Bannon backtracks bigly

After cannoning into the Trump White House, in what looked like a payback for being sacked, Steve Bannon has backtracked bigly in a belated attempt to stem the blowing up of his ambitions.

This follows the release of Michael Wolff’s book ‘Fire and Fury’, which lifted the lid on White House dysfunction revealing details about a train wreck administration that didn’t shock because much of it was known or suspected already.

The President appears to be going nuclear on Bannon, rendering him toxic waste politically.

 

Axios Exclusive: Bannon apologizes

Steve Bannon is trying to make amends with the Trump family, providing a statement to Axios that expresses “regret” to President Trump and praises his son, Donald Trump Jr.

  • “Donald Trump, Jr. is both a patriot and a good man. He has been relentless in his advocacy for his father and the agenda that has helped turn our country around.”
  • “My support is also unwavering for the president and his agenda — as I have shown daily in my national radio broadcasts, on the pages of Breitbart News and in speeches and appearances from Tokyo and Hong Kong to Arizona and Alabama.”
  • “President Trump was the only candidate that could have taken on and defeated the Clinton apparatus. I am the only person to date to conduct a global effort to preach the message of Trump and Trumpism; and remain ready to stand in the breach for this president’s efforts to make America great again.”
  • “My comments about the meeting with Russian nationals came from my life experiences as a Naval officer stationed aboard a destroyer whose main mission was to hunt Soviet submarines to my time at the Pentagon during the Reagan years when our focus was the defeat of ‘the evil empire’ and to making films about Reagan’s war against the Soviets and Hillary Clinton’s involvement in selling uranium to them.”
  • “My comments were aimed at Paul Manafort, a seasoned campaign professional with experience and knowledge of how the Russians operate. He should have known they are duplicitous, cunning and not our friends. To reiterate, those comments were not aimed at Don Jr.”
  • “Everything I have to say about the ridiculous nature of the Russian ‘collusion’ investigation I said on my 60 Minutes interview. There was no collusion and the investigation is a witch hunt.”
  • “I regret that my delay in responding to the inaccurate reporting regarding Don Jr has diverted attention from the president’s historical accomplishments in the first year of his presidency.”

Sounds like regret his blasting of the Trumps has backfired and destroyed his relationships with the White House, the Republicans, major funders and possibly with Breitbart, but it is probably too little, too late to stem the damage.

Bannon’s full statement (five days after the book bombshell hit):

“Donald Trump, Jr. is both a patriot and a good man. He has been relentless in his advocacy for his father and the agenda that has helped turn our country around.

My support is also unwavering for the president and his agenda — as I have shown daily in my national radio broadcasts, on the pages of Breitbart News and in speeches and appearances from Tokyo and Hong Kong to Arizona and Alabama. President Trump was the only candidate that could have taken on and defeated the Clinton apparatus. I am the only person to date to conduct a global effort to preach the message of Trump and Trumpism; and remain ready to stand in the breech for this president’s efforts to make America great again.

My comments about the meeting with Russian nationals came from my life experiences as a Naval officer stationed aboard a destroyer whose main mission was to hunt Soviet submarines to my time at the Pentagon during the Reagan years when our focus was the defeat of ‘the evil empire’ and to making films about Reagan’s war against the Soviets and Hillary Clinton’s involvement in selling uranium to them.

My comments were aimed at Paul Manafort, a seasoned campaign professional with experience and knowledge of how the Russians operate. He should have known they are duplicitous, cunning and not our friends. To reiterate, those comments were not aimed at Don Jr.

Everything I have to say about the ridiculous nature of the Russian ‘collusion’ investigation I said on my 60 Minutes interview. There was no collusion and the investigation is a witch hunt.

I regret that my delay in responding to the inaccurate reporting regarding Don Jr has diverted attention from the president’s historical accomplishments in the first year of his presidency.”

It sounds like grovelling.

But Axios’ Jonathan Swan reported last night:

Trump has been working the phones over the past several days, telling allies they need to choose between him and Bannon.

And in typical fashion Trump has given Bannon a kicking on Twitter:

A split like this won’t do the future political ambitions of Trump and especially Bannon any good.

Danyl Mclauchlan on ‘Fire and Fury’

Some observations from Danyl Mclauchlan in Michael Wolff’s book ‘Fire and Fury’: Wolff’s tale of the Trump clusterfuck is an instant classic, and strangely comforting

Journalists are supposed to protect their sources. But not all sources deserve to be protected and the best journalism, Janet Malcolm famously observed in The Journalist and the Murderer, often comes from reporters who seduce and then betray their subjects.

The seduction comes in the promise that in return for access the journalist will portray the source “fairly”, ie nobly, heroically; the way they imagine themselves; the way they desperately want to be seen.

The betrayal comes when the journalist uses their access to reveal the subject as they really are, or, at least, as the journalist prefers to depict them for the sake of a good story, which is never quite the same thing.

And any list of journalists most likely to stab you in the back for a story would have Michael Wolff’s name somewhere near the very top. A witty, talented gossip and media columnist and author with a nasty reputation for breaking embargos, burning sources, attributing off-the-record quotations and generally breaking all the rules of professional journalism, Wolff is the reporter the Trump administration bafflingly entrusted with inside access during the transition and first year of his presidency. Because he was one of the few journalists to write a flattering profile of Trump prior to the election – a device Wolff has used in the past to lure in previous victims – the White House communications team advised everyone in the new administration to cooperate with the journalist because the result would be “a positive book for the president”.

Wolff interviewed Trump, his family, Steve Bannon and more than 200 Trump insiders or members of the administration, taking up a “semi-permanent couch in the West Wing” where he became “something quite close to an actual fly on the wall,” because, Wolff explains, there was no one person in Trump’s White House who had the authority to ever tell him to leave.

Wolff took advantage of a dysfunctional administration.

One of the strengths of Wolff’s book is that it acknowledges the role the media ecosystem plays in enabling and enraging Trump, filtering out all the exaggerated nonsense and focusing on the most epic disasters.

The first half of Fire and Fury is a gossipy dissection of the White House’s key players, tragic flaws and bitter divides while, the second documents their doomed attempts to engage with the rest of the government, run the country and lead the world.

(Shortly after the election) Timothy Synder, a historian at Yale published On Tyranny, which became a bestseller. Synder specialised in the rise of totalitarian regimes and his book was a warning to the people of America. It was happening again, Synder warned, tyranny was nigh, and it would move with astonishing speed and ruthlessness to take over America’s institutions. Believing that this outcome was a foregone conclusion, Snyder advised his readers on how best to resist a totalitarian dictatorship.

In the final chapter of Fire and Fury Steve Bannon – who would have loved to do all of the terrible things Snyder warned about, but would surely have failed even if the president’s children hadn’t fought him to a standstill at every opportunity and eventually forced him to resign – puts Trump’s chances of making it to the end of his term at 33%. Either he resigns (33%), or is impeached (33%), or he limps to the end of the fourth year. No way would there be a second term. Never happen.

Many said a Trump nomination would never happen, or an election win would never happen. There are suggestions Bannon wants to stand for president in 2020 – and also that Ivanka Trump wants to stand.

I hope Snyder reads Wolff’s book and takes comfort in it. Terrible things are happening in America and in its foreign policy, but that’s been the case for many decades now, under both Republican and Democratic Presidents. If anything, Trump’s presence in the White House makes it harder for the Republican Party to deliver on its deranged and radical policy agenda. Instead of seizing control of the criminal justice system and the deep state, Trump and his dwindling rabble of supporters are under siege by them.

For a book about the worst people in the world occupying the most powerful positions in the world, Fire and Fury is oddly reassuring.

It is oddly unsurprising in the main because most of Trump’s foibles and excesses and utter bull are already well known.

But I wouldn’t call it reassuring. The Trump regime isn’t over yet, and under pressure Trump gets even more unpredictable.

Michael Wolff “one of our least reliable journalists” out-trumps Trump

Author of the book about the Trump White House, Fire and Fury, has been described as “one of our least reliable journalists”, but also that “our least reliable president could finally find himself undone at the hands” of Wolff, and that the book will pay off “from a real journalistic impact”.

Trump has responded by predictably slamming Wolff, but also praising himself – “I think that would qualify as not smart, but genius … and a very stable genius at that!” His ‘Streisand effect’ promotion of Wolff’s book may not be one of the most genius things he has done.

In a prologue to his book Wolff admits:

“Many of the accounts of what has happened in the Trump White House are in conflict with one another; many, in Trumpian fashion, are baldly untrue. These conflicts, and that looseness with the truth, if not with reality itself, are an elemental thread of the book.

“Sometimes I have let the players offer their versions, in turn allowing the reader to judge them. In other instances I have, through a consistency in the accounts and through sources I have come to trust, settled on a version of events I believe to be true.”

But Wolff claims to have trasncripts of over two hundred interviews. Business Insider: The author of the explosive new Trump book says he can’t be sure if parts of it are true

The book itself, reviewed by Business Insider from a copy acquired prior to its Friday publication, is not always clear about what level of confidence the author has in any particular assertion.

Lengthy, private conversations are reported verbatim, as are difficult-to-ascertain details like what somebody was thinking or how the person felt.

Wolff attributes his book to “more than two hundred interviews” with people including Trump and “most members of his senior staff.” According to the news website Axios, Wolff has dozens of hours of tapes to back up what he said.

They include assertions that Trump never wanted to be president, that all of his senior staff considered him an idiot, that he tried to lock the Secret Service out of his room, and that he ate at McDonald’s to avoid being poisoned.

Business Insider rounded up some more of the most eye-catching claims in this article.

Predictably Trump is in full Monty attack/denial mode (probably the best promotion possible for the book in as per the “Streisand effect’).

 

Threats, followed by a swipe at his favourite targets (now including Wolff and Steve Bannon), and then promotion of his favourite person – himself:

Michael Wolff is a total loser who made up stories in order to sell this really boring and untruthful book. He used Sloppy Steve Bannon, who cried when he got fired and begged for his job. Now Sloppy Steve has been dumped like a dog by almost everyone. Too bad!

Now that Russian collusion, after one year of intense study, has proven to be a total hoax on the American public, the Democrats and their lapdogs, the Fake News Mainstream Media, are taking out the old Ronald Reagan playbook and screaming mental stability and intelligence.

Actually, throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart. Crooked Hillary Clinton also played these cards very hard and, as everyone knows, went down in flames.

I went from VERY successful businessman, to top T.V. Star .to President of the United States (on my first try). I think that would qualify as not smart, but genius….and a very stable genius at that!

This may not be a genius response though. It reinforces the image of Trump as a self obsessed egomaniac. Perhaps he is so much a genius it appears to ordinary people as idiotic.

Drew Magary both slams the author but also claims : Michael Wolff Did What Every Other White House Reporter Is Too Cowardly to Do.

I’m gonna begin this post with the same disclaimer that needs to come with every post about Michael Wolff, which is that Wolff is a fart-sniffer whose credibility is often suspect and who represents the absolute worst of New York media-cocktail-circuit inbreeding. But in a way, it’s fitting that our least reliable president could finally find himself undone at the hands of one of our least reliable journalists.

…but the book has already caused legitimate upheaval in the administration, opened a permanent rift between President Trump and Bannon, AND it confirms what we have all always known to be true: that the president severely lacks the cognitive ability to do this job, and that he is surrounded at all times by a cadre of enablers, dunces, and outright thieves.

As much as I wanna discredit Wolff, he got receipts and, more important, he used them. Wolff got it all. Wolff nailed them.

And look how he did it. He did it by sleazily ingratiating himself with the White House, gaining access, hosting weird private dinners, and then taking full advantage of the administration’s basic lack of knowledge about how reporting works. Some of the officials Wolff got on tape claim to be unaware that they were on the record.

…he’s very much up front in the book’s intro about the fact that he was able to exploit the incredible “lack of experience” on display here. In other words, Wolff got his book by playing a bunch of naive dopes.

Wolff has spent this week thoroughly exploiting Trump and his minions the same way they’ve exploited the cluelessness of others. And he pulled it off because, at long last, there was a reporter out there willing to toss decorum aside and burn bridges the same way Trump does.

He has revealed the Emperor without clothes (that many people could see but media were too gutless to go hard on).

Everyone around Donald Trump is too polite to Donald Trump. Democrats, foreign dignitaries, underlings… all of them.

And the White House press is perhaps the worst offender. From the media pool playing along with Sarah Sanders during press conferences—conferences where Sanders openly lies and pisses on democracy—to access merchants like Maggie Haberman doling out Trump gossip like so many bread crumbs, too many reporters have been far too deferential to an administration that is brazenly racist, dysfunctional, and corrupt.

…the only end goal of their access is continued access, to preserve it indefinitely so that the copy spigot never gets shut off. They are abiding by traditional wink-wink understandings that have long existed between the government and the press covering it.

Journalists have been complicit in the fall of US democracy, and in particular have been complicit in the rise of Trump to the top of a farcical administration.

Wolff may be a sleazeball journalist but he has done what others weren’t prepared to do, and has out-sleazed Trump.

But Wolff didn’t do that. He did not engage in some endless bullshit access tango. No, Wolff actually USED his access, and extended zero courtesy to Trump on the process, and it’s going to pay off for him not just from a book sales standpoint, but from a real journalistic impact.

Ironically a gutter journalist has been prepared and able to blow the lid on the gutter that politics has become.

I am utterly sick to death of hearing anonymous reports about people inside the White House “concerned” about the madman currently in charge of everything. These people don’t deserve the courtesy of discretion. They don’t deserve to dictate the terms of coverage to people. They deserve to be torched.

Scathing of the establishment political media.

Trump ascended into power in part because he relied on other people being too nice. It’s fun to rampage through the china shop when the china shop owner is standing over there being like, “SIR, that is not how we do things here!”

If Trump refuses to abide by the standard (and now useless) “norms” of the presidency—shit, if he doesn’t even KNOW them—why should ANYONE in the press adhere to needless norms of their own?

They shouldn’t, and it appears that Michael Wolff was one of the few people to instinctively grasp that, and I hope more White House insiders follow his lead. Sometimes you need a rat to catch a rat.

A genius rat? Outsmarted.

David Remnick: The Increasing Unfitness of Donald Trump

What made the Emperor Nero tick, Suetonius writes in “Lives of the Caesars,” was “a longing for immortality and undying fame, though it was ill-regulated.”

Chaotic, corrupt, incurious, infantile, grandiose, and obsessed with gaudy real estate, Donald Trump is of a Neronic temperament. He has always craved attention. Now the whole world is his audience. In earlier times, Trump cultivated, among others, the proprietors and editors of the New York tabloids, Fox News, TMZ, and the National Enquirer. Now Twitter is his principal outlet, with no mediation necessary.

Future scholars will sift through Trump’s digital proclamations the way we now read the chroniclers of Nero’s Rome—to understand how an unhinged emperor can make a mockery of republican institutions, undo the collective nervous system of a country, and degrade the whole of public life.

Twitter may have allowed Trump to bypass, manipulate and torment the established media, but it has also left a trail of evidence, or perhaps more like an eight lane highway of evidence, of his unhinging.

…there is little doubt about who Donald Trump is, the harm he has done already, and the greater harm he threatens. He is unfit to hold any public office, much less the highest in the land.

This is not merely an orthodoxy of the opposition; his panicked courtiers have been leaking word of it from his first weeks in office.

The President of the United States has become a leading security threat to the United States.

But what can be done about it?

It seems all the world can do is watch has Trump and his presidency goes off the rails – and drags US credibility down with him.

Wolff may have a questionable reputation as a journalist, but he may have ultimately forced the United States of America to face up to the problem it has with it’s current president.

I know that some will still staunchly praise and defend Trump, but it’s likely that Wolff’s book will encourage more to look beyond the bull and Twitter and see Trump as he increasingly looks, an incompetent buffoon who managed to achieve some things, but whose negatives are too glaring and risky to keep sweeping under the White House carpet.