REALPOLITIK: Who’s Afraid Of Steve Bannon?

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Illustration by WMXDESIGN

LAWFARE: My point is that Bannon is not some sui generis political genius. And his supposed vast and arcane intellect is neither vast, nor is it arcane. It’s the regular stuff of the trolling culture of the modestly-educated, pseudo-intellectual hard right.

This brings me to the nonsense that Bannon is some kind of Darth Vader-like figure or the evil master manipulator behind the throne. The alternative and more convincing explanation is that Bannon’s just a clod with delusions of grandeur and that his disrespect for process has come back to bite him, as it will tend to do to people who don’t think through the implications of their actions carefully. It’s that the difficult, bureaucratic, legalistic interagency processes associated with actually putting together national security policy exist for a reason, and that when they’re disregarded, chaos and disorganization tend to result.

And just to be clear, I don’t mean chaos in the Bannon-as-Rasputin sense, in which the Great Manipulator intentionally tries to “disrupt” the state. I mean chaos of the kind that has rocked the administration back on its heels and injured it before the courts not only in the case at hand but likely in many cases to come involving national security deference. I mean the kind of chaos that causes a broad degradation of this administration’s credibility and ability to function on national security matters.

In short, Bannon’s role as the ideological father of the EO strikes me as an instance of an internet troll coming up against legal and bureaucratic structures of process and accountability, and losing—because he didn’t understand the importance and power of those institutions in the first place.

As an astute acquaintance put it, we can best understand Bannon not as Darth Vader or Rasputin but as an angry blogger sitting in front of his computer tapping out a post on how he would run things if he were in charge. The difference is that, in this case, Steve Bannon actually is in charge. MORE