Aside from Hurricanes, the Cable-Newsverse was lit up over the Steve Bannon 60 Minutes interview Monday night and, having devoted some Blast time to that topic yesterday, I’m feeling very “cutting edge newsy.” Despite their coverage --- which were mostly snippets of statements the Trump zealot made --- there was no “Big Picture” view of what we were exposed to (Trevor Noah & The Daily Show came closest). Keep in mind that for the last year this was the man who had the now-“President’s” ear, who was the “Chief Strategist,” who was seen as the Rasputin or Svengali of the White House. What we got a glimpse of Sunday night appeared to be a seriously unhinged, deluded man with some serious psychological problems.
Ah, where to begin? Let’s start with the basic “myth” of whom, exactly, “Steve Bannon” is. In his own words, “I’m a street fighter, that’s what I am.” Bannon fancies himself a tough guy (“I don’t need the affirmation of the mainstream media”) when, in fact, he was clearly relishing that here he was --- finally, “I’m on 60 Minutes!” His erratic performance elucidated, to some extent, why he and Trump are natural partners --- both have short attention spans, both traffic in falsehoods, and each has an inflated view of himself with a large dose of “bully” thrown in for good measure. Bannon’s need to state “Hillary Clinton is not very bright” and to say the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations were populated by “idiots” shows more than disrespect. Like Trump, Bannon can only feel good about himself when he is portraying others as “Losers” and “less than.” And, btw, for someone who doesn't "need affirmation of the mainstream media" he was very quick to correct Charlie Rose when the interviewer described the Saturday Night Live portrayal of him as a "Svengali." Bannon quickly said, "the Grim Reaper," mentioning that he liked that idea --- and showing he's watching everything hoping to hear his name.
As noted yesterday, the myth of Bannon being a “smart guy” --- something the Trump camp heralded throughout the campaign --- is far from true. His disjointed understanding of U.S. history and his bizarre interpretation of what economic nationalism is rests on very shaky intellectual footing, for sure. Going back to his “street fighter” (self)image, there were several telling moments in the interview that, in fact, illustrated the rigid, narrow minded thinking of Steve Bannon, along with his romanticized, inflated vision of himself. When talking about the Trump campaign --- “the island of misfit toys,” as he called it --- Bannon described himself: “combat jacket, haven’t shaved, hair down to here.” Sounds straight out of Central Casting, doesn’t it? “Hey, what do we make the CEO of the Trump Campaign look like?” He embellishes this “tough guy” image with several anecdotes wrapped in one story. Referring to the infamous Access Hollywood “pussy-grabbing” video as a “litmus test,” Bannon proudly told Charlie Rose that he (Bannon) essentially made future Cabinet choices based on who stood with Trump and who didn’t. “I’m Irish. I’ve got my Black Book and I got’em.” Chris Christie doesn’t back Trump’s genital grabbing? He’s not “on the (campaign) plane” the next day --- and his hope for a Cabinet post is dashed. Like the Merry Pranksters in the late ‘60’s, “You’re either on the bus or you’re off the bus.”
Another part of the Hollywood Access story dovetails with Kurt Anderson’s new book Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire – a 500 year history. In the Sunday NY Times Book Reivew Hanna Rosin notes that Anderson:
explains in what must have been an alarmingly self-confirming last chapter: Donald Trump is “stupendous Exhibit A” in the landscape of “Fantasyland,” a fitting leader for a nation that has, over centuries, nurtured a “promiscuous devotion to the untrue.”
Anderson’s book is based on the notion that the United States, from the Pilgrims forward, has been a nation, a people, who have trafficked in fantasies, lies and untruths. One personality who advanced that fantasy mythology of America was William Cody, Buffalo Bill, and his Wild West Show and Rosin notes in the review: “Cody was the father of Hollywood, the industry that did the most, Anderson says, to break down the mental barriers between the real and unreal.” Perfectly in keeping with that notion, when discussing the “litmus test” (pussy-grabbing), Bannon told Charlie Rose:
There’s a line from the movie The Wild Bunch, where William Holden, the night before that huge gunfight at the end, says, “When you side with a man, then you side with him. The good and the bad.
Steve Bannon’s worldview, like many other Baby Boomer’s, was shaped by movies and television, “good guys and bad guys,” “black hats and white hats,” etc. Bannon, a man who clearly believes he is brilliant and, somehow, went unrecognized for so long, was reveling in his 27-minutes-of-fame on 60 Minutes. When Rose confronted him with not appreciating “diversity” Bannon fell back on a classic defense before revealing his true self.
I was raised in a desegregated neighborhood. I went to an integrated school, a Catholic school. I served in the military, I don’t need to be lectured by a bunch of limousine liberals from the Upper East Side of New York and the Hamptons, okay? About any of this. My lived experience is that.
Steve Bannon’s “lived experience” is that of a narrow-minded bully who never got the attention he wanted at Goldman Sachs or in the Media industry and can only make himself feel better by claiming other folks are “not very bright” and are “idiots.” He is a shallow, angry, vindictive man (“I’ve got my Black Book”) who is a shill for the current administration and will use Breitbart, the “populist, nationalist, grassroots conservative” publication (their own definition) to try to continue to sell Trump’s bill of goods to the American people.
Let the buyer beware!