Steve Bannon seems to share the same position of Rasputin, the Mad Monk, Bismarck, the inventor of Realpolitik, and Karl Rove, in his ability to manipulate, a Western head of state.  In this case Donald Trump, President of the United States.  Bannon is a shady Right-wing operative who took over the Breitbart Network after  what George Packer in The Unwinding: An Inner History Of The New America (2013) write that on March 1, 2012, in the full flame of glory, less than a year after scoring his biggest coup in the shape of Congressman Anthony Weiner's erect penis self-photographed behind gray briefs, shortly after leaving an evening of wine and talk in a Brentwood bar, Andrew Breitbart collapsed from heart failure and died at age forth-three.  Bannon took over the ownership/management of Breitbart News as the heir-apparent to Andrew Breitbart.


Trump Spending Easter Weekend At Mar-A-Lago


Lulu Garcia-Navarro talks to reporter Julie Hirschfeld Davis of The New York Times from Mar-a-Lago, where President Trump is spending his seventh weekend, about Trump's reversals in the past week.


Bannon was the closest presidential adviser to presidential-elect Donald Trump.  Trump, himself a superstitious narcissist, is a perfect acolyte of Bannon and his belief in a catastrophic fate for the United States.  This belief worked well to seduce Trump who spent most of his days surfing right-wing site online and who attended Bishop Fulton Sheen's "get rich" religious philosophy church, along with his father in his youth.  A hint of Trump's superstition is in his use of the gold.  Note the decor of Trump Tower, as well as the redecoration of the Oval Office--gold drapes.  Gold for him draws wealth and good fortune.  In "The Mind Of Donald Trump" by Dan P. McAdams, The Atlantic (June 2016) summarizes what a Trump presidency would look like.

McAdams declare that Trump is a psychological wild card in that in that there has never been a U.S. president as consistently and overtly disagreeable on the public stage as Donald Trump.  However, the reality of office has now curved his exuberance as he learns the few out there in the real ruling world are afraid of bullies, especially those who still possess WMD such as North Korea, or who hold your national debt such as China--who controls both.  But McAdams prognosis in sum is that Donald trump's basic personality traits suggest a presidency that could be highly combustible.  One possible yield is an energetic, activist president who has a less than cordial relationship with the truth.  He could be a daring and ruthlessly aggressive decision maker who desperately desires to create the strongest, tallest, shiniest, and most awesome result--and who never thinks twice about the collateral damage he will leave behind.  Tough. Bellicose.  Threatening.  Explosive.

Trump is sure to carrying on the Jacksonian tradition of imperialism that the U.S. has never outlived.  Witness this in the Middle East and in Latin America, i.e., Mexico will pay for the wall.



White Supremacists Trying To Recruit On College Campuses


White supremacists are stepping up recruitment efforts on college campuses. NPR's Scott Simon asks Emerson College President Lee Pelton how he's responded to racist fliers and emails on his campus.

McAdams cautions that when individuals with authoritarian proclivities fear that their way of life is being threatened, they may turn to strong leaders who promise to keep them safe--leaders like Donald Trump.  In a natural poll conducted recently by political scientist Matthew MacWilliams, high levels of authoritarianism emerged as the single strongest predictor of expressing political support for Donald Trump.  Trump's promise to build a wall on the Mexican border to keep illegal immigrants out and his railing against Muslims and other outsiders have presumably fed that dynamic.

As the social psychologist Jesse Graham has noted, Trump appeals to an ancient fear of contagion, which analogizes out-groups to parasites, poisons, and other impurities.  In this regard, it is perhaps no psychological accident that Trump displays a phobia of germs, and seems repulsed by bodily fluids, especially women's.  He famously remarked that Megyn Kelly of Fox News had "blood coming out of her wherever," and he repeatedly characterized Hillary Clinton's bathroom break during a Democratic debate as "disgusting."  Disgust is a primal response to impurity.  On a daily basis, trump seems to experience more disgust, or at least to say he does, than most people do.

An American strand of authoritarianism may help explain why the thrice-married, foul-mouthed Donald Trump should prove to be so attractive to white Christian evangelicals.  As Jerry Falwell Jr. told The New York Times in February [2016], "All the social issues--traditional family values, abortion--are moot it ISIS blows up some of our cities or if the borders are not fortified."  Rank-and-file evangelicals "are trying to save the country," Falwell said.  Being "saved" has a special resonance among evangelicals--saved from sin and damnation, of course, but also saved from the threats and impurities of a corrupt and dangerous world.

McAdams writes than when his research associates and himself once asked politically conservative Christians scoring high on authoritarianism to imagine what their life (and their world) might have been like had they never found religious faith, many described utter chaos--families torn apart, rampant infidelity and hate, cities on fire, the inner rings of hell.  By contrast, equally devout politically liberal Christians who scored low on authoritarianism described a barren world depleted of all resources, joyless and bleak, like the arid surface of the moon.  For authoritarian Christians, a strong faith--like a strong leader--saves them from chaos and tamps down fears and conflicts.  Donald Trump is a savior, even if he preens and swears, and waffles on the issue of abortion.

In December [2015], on the campaign trail in Raleigh, North Carolina, Trump stoked fears in his audience by repeatedly saying that "something bad is happening" and "something really dangerous is going on." 

He was asked by a 12-year-old girl from Virginia, "I'm scared--what are you going to do to protect this country?"

Trump responded: "You know what, darling?  You're not going to be scared anymore.  They're going to be scared."

Anxious Nations React Fearfully To Rapid Influx Of Migrants, Hamid Says


Amid the rise of nationalism, David Greene talks to Pakistani novelist Mohsin Hamid, who sees migration as an inalienable human right. His new novel is called, Exit West



In the Forward to Laurence Rees' The Nazis: A Warning from History (1997) historian Ian Kershaw write that history does not directly repeat itself.  But ‘ethnic cleansing’ and racist-nationalist war in the former Yugoslavia, and the potential for catastrophe in the unstable remnants of the one-time Soviet Union, give scant grounds for comfort in today's Europe.

Only in knowledge, as the philosopher Karl Jaspers declared, can the recurrence of the evils which Nazism embodied be prevented.  Perhaps we ought to add: together with the readiness, coming from knowledge, to defend inroads into freedom and to reject nationalist and racist intolerance before it is too late.

Laurence Rees in the Introduction to The Nazis adds his jeremiad to Kershaw's.  After listening to one of his former Nazi interlocutors who stated that only now, with the fall of Communism and the democratization of his country, was he free to tell his story.  What this man said (and he was just one of the many, many interviewees we filmed over the last three years) was repugnant, but it was important.  We must listen to what such people say in an attempt to understand how Nazism was possible.  In the words of the German-born philosopher Karl Jaspers: 'That which has happened is a warning.  To forget it is guilt.  It must be continually remembered.  It was possible for this to happen, and it remains possible for it to happen again at any minute.  Only in knowledge can it be prevented.'

Rees declares that it has never been more important than now, as the twentieth century ends, for us to remember Nazism and listen to the memories of those who experienced it.  [And Americans have elected a president who patterned his election campaign on the great Fascists dictators of the 1920s (Mussolini) and 1930 (Hitler himself).]

Rees posits that for many years, certainly in the arena of 'popular' history, there has been a concentration on the character of Hitler (there are more biographies of Hitler than any man who has ever lived) and an approach to the history of this period through his psychological make-up.  But this has meant that, for many, the Nazi period can be easily dismissed; since there will never be another human being with the same genetic constituents as Hitler, they argue, we are all safe.  Many Germans have been able to say, in effect, "We fell under Hitler's spell' and so absolve themselves of responsibility.  By looking at the workings of the Nazi state, and, only where relevant, the character of Adolf Hitler, a very different and more disturbing picture emerges--a picture in which there was massive voluntary collaboration with the Nazi regime; in which many Germans were happy and content under Nazi rule in the 1930s; in which members of the Nazi elite lied when, after the war, they claimed they were 'acting under orders';  in which thousands eagerly profited from the downfall of the Jews; in which a majority of Germans in 1932 knowingly voted for parties committed to overthrowing German democracy.

Individual Germans and their allies must take responsibility for all this and more.  In our interviews many did.  The story they told is not a comfortable one and it cannot easily be brushed aside, for in the end Nazism, a creed born in Germany, brought into the world new knowledge of how low human beings can sink.  Hitler did not do this on his own.

Could something similar happen again somewhere in the World?  I am with Karl Jaspers: 'it remains possible for it to happen again at any minute.'

Bannon Removed from National Security Council, Syria Emboldened

By Ben Kieffer & Katherine Perkins Apr 6, 2017

News that Steve Bannon, White House Chief Strategist, is being removed from the National Security Council is a signal the NSC is being transformed back to a more traditional structure, according to two Iowa political scientists.

During this hour of River to River, Jim McCormick and Wayne Moyer join host Ben Kieffer. 

"I see it as moving away from more of a populist approach to foreign policy and much more towards a traditional security approach to foreign policy," says Moyer, who is Rosenfield Professor of Political Science at Grinnell College.

Not only has Bannon been removed, but intelligence leaders will return to the council along with the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff.

Jim McCormick, Political Science Professor at Iowa State University, says the move is likely a manifestation of National Security Advisor H.R. McMasters' influence.

"This is really the traditional foreign policy types taking over," says McCormick.

The two also agree that the path forward to address the Syrian government's alleged use of chemical weapons will be difficult. The U.N's National Security Council could invoke the "responsibility to protect doctrine," although Russia's seat on the Council makes that unlikely.

"It really is up to the international community and the Trump administration to step up to take some action here," says McCormick. The Trump administration has said combating ISIS is the more demanding concern in Syria. A "safe zone," or "no-fly zone," could be imposed, "but that would involve American commitment," says McCormick. "I'm not sure that the Trump administration is ready to make that commitment."

Moyer agrees and says President Obama was reluctant to put U.S. troops on the ground, or to aid rebel groups because they were allied with Al Qaeda.

"I think Trump will also be extremely reluctant to put American troops on the ground, and I think he may also feel some constraints in terms of giving aid to the rebels," says Moyer. "One thing that is different is that Obama at least was very much opposed to the Assad regime. Trump has not shown that so far, and I suspect there will be a change on his part to show more opposition to the Assad regime."

Political Upheaval, By Design

White House chief strategist Steve Bannon steps off Air Force One as he arrives Sunday, April 9, 2017, at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. (Alex Brandon/AP)White House chief strategist Steve Bannon steps off Air Force One as he arrives Sunday, April 9, 2017, at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. (Alex Brandon/AP)

Steve Bannon and Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner appear to be battling it out for influence at the White House these days. Don’t count Bannon out yet. He’s a man on a mission. Inspired by a dire view of what’s coming. Bannon’s a big fan of the book “The Fourth Turning,” which says it’s time for a global catastrophe – war, economic collapse – to clear gridlock and start again. We’ve got the author, and a critic. This hour On Point, reading Steve Bannon’s bible. — Tom Ashbrook


Jeremy Peters, reporter covering politics in the New York Times' Washington bureau. (@jwpetersNYT)

Neil Howe, author, historian, demographer and consultant. Co-author, with William Strauss, of "The Fourth Turning" and "Generations." Founding partner and president of LifeCourse Associates. Managing director of demography at the investment research firm Hedgeye and president of Saeculum. (@howegeneration)

Joseph Lowndes, associate professor of political science at the University of Oregon. Author of "From the New Deal to the New Right." (@joelowndes)

From Tom’s Reading List

New York Times: Bannon’s Views Can Be Traced to a Book That Warns, ‘Winter Is Com... --"The basis of his worldview — which has been described as everything from Leninist to alt-right, an extremist fringe movement associated with white nationalism — is still shrouded in mystery and conjecture. But by his own telling, much of the foundation for his political beliefs can be found in the book, which predicts that America is hurtling toward a crisis on par with the American Revolution, the Civil War and the Great Depression."

Washington Post: Where did Steve Bannon get his worldview? From my book. — "Reflecting on the decade we’ve just lived through, we can probably agree that the 1930s parallel works well. In the economy, both decades played out in the shadow of a global financial crash, and were characterized by slow and disappointing economic growth and chronic underemployment of labor and capital. Both saw tepid investment, deflation fears, growing inequality and the inability of central bankers to rekindle consumption."

TIME: Donald Trump, Stephen Bannon and the Coming Crisis in American Nat... — "Strauss and Howe’s major prediction has now obviously come true: Few would deny that the U.S. has been in a serious political crisis for some time, marked by intense partisan division, a very severe recession, war abroad and, above all, a breakdown in the ties between the country and its political establishment."

This program aired on April 11, 2017.


The book that has influenced Steve Bannon's ideology is William Strauss and Neil Howe's The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy (1997).  And in Donald Trump,   Bannon has found an acolyte.  This willingness on Trump's part to "believe" can be found in the fact that Fred Trump and his son Donald were faithful attendants of the Marble Collegiate Church pastured by the Reverend Norman Vincent Peale, whose philosophy was "the power of positive thinking."  The Fourth Turning is basically a popular history, thereby a myth, of White American historicism leaving out, or glossing-over, all the shameful stuff such as the massacre of Native Americans, slavery, segregation and imperialism.

In Chapter One: "Winter Comes Again," Strauss and Howe write what George Packer echoes in 2013 in The Unwinding: "America feels like it's unraveling."  Strauss and Howe post that though we live in an era of relative peace and comfort, we have settled into a mood of pessimism about the long-term future, fearful that our superpower nation is somehow rotting from within.

Neither an epic victory over Communism nor an extended upswing of the business

Cycle can buoy our public spirit.  The Cold War and New Deal struggles are plainly over, but we are of no mind to bask in their successes.  The America of today feels worse, in its fundamentals, than the one many of us [White people] remember from youth, a society presided over by those of supposedly lesser consciousness.  Wherever we look, from L.A. to D.C., from Oklahoma City to Sun City, we see paths to a foreboding future.  We yearn for civic character but satisfy ourselves with symbolic gestures and celebrity circuses.  We perceive no greatness in our leaders, a new meanness in ourselves.  Small wonder that each new election brings a new jolt, its aftermath a new disappointment.

Not long ago, America was more than the sum of its parts.  Now, it is less.  Around World War II, we were proud as a people but modest as individuals.  Fewer than two people in ten said yeas when asked, Are you a very important person?  Today, more than six in ten say yes.  Where we once thought ourselves collectively strong, we now regard ourselves as individually entitled.

Yet even while we exalt our own personal growth, we realize that millions of self-actualized persons don't add up to an actualized society.  Popular trust in virtually every American institution--from businesses and governments to churches and newspapers--keeps falling to new lows.  Public debts soar, the middle class shrinks, welfare dependencies deepen, and cultural arguments worsen by the year.  We now have the highest incarceration rate and the lowest eligible-voter participation rate of any major democracy.  Statistics inform us that many adverse trends (crime, divorce, abortion, scholastic aptitudes) may have bottomed out, but we're not reassured.

Optimism still attaches to self, but no longer to family or community.  Most Americans express more hope for their own prospects than for their children's--or the nation's.  Parents widely fear that the American Dream, which was there (solidly) for their parents and still there (barely) for them, will not be there for their kids.  Young householders are reaching their mid-thirties never having known a time when America seemed to be on the right track.  Middle-aged people look at their thin savings accounts and slim-to-none pensions, scoff at an illusory Social Security trust fund, and try not to dwell on what a burden their old age could become.  Seniors separate into their own Leisure World, recoiling at the lost virtue of youth while trying not to think about the future.

We perceive our civic challenge as some vast, insoluble Rubik's Cube.  Behind each problem lies another problem that must be solved first, and behind that lies yet another, and another, and ad infinitum.  To fix crime we have to fix the family, but before we do that we have to fix welfare, and that means fixing our budget, and that means fixing the inner cities, and that's impossible unless we fix crime.  There's no fulcrum on which to rest a policy lever.  People of all ages sense that something huge will have to sweep across America before the gloom can be lifted--but that's an awareness we suppress.  As a nation, we're in deep denial.

[However, Bill Clinton's "fulcrum" of the pen took care of all these social indices union busting--poverty and discrimination--which insured that White lives have not mattered since the 1980s--and as a subset neither have black, brown, or red lives.]

While we grope for answers, we wonder if analysis may be crowding out our intuition.  Like the anxious patient who takes seventeen kinds of medicine while poring over his own CAT scan, we find it hard to stop and ask, What is the underlying malady really about?  How can we best bring the primal forces of nature to our assistance?  Isn't there a choice lying somewhere between total control and total despair?  Deep down, beneath the tangle of trend lines, we suspect that our history or biology or very humanity must have something simple and important to say to us.  But we don't know what it is.  If we once did know, we have since forgotten.

Wherever we're headed, America is evolving in ways most of us don't like or understand.  Individually focused yet collectively adrift, we wonder if we're heading toward a waterfall.

Are we?

If you listen to Trump's "Make America Great Again" speeches they sound very much like echoes of talking points from Strauss and Howe's The Fourth Turning.


Like Kershaw and Rees, Strauss and Howe believe that the reward of the historian is to locate patterns that recur over time and to discover the natural rhythms of social experience.  However, Strauss and Howe believe that at the core of modern history lies this remarkable pattern: Over the past five centuries, Anglo-American society has entered a new era--a new turning--every two decades or so.  At the start of each turning, people change how they feel about themselves, the culture, the nation, and the future.  Turnings come in cycles of four.  Each cycle spans the length of a long human life, roughly eighty to one hundred years, and a unit of time the ancients called the saeculum.  Together, the four turnings of the saeculum comprise history's seasonal rhythm of growth, maturation, entropy, and destruction:

nThe First Turning is a High, and upbeat era of strengthening institutions and weakening individualism, when a new civic order implants and the old values regime decays.

nThe Second Turning is an Awakening, a passionate era of spiritual upheaval, when the civic order comes under attack from a new values regime.

nThe Third Turning is an Unraveling, a downcast era of strengthening individualism and weakening institutions, when the old civic order decays and the new values regime implants.

nThe Fourth Turning is a Crisis, a decisive era of secular upheaval, when the values regime propels the replacement of the old civic order with a new one.

Each turning comes with its own identifiable mood.  Always, these mood shifts catch people by surprise.

In the current saeculum, the First Turning was the American High of the Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy presidencies.  As World War II would down, no one predicted that America would soon become so confident and institutionally muscular, yet so conformist and spiritually complacent.  But that's what happened.

The Second turning was the Consciousness Revolution, stretching from the campus revolts of the mid-1960s to the tax revolts of the early 1980s.  Before John Kennedy was assassinated, no one predicted that America was about to enter an era of personal liberation and cross a cultural divide that would separate anything thought or said after from anything thought or said before.  But that's what happened.

The Third Turning has been the culture Wars, an era that began with Reagan's mid-1980s Morning in America and is due to expire around the middle of the Oh-Oh decade, eight or ten years from now.  Amid the glitz of the early Reagan years, no one predicted that the nation was entering an era of national drift and institutional decay.  But that's where we are.

The Fourth Turning is history's great discontinuity.  It ends one epoch and begins another.

Strauss and Howe posit that history is seasonal, and winter is coming.  Like nature's winter, the saeculum winter can come early or late.  A Fourth Turning can be long and difficult, brief but severe, or (perhaps) mild.  But, like winter, it cannot be averted.  It must come in its turn.

Here, in summary, is what the rhymes of modern history warn about America's future.

The next Fourth turning is due to begin shortly after the new millennium, midway through the Oh-Oh decade.  Around the year 2005, a sudden spark will catalyze a Crisis mood.  Remnants of the old social order will disintegrate.  Political and economic trust will implode.  Real hardship will beset the lank, with severe distress that could involve questions of class, race, nation, and empire.  Yet this time of trouble will bring seeds of social rebirth.  Americans will share a regret about recent mistakes--and a resolute new consensus about what to do.  The very survival of the nation will feel at stake.  Sometime before the year 2025, America will pass through a great gate in history, commensurate with the American Revolution, Civil War, and twin emergencies of the Great Depression and World War II.

The risk of catastrophe will be very high.  The nation could erupt into insurrection or civil violence, crack up geographically, or succumb to authoritarian rule.  If there is a war, it is likely to be one of maximum risk and effort--in other words, a total war.  Every Forth Turning has registered an upward ratchet in the technology of destruction, and in mankind's willingness to use it.  In the Civil war, the two capital cities would surely have incinerated each other had the means been at hand.  In World War II, American invented a new technology of annihilation, which the nation swiftly put to use.  This time, America will enter a Fourth Turning with the means to inflict unimaginable horrors and, perhaps, will confront adversaries who possess the same.

Yet Americans will also enter the Fourth Turning with a unique opportunity to achieve a new greatness as people.  Many despair that values that were new in the 1960s are today so entwined with social dysfunction and cultural decay that they can no longer lead anywhere positive.  Through the current Unraveling era, that is probably true.  But in the crucible of Crisis, that will change.  As the old civic order gives way, Americans will have to create a new one.  This will require a values consensus and, to administer it, the empowerment of a strong new political regime.  If all goes well, there could be a renaissance of civic trust, and more: Today's Third turning problems--that Rubik's Cube of crime, race, money, family, culture, and ethics--will snap into a fourth turning solution.  America's post-Crisis answers will be as organically interconnected as today's per-Crisis questions seem hopelessly tangled.  By the 2020s, America could become a society that is good, by today's standards, and also one that works.

Thus might the next Fourth turning end in apocalypse--or glory.  The nation could be ruined, its democracy destroyed, and millions of people scattered or killed.  Or America could enter a new golden age, triumphantly applying shared values to improve the human condition.  The rhythms of history do not reveal the outcome of the coming Crisis; all they suggest is the timing and dimension.

Strauss and Howe declare that we cannot stop the seasons of history, but we can prepare for them.  Right now, in 1997, we have eight, ten, perhaps a dozen more years to get ready.  Then events will begin to take choices out of our hands.  Yes, winter is coming, but our path through that winter is up to us.

History's howling storms can bring out the worst and best in a society.  The next Fourth turning could literally destroy us as a nation and people, leaving us cursed in the histories of those who endure and remember.  Alternatively, it could ennoble our lives, elevate us as a community, and inspired acts of consummate heroism--deeds that will grow into myth-like legends recited by our heirs far into the future.

"There is a mysterious cycle in human events," President Franklin Roosevelt observed in the depths of the Great Depression.  "To some generations much is given.  Of other generations much is expected.  This generation has a rendezvous with destiny."  The cycle remains mysterious, but need not come as a total surprise.  Though the scenario and outcome are uncertain, the schedule is set: The next Fourth Turning--American's next rendezvous with destiny--will begin in roughly ten years and end in roughly thirty.

How can we offer this prophecy with such confidence?  Because it's all happened before.  Many times.


Trump Congratulates Turkish President Erdogan On Winning Referendum


April 18, 20174:32 PM ET

NPR's Robert Siegel speaks with Ivo Daalder, president of the Chicago Council and former U.S. representative to NATO, about U.S. interests in Turkey after the referendum vote to give Turkish President Erdogan sweeping powers.


Trump Signals Steve Bannon Could Be On His Way Out

White House chief strategist Steve Bannon has clashed with President Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and Trump said Tuesday he's his own strategist. Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

Could a real shake-up be coming soon to the Trump White House — and is his chief strategist Steve Bannon the one on the outs?

The president sounds fed up with the infighting, and he appears to be picking sides — predictably with his family. In an interview with the New York Post's Michael Goodwin, Trump seems to push away Bannon.

"I like Steve, but you have to remember, he was not involved in my campaign until very late," Trump said. "I had already beaten all the senators and all the governors, and I didn't know Steve. I'm my own strategist, and it wasn't like I was going to change strategies because I was facing crooked Hillary."

That is brutal. Bannon, the former head of the right-wing website Breitbart with a very particular world view, was brought on in August of 2016 and named the campaign's "CEO."

He was kept on when Trump won the presidency as White House chief strategist and has been seen as an inspirational leader for Trump — populist, nativist and anti-globalist. Bannon's fingerprints are everywhere, from Trump's "America First" doctrine to the dark vision laid out in his inaugural address. He even put himself on the Principals Committee of the National Security Council, an unprecedented and unusual step for the president's top political strategist.

But Bannon clashed with the wrong person, Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Kushner enjoys a broad portfolio in the White House and, most importantly, influence with Trump. He's married to Trump's elder daughter, Ivanka, who always has her father's ear — and now a West Wing office, too. She reportedly is "angrier than anyone."

The president ordered Kushner and Bannon to sit down and work things out Friday at Mar-a-Lago. Trump confirmed that to Goodwin, and in the process, may have revealed which side he's on.

"Steve is a good guy," the president said, "but I told them to straighten it out or I will."

It's never good when your boss says you're a "good guy, but ... ."

It's a remarkable turn of events for someone like Bannon, who seemed to rise in Trump's orbit quickly, only to, like Icarus, have his wings melt away when he got too close to the sun.

Steeped in controversy

Bannon has always been a controversial figure, having touted Breitbart as "the platform for the alt-right," which is closely aligned with white nationalism.

The Trump campaign had difficulty balancing the fact that white nationalism, and white supremacists, were supportive of Trump and the need to push back against them publicly. Trump's campaign team, even after the election, angrily denied that it had given a boost to racists. But Trump's campaign and he himself repeatedly (his team says unwittingly) retweeted or used alt-right memes.

Now Bannon's influence has taken a hit, especially when it comes to foreign policy and the Trump administration's recent airstrike in Syria. Trump's new national security adviser, Army Lt. Gen. Henry McMaster, ousted Bannon from the NSC; Trump speaks regularly with Defense Secretary James Mattis; and Rex Tillerson is resurgent, meeting with his counterpart in Russia on Wednesday.

Trump appears to be moving away from the rigid ideology of Bannon's grandiosity and more toward a more traditional Republican posture — and the alt-right doesn't like it.

As Bannon fight goes public, Kushner faces rise in anti-Semitism

As the Kushner-Bannon rivalry percolated in the media for a few days, the Anti-Defamation League issued a press release Monday headlined, "Explosive Growth of Hateful Memes and Anti-Semitic Conspiracy Theor...."

The ADL wrote:

"This campaign of anti-Semitism has been driven by white supremacists and anti-Semites and has all the hallmarks of classic Jewish conspiracy theories. The narratives include accusations that Jews in the Trump Administration are trying to start a war to advance the interests of Israel. They contend that Trump has abandoned his 'America First' policy, which the alt right supported, because he is being manipulated by Kushner and other Jewish advisors."

Kushner is Jewish. Reporters and those who spoke out against Trump during the campaign reported repeated online harassment. The ADL noted the use of hashtags on Twitter like #firekushner, #kushnerswar and #Syriahoax, which began to appear a week ago.

Trump's comments to the New York Post also come amid a backlash aimed at White House press secretary Sean Spicer, who on Passover Tuesday said Syria's Bashar Assad was worse than Hitler, because Hitler didn't use chemical weapons "on his own people."

Spicer apologized (apparently to GOP mega-donor Sheldon Adelson as well), but it's not his first flub. Given Trump's comments about Bannon, you wonder if he's in an itchy mood and looking to shake things up all around as the 100-day mark approaches. No president uses one press secretary for his entire presidency. President Obama had three over eight years (two in his first term); George W. Bush and Bill Clinton both had four (and also two in their first terms).

Don't mess with the family

In the campaign, Trump had seemed taken with Bannon's verve and willingness to fight. His confrontational tactics appealed to Trump and played into the machismo he was offering up at packed rallies on the campaign trail.

It was Bannon, you might remember, who ordered up the bringing of Bill Clinton's former accusers of sexual misconduct to a national debate. They held a mock press conference beforehand and got close-up seats to the debate. All the while, Bannon, who shied away from media interviews, stood on the sidelines.

Trump's "lock her up" base ate it up.

But Bannon's influence began to be scrutinized. Three weeks into Trump's presidency, Time magazine put him on its cover as "The Great Manipulator" and asked if he was "the second most powerful man in the world."

Stories touting Bannon's influence and leaks against Kushner or Ivanka Trump apparently rankled the president.

Bannon should have learned that while his tactics might appeal to Trump, he should never direct his efforts at Trump's family. Remember, a family meeting was partially responsible for Corey Lewandowski's firing as campaign manager in the primaries.

"[Corey] knew there was a battle brewing. I am certain he thought he would win," a source told NPR last summer.

Lewandowski lost. The source described the "weekly Monday morning family meeting" as a "summary execution."

For years, Bannon made his money in Hollywood. Well, as Michael told Fredo in The Godfather: "Don't ever take sides with anyone against the family again. Ever."

Of course, the wild card here is this: If Bannon is eventually ousted, does he train Breitbart's sights on Trump?

All That White House Drama Might Be Sexy, But It's Beside The Point


Journalist Describes The Loneliness And Leakiness Of Trump's White House


April 20, 20173:28 PM ET

President Donald Trump speaks at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla.

Alex Brandon/Associated Press

As the first American president to be elected with no prior political or military experience, President Trump has had to adapt quickly to the responsibilities of public office.

"The magnitude of the job is sinking in for him," White House correspondent Maggie Haberman says. "The degree to which whatever he does is going to impact millions of people and the responsibility of that is slowly settling in."

Haberman has been covering Trump since the early 2000s, when she worked for The New York Post and The New York Daily News. In 2015, she joined The New York Times, where she covered the Trump campaign before moving on to the White House.

Haberman describes the president as a homebody who hates interpersonal conflict. Looking ahead, she predicts that the reported feud between Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner and strategist Steve Bannon will not result in Bannon's dismissal any time soon. "The 'you're fired' guy actually ... really doesn't like firing people and, generally speaking, will try to leave it to other people," Haberman says.

Interview Highlights

On what it's like inside Trump's Oval Office

We have not seen this leaky a White House in my memory, in forever, just in terms of the back and forth. And he surrounds himself, and always has, with people who are very focused and interested on the personnel issues. ...

His chief of staff, Reince Priebus ... is in a very unusual role, in terms of what we have seen of a White House chief of staff in the past. We're used to a White House chief of staff playing something of a traditional gatekeeper role.  Trump doesn't like gatekeepers. Trump's office style is much more Grand Central Station than therapist's couch, like the door is always open; people come in and out. When my colleague Glenn Thrush and I did an Oval Office interview about two weeks ago, people were just constantly moving in and out. It was really a cast of thousands it felt like.

On why she thinks Trump hasn't yet made any trips abroad

He is uncomfortable sleeping outside of his own bed, which I know sounds strange to say about a 70-year-old leader of the free world, but you're talking about somebody who during the campaign, most nights — not every night and there were times when it was not feasible — but he would fly home from pretty far distances. ... He would fly home to sleep in his own bed. He is a homebody, and he's incredibly provincial and he is approaching the job in that way.

I do think that his preference is never going to be being far from home. The thing that I keep hearing about this president over and over from people close to him is he's very lonely. He is unused to living alone. He has always had someone living with him. He is on his third marriage. He has a young son. He spent, as I said, almost every night in his own bed, it wasn't just about his own bed — it was about the familiarity of his family.

On reporting on Trump for The New York Post and The New York Daily News as he became a celebrity in the 2000s

Trump was in frequent contact with Page Six, the gossip page at The New York Post, which I think played a pretty big part in introducing him to the city and then the country at large. He was very used to a type of story approach on Page Six where he maintained good relationships with them, and he recognized that he was sort of a commodity in terms of gossip gold.

But in terms of stories that were about him, it was either things like ... him holding a press conference to say that he wanted to rebuild the Twin Towers. It was usually in the realm of stunt, because that's really what he was doing. In the 2000s ... that was really when he moved out of being a real-estate developer and into the celebrity realm, so it was a different kind of Donald Trump, but he was omnipresent.

On how Trump's way of talking has changed over the years

His vocabulary was more specific. When he was in an area that he actually knew and understood and had some sort of emotional and intellectual connection to, he was more at ease, and it was reflected in how he would talk. Even now, frankly, when you get him talking about business or you get him talking about real estate, he speaks with much more fluidity than on almost anything else that he's involved with as president.


It's funny — there's a video of him that's been kicking around the Internet for a year now, and it's a video of him in the '90s, I think it was '95, doing a review of Citizen Kane — and he's a big movies guy, Trump. He loves Sunset Boulevard, and one of the reasons he loves Mar-a-Lago is it sort of reminds him of that kind of a movie set and there's a grandeur to it, but he gave this very, very long exposition on his views of Citizen Kane and what "Rosebud" meant and he sounds very different. He sounds much more at ease with the subject matter, the timbre of his voice is different.

On reporting on Trump at his Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago

He loves Mar-a-Lago. ... There is this social greeter aspect of him at Mar-a-Lago that I had never seen before until I was there, and he loves it. It's like watching a kid host a party, and he goes from table to table, and he talks to people and he asks if they're having a good time and "What are you eating?" and he knows details about their lives.

There's a huge patio, and he sits in a corner of the patio — it's a table for about 10 — usually his wife Melania is there. And then he sort of roams around the patio, and people are spread out and they're watching him eat. And there's a bar area a little closer to the inside of the building that people hang out at before dinner is served and then eventually you gravitate out.

For him there is a socializing contact element that I think he just loves. But I think ... you can't hold national security meetings on the patio of what is essentially a restaurant, and he is adjusting to why that is different and he doesn't love these adjustments.



We Now Know Trump's Inauguration Donors. Where The Money Went Is Another Story

President Trump waves to supporters as he walks the parade route with first lady Melania Trump after being sworn in on Jan. 20.

Getty Images

An inauguration is an expensive party to throw, and President Trump got plenty of help putting his on. Financial Election Commission disclosures released on Wednesday show that some uberwealthy donors helped Trump defray the cost: Million-dollar givers included investment firm founder Charles Schwab, mining entrepreneur Christopher Cline and Bank of America. Investor and casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson spent $5 million.

Those megadonors contributed to Trump's monster inauguration haul of nearly $107 million, the FEC forms show. That sum doubles President Barack Obama's then-record inauguration donations in 2009, which totaled around $53 million.

Though this report shows how much money Trump's inauguration brought in, it does not detail exactly how that money was spent. Presidential inauguration committees do not have to disclose that to the FEC.

Donations to the inauguration may come after a victory, but they can still have the basic message of a campaign donation ("You are a politician I like, and I would like to support you with a few dollars"). But then, sometimes donations can fulfill another purpose.

"It's also a way for those who stayed away from Trump early on — didn't give to his campaign or superPACs, didn't help fund the convention, maybe backed another horse — to get on board with the incoming administration," said Viveca Novak, spokesperson at the Center for Responsive Politics, in an email.

In addition, big donors to Trump's inauguration received special inauguration-weekend treats: tickets to the swearing-in and their names printed on inauguration programs, for example, according to an inauguration brochure first published by the Center for Public Integrity.

The money also bought time with the president and vice president — those donating more than $500,000 were treated to dinner with Vice President Pence and his wife, Karen. The highest donors — those spending $1 million or more — gained access to a "Leadership Luncheon," which was "an exclusive event with select Cabinet appointees and House and Senate leadership."

It's not exactly new for a presidential inauguration committee to take in corporate money. Though Obama's 2009 inauguration didn't accept corporate donations, his 2013 inauguration brought in money from AT&T and Microsoft, among others.

Some companies are bipartisan in their support: Boeing and Chevron, for example, both donated to Obama's 2013 inauguration and Trump's inauguration alike.

Those kinds of large donations, as well as the fact that the committee doesn't have to tell the FEC how it spent the money, are part of what one expert considers a relatively loose system governing how inaugurations are financed.

"Really, there's very limited rules on how an inaugural committee has to spend the money, much less report how they spend the money," said Brendan Fischer, director of the federal and FEC legal program at the Campaign Legal Center.

There are also few restrictions on where any leftover money might go after an inauguration, Fischer said. As a 501(c)(4) — a type of nonprofit — an inaugural committee couldn't, for example, donate the money to a political campaign. However, as Colby College professor and campaign finance expert Anthony Corrado told NPR, it could potentially give the funds to another 501(c)(4) — perhaps one that promotes the president's agenda.

Trump's committee has said that any leftover money from this year's inauguration will be given to charity, the New York Times reported on Wednesday.

For his part, Fischer thinks the Inauguration Day donations should have some of the strictures of campaign donations.

"There's no reason to think that a million-dollar contribution made after Election Day would be any less corrupting or pose any less risk of influence than a million-dollar contribution made before Election Day," he said.

While the donors were high-profile, taxpayers can end up footing a large part of the inauguration bill. An inauguration can be a massively expensive affair — ahead of this year's, the New York Times estimated the cost at $200 million. The Trump inauguration committee would account for only part of that; the Washington Post estimated before the event that the committee would spend somewhere around $70 million. The federal government also pays for specific parts of the festivities. For example, as the Times reported, federal money covers security, which may have cost around $100 million.

Views: 46

Comment by mary gravitt on April 21, 2017 at 10:22am

Donald Trump is a toxin that threatens all the accomplishments of the Marshall Plan and democracy throughout the Western world.  The Right-wing like to talk about how ISIS is a threat to Western Civilization--but never about how a liar sitting as ruler of the Western World is in the White House tweeting out lies that will end the world with a bang, while the rest of US sit and whimper...


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