White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon is no Anthony Scaramucci when it comes to the media.
So when colleagues alleged that the former executive chair of Breitbart News had not realized he was in an on-the-record interview with left-leaning publication The American Prospect, it was the first sign of something odd. His conversation with journalist Robert Kuttner was equally mysterious, and raised far more questions than gave answers.
According to Kuttner, Bannon called him Tuesday afternoon with the opening line, "It’s a great honor to finally track you down. I’ve followed your writing for years and I think you and I are in the same boat when it comes to China. You absolutely nailed it.”
Without any discussion of whether or not to remain off-the-record, Bannon proceeded to discuss what he views as "an economic war" between China and the United States, one he feels the U.S. is currently losing. While this opinion falls in line with President Donald Trump's own obsession with China's economic growth and trade policies, Bannon's view on North Korea did not.
Trump has warned of "fire and fury" if North Korea's Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un moves ahead with his nuclear threats, but Bannon told Kuttner that he saw no viable military solution if the conflict were to escalate.
"Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that ten million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons," he said. "I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us.”
Then Bannon and Kuttner turned to race relations and identity politics in America, topics at the forefront of the nation's mind. When confronted about his role in the rise of white nationalism in the U.S. and the president's apparent desire to pander to the racist factions in his base, Bannon shut down the recent violence in Charlottesville as initiated by "clowns."
“Ethno-nationalism — it's losers. It's a fringe element," he stated. "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.”
“The Democrats, the longer they talk about identity politics, I got ’em," he continued. "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.”
Bannon's take on heightened racial tensions in America and an invigorated alt-right seem based purely on how much or little they will serve his motives. While he acknowledged that the White House must help to "crush" the racist fringe, he also mocked the left's promotion of identity politics, which raises questions as to how exactly the current administration would quell white supremacy while refusing to explicitly address the complex ways race, class, gender, culture, sexuality, and faith intersect in America.
If Trump's recent actions are any example of their plan, it looks like less of a method to combat white supremacy and more of a scheme to use it for political power.
Still, the most bizarre thing about this entire interview is that it even occurred, and was subsequently released for public scrutiny, in the first place. One would assume that Bannon, who as Kuttner put it is "probably the most media-savvy person in America," would understand that no news-worthy call with a journalist is by default a purely friendly one.
Kuttner was also puzzled as to why Bannon would reach out to a progressive publication and "assume that a possible convergence of views on China trade might somehow paper over the political and moral chasm on white nationalism."
We smell an agenda.
Banner and thumbnail credit: Wikimedia Commons user Gage Skidmore