Category Archives: American Politics

When Steve Bannon Leaves the Room

Donald Trump, McMaster, generals

US President Donald Trump shakes hands with H.R. McMaster (L) as his national security adviser at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, on February 20, 2017. / AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

“I want to pardon that Sheriff. I’m not kidding. That son of a bitch judge had it in for my friend. So the Hell with him. I’m going to pardon him. I can do that right.”

“You can Mr. President. But to weather that storm you have to clear the decks. Look Presidential. And nothing looks more Presidential than committing a few thousand of our soldiers to let Afghanistan be Afghanistan.” said a General.

“But that is lame. Go big or, better still, go home. I said that. The people loved it. Every deplorable knows no one wins Afghanistan and we’re all about winning.”

“Yes Sir!” said Kelly snapping to attention. “And we’re going to win. Win bigly. Because no one has ever had the commitment to winning in the Stan that you do, Sir.”

“Great. We’ll be great and we’ll make Afghanistan great again. Just like the US of A. Just like that. But we do the pardon for my buddy.”

“We do Sir.” said another General. “But we have, as the expression goes, a person of colour in the woodpile.”

“We do? Well, let’s nuke that woodpile. I hate disloyalty. Don’t much like the sort of people who hang around in woodpiles. But won’t they call me a racist? I mean, you told me that once we hired a person of colour there was just no way to say “You’re Fired.””

“Good news, Sir. He’s not actually a POC, he’s an anti-Islam, British Hungarian American. You can fire him anytime. He’s a friend of Bannon’s and Flynn thought he was a good guy.” said a General.

“Hungarian? Sad…My first wife was Hungarian.”

“Czech actually, Sir.” said a Colonel bucking for a promotion.

“Same fucking thing. Nasty bunch. Cost a lot of money that divorce. And then Marla. Wasted a lot of money there but how did this guy get into the woodpile in the first place?”

“Bannon.” said two Generals and a Colonel.

“He told you Gorka was a smart guy. You believed him and now look what he’s done. He basically said your Afghanistan strategy was idiotic. He had to go.” said a General. “But now that he has you can pardon that Sheriff  guy.”

“Great. That will be huuuuuge”

“It will, Sir.” said a General, “Unless I miss my bet, it will be bigger than Charlottesville. Too bad about the hurricane. Steps on the message a bit.”

“Hurricane, Smeriscane, Texas had it coming. You just watch. I’ll handle the hurricane.  Sure, the hurricane is coming in like Merryweather, (which is pretty funny ok), but I’ll hit it like McGregor. You guys got any money on that fight? Vegas is going to get pasted. I am so pissed that the Secret Service won’t let me sit ringside.”

Two Generals and a Colonel snap to attention.

“Yes Sir. Pardon papers will be on your desk in ten minutes. We already have the Gorka resignation. Troops out to the Stan next week. Sir!”

“And, Mr. President, I have a hundred bucks that says McGregor doesn’t land a punch. Not one.” said the very ambitious Colonel.

“Done.”

POTUS wandered back to the Family Residence secure in the knowledge that the Colonel had never heard of “clients golf”. He looked like an excellent candidate to run a firebase in…well, some God forsaken place in Afghanistan.

 

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Ritual

Boston…3000-10,000 lefties and antifa people are going to go and crush a free speech demo. Vancouver, I am informed that 1800+ antifa and allies will go and disrupt an anti-immigration event at city hall. Apparently, there are other demos and counter demos planned for Saturday.

Delightfully, even the rational right can provoke the irrational left into creating the conditions of its own destruction. I don’t have the time nor the inclination to parse whether or not the Boston event or the Vancouver event will be infested with Nazis or if they are events organized by reasonable people in support of reasonable positions. And neither, I am happy to say, does the left. There will be bad think at these events and that is sufficient.

Now, antifa has a short half-life. It managed to avoid exposure at Charlottesville largely because some whack job in a car killed someone. But they can’t count on that every time. Taking a sack of bricks with you to a “counter protest” is pretty much reckless negligence. In Boston the police are setting up a cordon and plan to strip participants of such tools of free speech as bats, two inch thick flag poles, guns, knives and, yes, bricks and really big rocks. Might work. Hard to say. Antifa better hope it does because the first time they actually manage to kill a Nazi – or more likely a bystander – they are on their way out.

Plus, and I suspect the Vancouver activity could produce this, when the antifa rioters are denied their preferred target of suspected Nazis and white supremacists and guys in polo shirts, what are they going to do? At a guess heave a few bricks through the windows of assorted icons of capitalism. A block or two away from Vancouver City Hall, and pretty much on the route to the Skytrain station, there are all sorts of windows to smash and, hey, stuff to “liberate”. Again, a perfect opportunity for the antifa drones to demonstrate their radical cred and lose any, limited, sympathy the general population and the political classes might have for their “anti-Nazi” activity.

I leave you with Sir Mick and Keith’s lyric,

“Street Fighting Man”

Ev’rywhere I hear the sound of marching, charging feet, boy
Cause summer’s here and the time is right for fighting in the street, boy
But what can a poor boy do
Except to sing for a rock ‘n’ roll band
Cause in sleepy London town
There’s just no place for a street fighting man
No
Hey! Think the time is right for a palace revolution
But where I live the game to play is compromise solution
Well, then what can a poor boy do
Except to sing for a rock ‘n’ roll band
‘Cause in sleepy London town
There’s no place for a street fighting man
No
Hey! Said my name is called disturbance
I’ll shout and scream, I’ll kill the king, I’ll rail at all his servants
Well, what can a poor boy do
Except to sing for a rock ‘n’ roll band
Cause in sleepy London town
There’s no place for a street fighting man
No

As I think about the Vancouver scenario it occurs to me I am thinking too small. The famous Stanley Cup riot in 2011 attracted bridge and tunnel kids from all over the Lower Mainland. At some point, antifa events will gain the same sort of following. After all, where else can you get social licence to loot, punch and generally behave badly.

Update: Saturday has come and gone. In Boston, while there was a bit of bad behaviour on the part of the massive anti-free speech crowd, everything was pretty calm. In Vancouver, while antifa were present, many, much smarter people showed up at the anti-imigration rally. The very few anti-imigration people who showed up didn’t stay long. Rumour has it that they were sprayed….with silly string. Now this is genius. Nazis have about as much of a sense of humour as 3rd wave feminists and ridicule is far more effect that a sharp jab to the chin.

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After The Rebel….Breitbart Canada

My sense is that the Rebel is swirling round the drain. Canadaland reports that Kory Teneycke, ex of Harper’s PMO and ex of Sun newspapers was the guy who spoke to the English chaps who are suggesting Ez may not be entirely straight with his contributors’ money. That’s a lot of fire power to send to calm a couple of disgruntled contract workers. Ez says he’s being blackmailed. Could be.

The resignations continue and it is not at all obvious who would be interested in climbing on board the heavily listing Rebel.

The brand has become pretty toxic pretty quickly.

At the same time, the need for a Canadian, right of center, media outlet is apparent. There has been talk of Breitbart Canada for several years but there was little movement, in part because The Rebel had effectively occupied the niche. Now? Well, Bannon is back and looking to expand Brietbart’s influence. Ez has to be looking for a way out and his few remaining assets are a mailing list, some You-tube subscribers and some video equipment. Buy those assets, say good-bye and good luck to Ez but retain him as a consultant for a six month grace period, then look around for some decent presenters and some smart, “not a Nazi” rightie, journalists. Voilà, Breitbart-Canada.

Bannon out, Swamp wins

If you go back and read this blog you’ll find that, at best, my support for Trump per se was lukewarm. The negative reason for my support was that I thought and think that Hillary is a crook and would have made a terrible President. But the positive reason really came down to the fact I liked Steve Bannon and thought he had a pretty clear grasp of what has been going wrong in the US.

Now he’s out. Jumped or pushed? No doubt we’ll find out in due course. But it is the end of any chance of a usefully disruptive Presidency. Without Bannon Trump will become an increasingly conventional President. Any chance of actually changing the largely corrupt Washington culture vanishes.

Which means we are left with Trump and no good reason (other than at least he’s not Hillary) to support him. The markets surged on the announcement. (Update: and then fell back) More business as usual. No danger of disruptive change. In fact, with Bannon gone, there will be next to no pushback to GOPe policy or lack thereof.

Now the Trump administration will continue to careen from screwup to screwup but without even the possibility that there will emerge constructive change as well as endless goofs. Worse, the focus of the Whitehouse will switch to preserving the Trump Presidency which will mean a strict policy of risk avoidance. No doubt many of my American friends will welcome a renewed commitment to not rocking the boat. It is much less terrifying to simply sink beneath the waves of bureaucratic and political corruption without making too much fuss.

On the upside, as my son pointed out to me, with Bannon gone, I can join in the fun of mocking the orange vulgarian secure in the knowledge that whether he stays or goes, nothing is going to get any better in America and there is every chance things will get a great deal worse.

(Update for a pal: At a guess the Sage of Minnesota will be wrong as to Trump’s departure by Labour Day, it will probably be worse than that. Essentially, with Bannon out of the White House, Trump will remain President in name only. He’ll sign what is put in front of him, make the occasional, well-scripted speech and behave himself. He will become increasingly “Presidential” and his press will improve. But he will actually accomplish nothing at all.)

Upper Date: Steve Bannon himself is thinking along the same lines as he says in an interview with The Weekly Standard:

Bannon believes that those who will now try to influence Trump will hope to turn him in a sharply different direction.

“I think they’re going to try to moderate him,” he says. “I think he’ll sign a clean debt ceiling, I think you’ll see all this stuff. His natural tendency—and I think you saw it this week on Charlottesville—his actual default position is the position of his base, the position that got him elected. I think you’re going to see a lot of constraints on that. I think it’ll be much more conventional.”

 

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Bannon Uncut

This is a very interesting but rather surprising interview with Steve Bannon in, of all places, The American Prospect. Go read the whole thing but a couple of quotes:

“We’re at economic war with China,” he added. “It’s in all their literature. They’re not shy about saying what they’re doing. One of us is going to be a hegemon in 25 or 30 years and it’s gonna be them if we go down this path. On Korea, they’re just tapping us along. It’s just a sideshow.”

“There’s no military solution [to North Korea’s nuclear threats], forget it. 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, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us.”

The reason why Steve Bannon draws so much fire is that he really does not give a rat’s ass for the established formulations of the Washington Establishment. “They got us” never passes the lips of the right sort of people. 100,000 artillery tubes pointed at Seoul are just not the sort of thing people talk about. But Bannon does.

My sense is that Trump’s Presidency is on the edge. If the MSM/GOPe/Dem narrative gains much more traction he’ll be locked in the White House with pretty much zero power until he quits, is hit by the 25th Amendment or is impeached for some sort of high crime the likes of which have never been seen before.

There is exactly one way out for Trump and that is to embrace Bannon and embrace his base. The trimming, the business councils, the McMasters down the hall. Ivanka and Jared down the other hall. None of that is actually getting the job done. For Trump to come out of the Charlotteville idiocy intact he needs to get back to his populist base. He needs to wage jihad against antifa and the demonization of the right as “Nazis”. And to do that he needs a real strategist. Bannon is the only one he’s got. Tell Kelly to keep the trains running, tell Bannon to figure out where they should go.

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Free Speech, Business and Donald Trump

Business, especially big business, has a complex relationship with free speech. On the one hand, companies like to be able to advertise their products and they like to be able to contribute money to the candidates of their choice. On the other, many feel the need to police their employees’ speech for fear of either offending other employees or their customers or both. In the US, while companies enjoy First Amendment protections for their speech, they are under no obligation to extend those protections to their employees or to users of their products. Twitter or Facebook are perfectly entitled to shut down the accounts of anyone they chose and there is no “free speech” legal leverage to protect those accounts. Firing an employee for expressing opinions at odds with a company’s diversity policy is on iffier legal ground (as Google is likely going to find out) but not for 1st Amendment reasons.

The CEOs of big companies have an odd relationship to free speech. They are, after all, the public face of their company and where they chose to place themselves may have an impact on that company. If they sit on a charitable board or a government advisory commission they may be accused of supporting the more controversial positions taken by that board or government. Which is why, when the furor over Trumps various remarks on Charlottesville blew up, a number of CEOs announced they were leaving his business advisory councils. So many that Trump has shut down the councils.

A couple of points. First, dropping off the advisory councils was a weird sort of virtue signalling on the part of the CEOs. They wanted to be seen to be putting daylight between themselves and Trump’s alledged support for, or lack of effective condemnation of, Nazis, white supremacist and the other eviltons who marched on the right in Charlottesville. And, because the entire Charlottesville furor has been framed as binary, had they not done so they were open to being accused of supporting Nazis. Better to go because the left is in full smear mode.

But there is another element to this: what was a populist President doing with councils composed of CEOs in the first place? An American President from either party is well advised to cultivate relationships with business leaders. But formalizing that into councils is unnecessary. In normal course the CEOs will try to meet with the President to push their agendas.

It is a mark of the general incoherence of the Trump administration that these councils were created in the first place. By all means have the occasional, informal, round table but what is the point of a business council with formal membership and, therefore, the possibility of formal resignation?

Business councils are the stuff of GOPe and guys who worked at Goldman Sachs. They are the very sort of thing Trump ran against. The Bannonite faction in the White House (and yes I do know Bannon worked for Goldman) was pushed out of the way when the councils were set up. Now that they are gone it might be a good idea for Bannon and his people to come up with a less formal, more effective, way for Trump to get the business perspective on the affairs of the nation.

 

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Polar Cases

Trump’s continuing attempts to get “condemnation” right actually illustrate a profound shift in the political rhetoric in the US. (And, unfortunately, elsewhere.)

There were Nazis on one side in Charlottesville. From which it follows, apparently, that anything less than full throated support for the thugs of antifa means, well it means that you support Nazis. So, for example, if you make any attempt to sort the right wing sheep from the Nazi goats…You’re a Nazi supporter. If you note that the police and National Guard expressly stood down and failed to protect a permitted meeting…You’re a Nazi supporter.

Once political conversation descends to this level it is no longer conversation and it has moved from political to tribal.

A fact that seems to have entirely eluded Trump and who ever it is who is advising him. [I note that Trump’s flatfootedness may very well be a consequence of the globalist cadres in the White House marginalizing Steve Bannon because Bannon understands this.] Once the left and the media have a way of proving to their own satisfaction that Trump, because he criticized both sides, is a Nazi supporter the White House is left with two courses of action. One, which will weaken and eventually destroy the Trump Presidency, is to try and find the right words to propitiate people who want nothing more than to “prove” Trump is a Nazi and will use whatever means necessary to drive home the attack. The other, which will rally the base and begin to move the general American public, is to go hard on the antifa rioters and nail the cowardice of the Charlottetown police, national guard and their political masters.

For the second strategy to work Trump will have to bring Bannon back into the loop even if it annoys the Generals. This is a political fight and Generals, no matter how well organized and disciplined, don’t do politics well.

If Trump, as is rumoured, instead fires Bannon the Trump Presidency is, at best lamed, at worst, pretty much over. In a sense, if he fires Bannon, Trump will have been housebroken and that is not what his base elected him for.

I have spent a good deal of time defending Trump because the Trump powered by Bannon is the corrective that America has needed for a couple of decades. But if Bannon is shown the door, for whatever reason, I’ll jump off the Trump train in a New York second. The populist insurgency will have been stillborn, the swamp will remain full and the antifa fascists and their Democratic party enablers will continue their terror and their misrule.

Update: Chris Buskirk at American Greatness gets the point about Steve Bannon.

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Sheep from goats

The mayhem in Charlottesville was pretty much locked in when the Swastika was unfurled and neo-Nazi chants about Jews filled the air. The antifa people are usually exaggerating when they go on about how nationalist=white supremacist=Nazi, but in Charlottesville that reasoning was not wrong.

Here’s the thing: if Nazis, real live Jew hating Nazis, join your protest and you let them, their stench will infect everything you do. Over on the left people are at pains to distance themselves from BlackBloc whack jobs. The right needs to do the same thing with Nazis.

This is not a question of free speech or free association: the Nazis have a perfect right to both; rather it is a question of whether of not the resurgent right wants to accept Nazis tagging along for the ride. If the right and alt-right people are OK with Nazis in their midst then they will simply lose the vast majority of their supporters. However, if they make it very clear that Nazis are unwelcome they can carry on an build support. And by “making it clear” I mean to the point that Nazis at right wing gatherings are more likely to be punched by alt-right people than antifa.

If the Nazis want to organize their own demos they can go right ahead; but the serious right need to make sure that there is no place for Nazis on the right side of the aisle.

(And, just to avoid confusion, America’s own KKK needs to be bunged in the same barrel as Nazis.)

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I Claudius: Whitehouse edition

My theory about Canadians commenting on American politics is that we need to focus on the entertainment values. Politically there is nothing we can do and we have lots of stuff to deal with at home.

That said, the Trump Whitehouse is brilliant. It is the classic clash of insiders versus outsiders. But it is also a three or four way battlefield over style. Reince Preibus is the consummate, slightly geeky Washington insider with great connections on the Hill and in the still shell shocked Republican Party. Steve Bannon is an outsider who actually reads books and thinks about policy stuff. And now, in the great tradition of pro Wrestling we have Anthony Scaramucci aka “The Mooch” who has had direct access to Trump from day 1 and speaks his language far better than the wussy Preibus or the, relatively speaking, cerebral Bannon.

When Trump took office Preibus was made Chief of Staff to make the trains run on time. I think it is fair to say that his hooks into the Republican Party and connections on the Hill have barely made the trains run at all. Worse, there have been a series of judgements by Trump which would have benefited from some savvy counsel as to timing and tone – Comey, the Special Prosecutor, some position on healthcare – which they clearly did not get.  As well, the message coming out of the White House has been, to put it charitably, diffuse. Trump, himself, seems to be settling into much of the role of the President; what he is not doing is effectively using the power of the Presidency to push his agenda. And that lands at the Chief of Staff’s door.

Preibus is a bit of a “pleaser”. He has had to be in his various roles with the Republican Party. A Chief of Staff is never a pleaser. He’s the guy who gets what the President wants done with a minimum of fuss and bother. The nature of the position is not conciliatory, it is actually pretty brutal. The Chief of Staff sets up the field so that the President can do what ever conciliation is required. Preibus is simply not up to that job.

Neither is Bannon. Because Bannon’s function is to develop the policy concepts and the strategy to “Make America Great Again”. In many ways Bannon should not be operational at all. In his own way, Bannon is a policy guy and it is always a bad idea to bring a policy guy into the rough and tumble of getting stuff done.

So, right now, my bet is that Trump sees The Mooch as a clear threat to Preibus. Along the lines of “Do your job Reince or The Mooch will throw you over the top rope.” I would say Preibus has about a month, call it to Labour Day, to prove he can get the trains back on schedule or over the top rope he goes.

In all of this the Trump children and assorted in-laws play the role of the Roman Emperor Augustus’s children and relatives. They may be important, they may not but they have no independent power, only influence. For the players, like The Mooch, Bannon and Preibus, the Trump children are, at best, temporary allies.

If you are an I Claudius fan the Trump White House is showing great promise of engrossing entertainment. And, best of all, it is driving the Democrats and the left into a perpetual tizzy.

My bet is that Trump will back whoever can show him results and a resolute sense of direction. Right now the foul mouthed new guy seems willing to kick butt and take names. We’ll see how that works out.

Update: Republicans just defeated their own “skinny healthcare repeal”. That train is not only late, it’s derailed and that is the sort of thing a Chief of Staff does not let happen.

Upper Date: So Preibus was out last week and today The Mooch vanishes as quickly as he came on the scene. Rumour has it that The Mooch was kicked at the request of General Kelly, the new Chief of Staff. Stay tuned.

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CNN Blackmails a 15 year old??

Out in Twitter Land at  there is a very interesting story emerging about the silly Trump WWF/CNN tweet. Apparently, CNN took it upon themselves to track down the perpetrator of this lese majeste. While they can’t quite find the evidence of Trump colluding with the Russians they were able to find the evilton. Who is 15.

CNN nobly declined to publish his name while referring to him as “the man” who created the video.

CNN is not publishing “HanA**holeSolo’s” name because he is a private citizen who has issued an extensive statement of apology, showed his remorse by saying he has taken down all his offending posts, and because he said he is not going to repeat this ugly behavior on social media again. In addition, he said his statement could serve as an example to others not to do the same.
CNN reserves the right to publish his identity should any of that change.
Huge mistake.
What CNN has now done is let loose the firestorm of Reddit, 4Chan and 8 Chan on their unsuspecting heads. Internet rule is you do not threaten to “dox” someone, especially some 15 year old kid with a silly sense of humour unless you are willing to reap the consequences.
At the moment Twitter is hosting the address and home details of Wolf Blitzer’s house. And it will get worse. Much, much worse.

Once the “anything goes with CNN” meme gets going there is an army of technically sophisticated, boundary free, kids out there ready, willing and able to hack feeds, websites and create brilliant memes.

End of CNN? Not likely. Rather the end of CNN as any sort of respected news source. Those kids are brilliant and seriously without constraints. Pretty much anything can happen when they take up a cause. And looking at Twitter tonight they are ready to roll.

You think BLM is irritating…wait until you see 4 Chan unleashed.

Update: Trump’s tweet tomorrow:

Kid had spunk. Funny guy. CNN blackmails him….He’s coming to the White House. Like the clock guy.

Update #2: So CNN is saying that it was not a 15 year old they were attempting to blackmail, it was an adult. Oddly, this does not seem to have helped their case much.
Plus, there seems to be a good chance that the meme Trump used was not the meme the “kid” actually made. (OK, it is Buzzfeed via Twitchy but still more reputable than CNN.)
As predicted the internet has gone nuts with the meme jihad dumping all over CNN.
Once again, the lefty media establishment’s total lack of any sense of humour is forcing errors. Add to that the MSM’s complete lack of any sort of crisis management skills and you have the perfect storm.
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