liberals and the media, already promoting calls for his ouster — “get it wrong. When they’re blind to who we are and what we’re doing.”

.. If this is disarray, it’s a peculiarly focused and organized kind.

.. It’s the Bannon theme, the myopia of the media — that it tells only the story that confirms its own view, that in the end it was incapable of seeing an alternative outcome and of making a true risk assessment of the political variables — reaffirming the Hillary Clinton camp’s own political myopia. This defines the parallel realities in which liberals, in their view of themselves, represent a morally superior character and Bannon — immortalized on Twitter as a white nationalist, racist, anti-Semite thug — the ultimate depravity of Trumpism.

.. fiercely intelligent and yet reflexively drawn to the inverse of every liberal assumption and shibboleth. A working class kid, he enlists in the navy after high school, gets a degree from Virginia Tech, then Georgetown, then Harvard Business School.

Then it’s Goldman Sachs, then he’s a dealmaker and entrepreneur in Hollywood — where, in an unlikely and very lucky deal match-up, he gets a lucrative piece of Seinfeld royalties, ensuring his own small fortune

.. What he seems to have carried from a boyhood in a blue-collar, union and Democratic family in Norfolk, Va., and through his tour of the American establishment, is an unreconstructed sense of class awareness, or bitterness — or betrayal. The Democratic Party betrayed its workingman roots, just as Hillary Clinton betrayed the longtime Clinton connection — Bill Clinton’s connection — to the workingman. “The Clinton strength,” he says, “was to play to people without a college education. High school people. That’s how you win elections.” And, likewise, the Republican party would come to betray its workingman constituency forged under Reagan. In sum, the workingman was betrayed by the establishment, or what he dismisses as the “donor class.”

.. “ascendant America,” e.g. the elites, as well as “the metrosexual bubble” that encompasses cosmopolitan sensibilities to be found as far and wide as Shanghai, London’s Chelsea, Hollywood and the Upper West Side — as a world apart, is an understatement. In his view, there’s hardly a connection between this world and its opposite — fly-over America, left-behind America, downwardly mobile America — hardly a common language. This is partly why he regards the liberal characterization of himself as socially vile, as the politically incorrect devil incarnate

.. “The globalists gutted the American working class and created a middle class in Asia. The issue now is about Americans looking to not get f—ed over. If we deliver” — by “we” he means the Trump White House — “we’ll get 60 percent of the white vote, and 40 percent of the black and Hispanic vote and we’ll govern for 50 years. That’s what the Democrats missed. They were talking to these people with companies with a $9 billion market cap employing nine people. It’s not reality. They lost sight of what the world is about.”

.. “Like [Andrew] Jackson’s populism, we’re going to build an entirely new political movement,” he says. “It’s everything related to jobs. The conservatives are going to go crazy. I’m the guy pushing a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan. With negative interest rates throughout the world, it’s the greatest opportunity to rebuild everything. Shipyards, ironworks, get them all jacked up. We’re just going to throw it up against the wall and see if it sticks. It will be as exciting as the 1930s, greater than the Reagan revolution — conservatives, plus populists, in an economic nationalist movement.”

.. “The media bubble is the ultimate symbol of what’s wrong with this country,” he continues. “It’s just a circle of people talking to themselves who have no f—ing idea what’s going on. If The New York Times didn’t exist, CNN and MSNBC would be a test pattern. The Huffington Post and everything else is predicated on The New York Times. It’s a closed circle of information from which Hillary Clinton got all her information — and her confidence. That was our opening.”

.. Bannon feels he has triumphed over, but the conservative one too — not least of all Fox News and its owners, the Murdochs. “They got it more wrong than anybody,” he says. “Rupert is a globalist and never understood Trump. To him, Trump is a radical. Now they’ll go centrist and build the network around Megyn Kelly.” Bannon recounts, with no small irony, that when Breitbart attacked Kelly after her challenges to Trump in the initial Republican debate, Fox News chief Roger Ailes — whom Bannon describes as an important mentor, and whom Kelly’s accusations of sexual harassment would help topple in July — called to defend her. Bannon says he warned Ailes that Kelly would be out to get him too.

.. Trump — even after the leak of the grab-them-by-the-pussy audio — was speaking to ever-growing crowds of 35,000 or 40,000. “He gets it; he gets it intuitively,” says Bannon, perhaps still surprised he has found such an ideal vessel. “You have probably the greatest orator since William Jennings Bryan, coupled with an economic populist message and two political parties that are so owned by the donors that they don’t speak to their audience. But he speaks in a non-political vernacular, he communicates with these people in a very visceral way. Nobody in the Democratic party listened to his speeches, so they had no idea he was delivering such a compelling and powerful economic message. He shows up 3.5 hours late in Michigan at 1 in the morning and has 35,000 people waiting in the cold. When they got [Clinton] off the donor circuit she went to Temple University and they drew 300 or 400 kids.”

.. “I knew that she couldn’t close. They outspent us 10 to one, had 10 times more people and had all the media with them, but I kept saying it doesn’t matter, they got it all wrong, we’ve got this locked.”

.. “I am,” he says, with relish, “Thomas Cromwell in the court of the Tudors.”

Fake News, Obama’s Birth Certificate, Economic Nationalism

One of the things the mainstream media doesn’t seem to fully appreciate is that just because Trump isn’t having a honeymoon with the press, the Democrats, or a good chunk of independent voters, that doesn’t mean he’s not having a very real honeymoon with Republicans. They want him to succeed and they want his “enemies” not just to lose, but to be humiliated (hence the popularity of Milo in some corners, and a chunk of my least friendly e-mail).

.. Indeed, I think there’s good reason to believe that the honeymoon is more intense precisely because Trump is under such a sustained assault. Something similar happened under George W. Bush when the Left lost its collective mind and did everything it could to undermine a wartime president. Conservatives — me included — out of a sense of both loyalty and anger rallied to Bush and had a tendency to overlook certain foibles and mistakes for the greater good. We may not be at war — at least not like we were in, say, 2005 — but the Left and the media are clearly at war with Trump. And because Trump often makes it difficult for his allies to defend him on ideologically or politically consistent terms, the attachment is often more emotional than rational.

.. Politics on the right is increasingly about an emotional bond with the president.

.. You do see what he’s doing right? The guy who once literally pretended to be his own publicist hates anonymous sources? The guy who powered his way into politics by claiming “very credible sources” told him that Obama’s birth certificate was fake is upset by “fake news”?

That’s the guy who hates anonymous sources and thinks they shouldn’t be “allowed” to talk off the record? Trump says that not one of the nine sources in the Flynn story exists. But Flynn was fired anyway. Well, that’s interesting.

.. But what Trump is doing is preemptively trying to discredit any negative press coverage, including negative polls. According to Trump, the only guy you can trust is Trump. Trump is the way. Trump is the door. In Trump you must Trust.

.. If you recognize that, great. And if you want to defend it as brazen — and arguably brilliant — political hardball, that’s fine too. But if you actually believe that the only source of credible information from this White House and its doings is Trump himself, then you should probably cut back on the Trump Kool-Aid.

.. What struck me during the Reince-Bannon show was when they both insisted in various ways that they always knew they would win the election (not true) and that everything they are doing has been carried out with flawless precision.

.. The upshot here is that they want you to think that any bad news is fake news because they’ve been right about everything so far. Conservatives — far more than liberals — should understand that politicians make mistakes and never have complete mastery of the details or the facts on the ground. That is at the heart of the conservative critique of government and it does not go into remission when Republicans are in office. Blind faith in experts and politicians is unconservative no matter who is in power.

.. The “administrative state” is the term of art for the permanent bureaucracy, which has come untethered from constitutional moorings

.. The CIA is not the “deep state” — the FDA, OSHA, FCC, EPA, and countless other agencies are.

.. what I do want to say is that when nationalism gets translated into public policy, particularly economic policy, it is almost invariably an enemy of individual liberty and free markets. This should be most obvious when it comes to trade. The Trumpian case for economic nationalism is inseparable from the claim that politicians can second guess businesses about how best to allocate resources. For instance, Trump boasted today:

We have authorized the construction, one day, of the Keystone and Dakota Access Pipelines. (APPLAUSE)

And issued a new rule — this took place while I was getting ready to sign. I said who makes the pipes for the pipeline? Well sir, it comes from all over the world, isn’t that wonderful? I said nope, comes from the United States, or we’re not building it. (APPLAUSE)

American steel. (APPLAUSE)

.. The flagship conference of the conservative movement rose to its feet to cheer protectionism and command-economy policymaking. That is a remarkable change of heart.

Bannon is desperate to launch a multi-trillion-dollar infrastructure program in the name of economic nationalism. He thinks it will be as “exciting as the 1930s.”

.. Under the NRA, a dry cleaner, Jacob Maged, was sent to jail for charging a nickel under the mandated price for pressing a suit. Under the NRA, big businesses created a guild-style corporatist political economy.

.. Economic nationalism taken to its logical conclusion is socialism, with pit stops at corporatism, crony capitalism, and the like. When you socialize something, you nationalize it and vice versa.

.. The alt-right nationalists despise the Constitution precisely because it is a check on nationalism. For the unalloyed nationalist mind, it’s us over them, now and forever — and the definitions of “us” and “them” can get dismayingly elastic. (“This is the core claim of populism,” writes Jan-Wener Muller in What is Populism, “only some of the people are really the people.”)

.. nationalism is a passion — one that Rich and Ramesh believe needs to be tempered by adherence to certain principles about the role of government and other enlightened understandings about society and man’s place in it. It seems to me that when that nationalist passion runs too strong, when the fever of us-over-everything lights a fire in the minds of men

.. I firmly believe that society should have some compassion for the transgendered. And that’s true whether you take transgenderism on its own terms or if you think it’s a disorder of some kind. Cuomo is right that people should err on the side of tolerance.

Trump at CPAC: Right’s Unlikely Hero Renews Attack on Press

reiterating his charge that “fake news” outlets are “the enemy of the people.”

The opening portion of the president’s free-range, campaign-style speech centered on a declaration of war on the news media — a new foil to replace vanquished political opponents like Hillary Clinton.

.. Mr. Trump, who once posed as his own public relations man to plant news stories in New York tabloids — and spoke frequently with reporters off the record during the campaign — called for an end to the use of “sources,” meaning anonymous sources.

.. “A few days ago, I called the fake news the enemy of the people because they have no sources — they just make it up,” he said. He added that his “enemy of the people” label applied only to “dishonest” reporters and editors.

.. After spending 10 minutes listing the shortcomings of the news media, Mr. Trump said criticism “doesn’t bother me.”

.. Mr. Trump’s speech this year — which included a promise to throw illegal immigrants “the hell out of the country” and a recitation of his law-and-order campaign promises — represented a not-entirely friendly takeover of CPAC, an establishment Republican group whose leadership once viewed the party’s surprise standard-bearer as a noisy interloper.

.. He followed his attack on the news media with a far-ranging preview of Tuesday’s address before Congress, offering an unspecified plan to improve the Affordable Care Act, ratcheted-up enforcement of immigration laws and a request for increases in spending that will result in “one of the greatest military buildups in all of history.”

.. Mr. Trump told the audience this year that the real reason he skipped the meeting was because his policy positions were “too controversial.”

Stephen Bannon’s nationalist call to arms, annotated

President Trump, when he was running, he made a — and this is the other thing that the — the mainstream media or opposition party never caught is that if you want to see the Trump agenda it’s very simple.

It was all in the speeches. He went around to these rallies, but those speeches had a tremendous amount of content in them, right? I happen to believe, and I think many others do, he’s probably the great public speaker in those large arenas since William Jennings Bryan. This was galvanized.

.. And remember, we didn’t have money. Hillary Clinton and these guys had over $2 billion. We had a couple hundred million dollars. It was those rallies and those speeches, all he’s doing right now is, he’s laid out an agenda with those speeches for the promises he made. And our job every day is just to execute on that. It’s to simply get a path to how those get executed.

.. And the mainstream media better understand something, all of those promises are going to be implemented.

.. Whether, you know — and you look at the our — the world — our world order and — and some of the things that are going on that I think are — will be dealt with soon, but the first thing I think is Neil Gorsuch, for a couple things.

Number one, we’re not talking about a change over a four-year period. We’re talking about a change of potentially 40 years of law, number one. But more important than that — more important to that, it established trust. It established that President Trump is a man of his word.

.. President Trump signed an order that puts in place a constant deregulatory form within the federal government. And what it says is, for every regulation presented for passage that Cabinet secretary has to identify two that person would eliminate. And that’s a big deal.

.. And then lastly, immigration: protecting the sovereignty of the United States, putting a wall on the southern border, making sure that criminals are not part of our process. These are all things that 80 percent of Americans agree with, and these are all things that President Trump is doing within 30 days.

.. People are starting to think through a whole raft of amazing and innovative, bilateral relationships — bilateral trading relationships with people that will reposition America in the world as a — as a fair trading nation and start to bring jobs. High-value-added manufacturing jobs back to the United States of America.

.. you’re gonna start to see I think with the defense budget we’re going to talk about next week when we bring the budget out and also with certain things about the plan on ISIS

.. And he brought up the fact that we’re promulgating more laws and regulations that we ever had before. And most of that are from these independent agencies that are just on autopilot.

.. the country was hungry for something far more — far bigger than one story or on-off issue. It was something that people wanted in this country, that was real, something that was going to change the direction that we were heading. And it was President Trump that was the answer.

.. here’s why it’s going to get worse: Because he’s going to continue to press his agenda. And as economic conditions get better, as more jobs get better, they’re going to continue to fight. If you think they’re going to give you your country back without a fight, you are sadly mistaken. Every day — every day, it is going to be a fight. And that is what I’m proudest about Donald Trump. All the opportunities he had to waver off this; all the people who have come to him and said, “oh, you’ve got to moderate.”

.. The American Conservative Union, which puts on CPAC, was created after Barry Goldwater lost in 1964, in an effort to take all different kinds of voices from the right in the conservative movement and bring them together.

So there is this question. There are those folks that consider themselves, you know, classical liberals or conservatives or Reagan conservatives. There are other folks that consider themselves libertarians. There are other folks that are part of this new Trump movement. And Trump brought a lot of new people. There’s probably in this — people in this crowd that wouldn’t have been in this crowd before.

So there’s a lot of diversity here. We all know it when we’re at the bar at the end of the day. And can this Trump movement be combined with what’s happening at CPAC and other conservative movements for 50 years? Can this be brought together? And is — this is going to save the country?

.. Peace through strength, deregulation. You think about the economy, the economic boom that was created. And some of it is going to take a little time, I mean, to get the jobs back; to get more money in people’s pockets. Those things are going to happen.

.. You know, I’ve said that there’s a new political order that’s being formed out of this.

.. But I think we — the center core of what we believe, that we’re a nation with an economy, not an economy just in some global marketplace with open borders, but we are a nation with a culture and a — and a reason for being.

And I think that is what unites us and I think that is what is going to unite this movement going forward.

.. but also and more importantly, hold us accountable. Hold us accountable to what we promised, hold us accountable for delivering on what we promised.

.. we’re different, but where we’re very similar is that I think that he is very dogged in making sure that every day the promises that President Trump has made are the promises that we’re working on every day, number one.

Number two, he’s incredibly loyal. And number three, which I think is a really important quality as we were working together to see to it that President Trump’s vision is enacted is that, he’s extremely consistent.

.. Different things that come to the president that want to move him off of his agenda and Steve is very consistent and very loyal to the agenda and is a presence that I think is very important to have in the White House

.. But his job is, by far, one of the toughest jobs I’ve ever seen in my life. To make it run every day, and to make the trains, and you only see the surface. What’s going on underneath it, planning what’s three weeks down the road to the — to the degree that we’re planning it, of all these E.O.s and legislation and — you know, whether it’s the tax reform bill, Reince is indefatigable in saying, we’ve got to drive this forward, we’ve got to drive this forward.

.. back in August when we had this campaign where we were outgunned, outmanned, you know, outspent. And it was because President Trump had a message, he had this charisma