When I was a kid, I once knew a guy who might or might not have been a relative who spent some time in the U.S. military, and he was always quick to offer his suggestions on how to deal with foreign aggressors.
In Vietnam, for example, he felt the U.S. erred in not using “them big nukes we got.” During the first Gulf War, he suggested a strategy of “laying down a couple nukes and then grabbin’ all the goddamned petrol.” And if memory serves, “a couple nukes here and there” was his solution to curing famine around the globe. This person had very little military experience, about four years, but that little bit of time, he thought, qualified him to make the “tough decisions,” especially against cultures that were different from his own.
That person reminds me a lot of Steve Bannon.
Bannon is the former CEO of Breitbart News, an alt-reich, I mean alt-right, online “news” source, who is now the right-hand man of our commander in chief, Donald Trump. Bannon was named Trump’s chief strategist and senior counselor. For those who might not know, Breitbart gives a voice to those on the fringe right. It’s an organization of which the Anti-Defamation League once said that under Bannon’s leadership, “Breitbart has emerged as the leading source for the extreme views of a vocal minority who peddle bigotry and promote hate.”
For many people, having Bannon advise the president was bad enough. But over the weekend, Trump named Bannon a member of the National Security Council. Trump then realigned the council to put Bannon on the Principals Committee, and ordered that the national director of intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff attend meetings only when “issues pertaining to their responsibilities and expertise are to be discussed.”
This move isn’t sitting well with a lot of people, from intelligence experts to Democrats to Republicans, who are occasionally starting to show a backbone when Trump signs his bat-shit-crazy executive order of the day. They worry that Trump is introducing a partisan-political animal into a habitat where partisan politics has no place.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said that those opposed to this move are making a big deal out of nothing. “Steve has an extensive military background, extensive background in geopolitical affairs,” Spicer said. Many media sources, including USA Today and several bios on Bannon, show that he served seven years in the U.S. Navy.
According to USA Today, citing the Military Times, Bannon “did stints as a surface warfare officer and as a special assistant to the Navy’s top admiral at the Pentagon.” That’s only three more years than the guy I knew who wanted to unleash nuclear warheads on everybody. Now, I am slightly exaggerating, of course. Bannon also has a master’s degree from Georgetown in national-security studies. And while that makes him slightly more qualified than the guy in the above example, does it really make him more qualified than the chairman of the Joint Chiefs? Spoiler alert: The answer is “Fuck no.”
And as far as his other education, Bannon reminds me of the guy who wears a rumpled dress shirt under a trench coat and hangs around the library reading volumes of material on military strategy and then regales you with his thoughts every five minutes, spouting the information he’s only read from books.
At his base, that’s what Bannon is. He’s a guy from the fringe right with crazy ideas on what is and what isn’t a threat to national security. CNN reports, for example, that Bannon was the key force behind the travel ban this weekend that affects seven countries with majority-Muslim populations. The order was written against the advice of the Department of Homeland Security. Add to that Breitbart’s inflammatory anti-Muslim coverage under Bannon’s leadership and it makes for a scary proposition.
It really is like having your loud-mouthed uncle, or the guy at the bar who tells you how to handle ISIS, running things. That’s who Steve Bannon is and, unfortunately, he’s also now on the National Security Council. It makes you wonder what other dangerous, divisive bugs he’ll be planting in Trump’s ear.
Because it’s clear to me that Trump is Bannon’s Muppet, and Bannon has his hand up the president’s ass working him like Elmo to bring his closed-minded views on national security to fruition.