But after doing all this reporting, we think what Bannon does is often tactical. (40 min)
.. Bannon and the Mercers actively supported with publicity and money people tied to white supremacists. Like, maybe he doesn’t really agree with those white supremacists who helped with the rise of people like Milo Yiannopoulos, the rise of Breitbart News and the rise of Donald Trump. Maybe those people are just numbers to him. I mean, I guess if you’re down with white supremacists, you’re down with white supremacists and no one should care why you’re down with them. But if you are tactical, that means you can change.
.. You wanted to be the Leni Riefenstahl for George Bush, then you wanted to be the Leni Riefenstahl for the Republican Party. Now you want to blow up the Republican Party. The world moves fast. The attention span is not long. I mean, this is a guy who’s invested in Biosphere 2, nasal spray, the San Diego Chicken and “World Of Warcraft.” Like, maybe after he gets tired of hashtag #WAR, Steve Bannon will move on to something else.
In the final dash to Election Day, Trump needed a Lee Atwater type — a street fighter. But once in the White House, Bannon’s role was less clear and the president chafed at claims that Bannon controlled his administration’s agenda.
.. They care about what the president and his administration can do for them. They support Trump because he articulated and, increasingly, is enacting an agenda they believe will improve their lives and secure the future peace and prosperity of the country.
.. They will still make the case to voters for economic policies that expand the middle class, for pro-citizen immigration policy and for a foreign policy that is circumspect about foreign military engagement.
What’s different about Donald Trump is that his inability to handle the weight and responsibility of his office is not something that crept up gradually
.. Instead it’s been a defining feature of his administration from Day 1 — and indeed was obvious during the campaign that elected him.
.. the president’s unfitness is not really a Harvey Weinstein-style “open secret,” an awful reality known to insiders
.. anyone who reads the papers (this one especially) knows that some combination of Trump’s personality and temperament and advancing age leave him constantly undone by the obligations of the presidency.
.. the book may be dubious in some particulars but as the consummate insiders Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen wrote on Thursday, the parts about Trump’s capabilities and mental state “ring unambiguously true.”
.. the 25th Amendment option isn’t happening — not without some major presidential deterioration in the midst of a major crisis, and probably not even then.
.. So unless Robert Mueller has more goods than I expect, we are going to live for the next few years in the way that America lived during the waning days of Nixon, the end of the Wilson administration
.. the central question of these years is not a normal policy question, or even the abnormal sort that the Resistance and other fascism-fearers expect to face.
.. The idea of a right-populist agenda died with Bannon’s exit from the White House
.. the standard-issue G.O.P. agenda has little left after the tax cuts
.. Trump’s authoritarian impulses, while genuine, seem unlikely to produce even aggrandizement on the scale of past presidents from F.D.R. to Nixon, because he has no competence to execute on them.
.. Can the people who surround Donald Trump work around his incapacity successfully enough to keep his unfitness from producing a historic calamity?
.. the men and women of the West Wing, for all that the media was ridiculing them, actually felt they had a responsibility to the country,”
.. the work has been necessary and important, and the achievement of relative stability a genuine service to the United States.
.. Can it continue in the face of some greater crisis than Trump has yet confronted? Can it continue if the Democrats take a share of power or if the president’s own family faces legal jeopardy?
.. Is the American system more able to correct for presidential incapacity than some of us have feared?
The GOP has married its fortunes to a fake news industry that has been driving & chasing its audience’s anger deeper & deeper into extremism and fantasy for over 2 decades. A country that mistakes Fox or Breitbart for journalism, or Mr. McConnell or Mr Ryan for anything but thieves (or Obama for a socialist), is a country that can mistake Trump for an intelligent adult.
.. Republican Party interest resides in power, not in government.
What they adore is a lack of government, a lack of free and fair elections, a lack of consumer, environmental and worker protection, a lack of affordable healthcare, a lack of education, information, science and progress… a lack of income taxes to pay for any sort of decent civilization for the non-rich masses.
.. Trump The Useful Idiot is a perfectly fine fake President for Republican pirates and Reverse Robin Hoods to decimate America with fake justices, fake elections, fake healthcare and the fraudulent Prosperity Gospel that has reduced America to a shameful, unrepresentative oligarchic state.
.. The more the media rails about Trump’s mental status, the more the third of the electorate which supports him will feel the vicarious paranoia and outrage against the “elites” who, they feel with some justification, are trying to gaslight him out of office sooner rather than later.
.. As long as the stock market keeps booming and the rich keep growing richer, the #Resistance will continue playing out as a soap opera for our aghast entertainment.
.. The media had their chance to destroy Trump’s candidacy. Instead they nourished it with $5 billion worth of free advertising. His TV rallies and debates were ratings bonanzas. Media mogul Les Moonves even gloated that Trump “may not be good for America, but he’s damned good for CBS!”
Why not take action against Michael Wolff and his publisher?
.. he quotes Steve Bannon, formerly the chief executive of the Trump campaign and chairman of Trump propaganda outlet Breitbart, characterizing meetings between Donald Trump Jr. and Russian operatives as “unpatriotic” and “treasonous.” Bannon also is quoted as saying that there is “zero” chance that Donald Trump himself was unaware of the meetings. There are many amusing anecdotes in the book that tend to confirm the worst suspicions of the administration’s critics.
.. Wolff has been criticized as an overly free practitioner of what used to be known as the New Journalism, liberally applying literary techniques to recreate (some of his critics would say to simply create) scenes and interactions to which he was not directly privy.
.. (Another lupine journalist, the unparalleled Tom Wolfe, is most closely associated with that style of writing.)
.. Trump is using threats of lawsuits mainly as instruments of harassment
.. Usually, those threats die out for one of two reasons: The first is that a libel action requires the publication of a claim of fact, rather than a judgment or an opinion. If you publish “Jones is a rapist,” that’s a statement of fact, a claim that Jones has committed a particular crime. If you publish “Jones is a man of low character and does not deserve your vote for city council,” then that is a statement of opinion.
.. The second thing that most often stops a libel suit in its tracks is that the claim has to be false.
.. It’s $500 or more every time you pick up the phone and talk to your lawyer.
.. Steve Bannon, living high on those Seinfeld royalties. (Bannon fortified his fortune with “a show about nothing.” Poetic.)
.. To have committed libel, Wolff and his publishers must have printed a claim of fact that is: 1. false; 2. defamatory, meaning that it did some kind of damage to Trump; 3. published with actual malice, meaning Wolff knew it was false or acted with reckless disregard as to whether it was.
.. Given that most of Trump’s net worth is tied up in his “brand,” which is another way of saying his public persona, establishing damages should not be very difficult, either
.. As for the actual malice, if Wolff has indeed manufactured quotations or events, that would go a long way toward establishing that he knew he was publishing falsehoods.
.. The problem, of course, is that a lawsuit would lead to discovery, meaning that the president and the people around him would be questioned under penalty of perjury. One thing Steve Bannon and President Trump have in common is that each lies habitually, even in circumstances in which the lie serves no obvious purpose.
.. One wonders what either man would actually say under questioning, to say nothing of what might be said by a Jared Kushner or a Kellyanne Conway.