THE TRASH FIRE IS GETTING BIGGER
BY TAYLOR KIGAR
'THE IMMIGRATION BAN DISTRACTED us FROM AN EVEN MORE FRIGHTENING EXECUTIVE ORDER'
Friday night we were inundated with news of Trump’s immigration travel ban. It’s racist, Islamophobic, and likely to be deemed unconstitutional. Though this writer has a million words to say about it, there are other, equally sinister, happenings that went unnoticed as the chaos ensued—hidden beneath the outrage and immediate action of the last 48 hours. Steve Bannon, oft-acknowledged white nationalist and Trump’s Chief Strategist, was given unmitigated access to our National Security Council.
This Executive Order —passed without receiving more than minimal coverage in major news media outlets over the last few days—reshuffled the National Security Council, the principal forum created to advise the President on all matters of national security and foreign policy. Traditionally, the NSC is made up of senior national security advisors and Cabinet officials, positions Bannon doesn’t hold now and has never held in the past. In a word, it’s untraditional. In a phrase, even Sen. John McCain said it well on CBS’s Face the Nation: “The appointment of Mr. Bannon is something which is a radical departure from any National Security Council in history.”
Trump’s Executive Order gives Bannon a permanent Principals Committee seat, and the president’s ear. Meanwhile, the memo goes on to state that the Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will no longer be regular attendees, but will only be called upon by the Principals Committee when their “responsibilities and expertise” are needed. In both the Bush and Obama administrations, both positions were considered as necessary and regular attendees.
IN THE ONSLAUGHT OF DIFFICULT NEWS WE’VE ALL BEEN SUBJECT TO ENDURE, THIS MAY ALL SEEM LIKE DRIVEL—ANOTHER SMALL PART OF A BAD STORY THAT KEEPS GETTING WORSE. BUT THIS IS A MAJOR RED FLAG.
Chief Strategist Steve Bannon (arguably considered an equal to the President himself) has been given a seat at the table in the meetings of the most senior national security officials, while the highest ranking officers have been demoted to “invite-only” status. This standing would be problematic for any Chief Strategist; domestic politics and foreign policies were never intended to be synonymous. But it’s especially problematic in the case of Steve Bannon: a wildcard opportunist and incendiary fan, which caught a flame to spread until the entire establishment crumbles in a heap of ash.
His story starts in the Navy, then to a job at Goldman Sachs, procured only by shooting the right shit at the right party. Once he grew bored of Wall Street, Bannon created a privately held bank—Bannon & Co.—with a long, twisted story to fortune involving Seinfeld, Korn, the Backstreet Boys, and Hollywood, just to name a few. His personal life entails two failed marriages, which ended in domestic abuse, child neglect, and battery; you can get a disturbing glimpse of that here, if you’d like.
He then chose to afflict politics, first through Breitbart News, a fiercely “alt-right” media platform known for construing facts into elaborate and often conspiratorial plot arcs, while pandering press to their newest audience: conservatives seeking to restore white culture to its former glory. From there, Bannon's track record boasts waiting in the ear of the outlandish right for the ideal moment to pounce. Even Kurt Bardella, the former spokesman for Breitbart, lists these involvements plainly:
“When Sarah Palin was on the rise, he had found a way to become a part of that circle. When the Tea Party was on the rise, he seemed to be right there in that circle. When it was going to be Ted Cruz, he was there. When it was going to be Ben Carson for a hot second, he was there. He’s been someone who’s been in pursuit of that pipeline to power for a long time now.”
And once it became clear that Trump was doing better than everyone expected, Bannon became the CEO of his campaign, and turned Breitbart News into a Trump propaganda machine. He’s responsible for many of Trump’s stump speeches, that disturbed many with their anti-Semitic notions of bank corruption so much that the head of the Anti-Defamation League issued a statement proclaiming “Trump should avoid rhetoric and tropes that have historically been used against Jews and still reverberate today.”
However, the oldest and brightest red flag comes from Bannon’s ultimate goals for our democracy. On more than one occasion, before his spotlight on the main political stage, Bannon described himself proudly as a Leninist. In an interview with the Daily Beast in 2013, Bannon told reporter Ronald Radosh, “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.” In 2016, when Radosh emailed Bannon to recall their conversation and request further comments, intending to publish it in this new light, Bannon replied, “I don’t remember meeting you and don’t remember the conversation. And as u can tell from the past few days I am not doing media.”
Bannon has stopped “doing media” since the election, and he’s been rarely quoted. In a recent issue of The New York Times, however, he stated, “the media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while. I want you to quote this. The media here is the opposition party.”
Let’s bring this back full-circle. Does this sound like a man we would choose to call the shots for an already unfit, ill-tempered, inexperienced president? No. Furthermore, is it not oddly convenient that the Executive Order giving Bannon such power and access, barred the remaining few positions of unbiased, bi-partisan power in the Executive Branch?
There is no set number of people allowed in the principal committee; bringing someone in doesn’t require kicking someone out. Trump’s feeble attempts to rationalize his executive order are similarly unsettling, stating the order is simply a way to “be more adaptive to modern threats” and to add “a lot of efficiency and a lot of additional safety.” The vague and empty statements of a vessel with no real clue of the order’s intentions. In truth much of the order’s purpose intends to bar access to the DNI and Joint Chief of Staff while granting access to Bannon; contextually speaking, it would seem an explicitly conniving idea borne from Bannon himself.
Void of unbiased and experienced officials, this executive office is bound for chaos. The executive order immigration ban has already proven that, and a White House source has said the order didn’t even follow the standard agency review process in the first place, which, yes—is supposed to be overseen by none other than the National Security Council.
It's plain to see what's at stake here. Our Republican-led Congress are silent as rocks, leveraging the power of the presidency to fulfill agendas against Obamacare and Planned Parenthood; corporate democrats are chained to the hand that feeds them. With the National Security Council in Bannon’s pocket, he is allowed unfettered executive orders and the responsibility of molding our foreign policy in this turbulent time, as a tense international race and refugee crisis rages on abroad, and now within our borders.
Oh! He'll also have some help from this guy, too:
Since August 2016, Bannon's called the shots. He’s planned this first week for months. And since ponying up to Trump, sure, Bannon has denied all claims of being a white supremacist. If, however, heading up a biased news organization with nationalism and white supremacy as its core platform, writing coded anti-semitic speeches, and demanding to know the percentage of Jewish children in his kids’ potential school doesn’t make you a xenophobic, white supremacist bloviator, then we the people might need to evaluate the progressive principles that worked so hard to delegitimize such beliefs and actions. Let’s imagine for a moment he wasn’t, then what would this all be for? His anti-establishment roots, his calculated chasing of power, his bullying tactics to try and stifle a free press?
That makes him a man who just wants to watch the world burn.
And he wasn’t even on the ballot. -TK