Of course they are, but it’s an extraordinary statement considering the source and the timing. Jazz wondered earlier why Steve Bannon is giving interviews at all, but one has to wonder why he reached out to the hard-Left magazine The American Prospect as the venue. While Jazz focused on Bannon’s curious comments about North Korea, his thoughts and his contempt for the white nationalists who have backed Donald Trump is remarkable, both in itself and how Bannon chose to express it:
I asked Bannon about the connection between his program of economic nationalism and the ugly white nationalism epitomized by the racist violence in Charlottesville and Trump’s reluctance to condemn it. Bannon, after all, was the architect of the strategy of using Breitbart to heat up white nationalism and then rely on the radical right as Trump’s base.
He dismissed the far right as irrelevant and sidestepped his own role in cultivating it: “Ethno-nationalism—it’s losers. It’s a fringe element. I think the media plays it up too much, and we gotta help crush it, you know, uh, help crush it more.”
“These guys are a collection of clowns,” he added.
From his lips to Trump’s ear.
So why not just push Trump to dismiss them after the riot and attack in Charlottesville? Clearly Trump didn’t get advised to reverse himself on his Monday statement by Ivanka and Jared or John Kelly; presumably that was Bannon, although it might have just been Trump being his whimsical self, too. Either way, Bannon told TAP’s Robert Kuttner that white nationalists might be losers, but they’re awfully useful losers:
“The Democrats,” he said, “the longer they talk about identity politics, I got ’em. I want them to talk about racism every day. If the left is focused on race and identity, and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats.”
Perhaps that’s why Trump is still pandering to this collection of clowns this morning:
Ahem. One can certainly object to the unlawful vandalism that has occurred in some cases; mob action is always dangerous and to be discouraged. However, other cities have chosen through the democratic process to remove Confederate monuments from public land, and Trump doesn’t distinguish at all between the two. Their removal does not mean that they are being destroyed; some might end up in museums, others in cemeteries or on other private lands. It does mean, though, that the people in these cities have chosen to stop honoring those traitors who instigated an armed rebellion against the US in order to protect a feudal, racist, slavery-based economy. What’s “sad” about that?
The last claim that these monuments will “never be able to be comparably replaced” is just silly, especially given what these statues memorialize. The removal of statues honoring Confederate rebels gives these jurisdictions all the room they need to replace them with monuments to other, more noble efforts, if they so choose. Perhaps they might replace them with native sons (and daughters) who fought with distinction against the racist Axis powers of World War II, for just one potential option. That’d be plenty beautiful, and much more morally justified to boot.
At any rate, the strategy doesn’t appear to be working out well. Trump has Democrats, Republicans, and independents talking about how this White House panders on identity politics to the same “ethno-nationalists” that Bannon calls “losers,” which is empowering Democrats and isolating the White House. Maybe Trump should cut his losses with this “collection of clowns,” and start looking for better advice.
Update: David Martosko got a chance to ask Bannon why he gave an interview to TAP:
In a freewheeling discussion with the American Prospect, the White House’s chief strategist dished dirt on his internal disagreements with top economic advisers about an ‘economic war’ with China, contradicted Trump’s position on the possibility of a military option to end a North Korean standoff and boasted that Democrats would lose elections if they continued to focus on racial politics.
Bannon told DailyMail.com that his remarks ‘drew fire away from POTUS,’ meaning President Trump, and that he successfully ‘changed the [media] narrative’ with a single phone call.
Er … how did that work out? In fairness, this strategy had almost no time to succeed, even if it was a long shot. Trump managed to draw it right back to the “collection of clowns” with his Twitter messages this morning. Maybe the White House should hire a communications director with some real authority to come up with effective strategies rather than having someone West Winging it.
Update: I missed including the second of Trump’s three tweets on the monuments issue. I’ve added it in now.