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Bannon Profile

The Low-Down on Stephen Bannon

Chief+White+House+Strategist+Steve+Bannon+shakes+hands+with+Chief+of+Staff+Reince+Priebus.+Photo+by+Gage+Skidmore%3B+shared+under+Creative+Commons+Attribution-Share+Alike+2.0+Generic+license.
Chief White House Strategist Steve Bannon shakes hands with Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. Photo by Gage Skidmore; shared under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

Chief White House Strategist Steve Bannon shakes hands with Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. Photo by Gage Skidmore; shared under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

Chief White House Strategist Steve Bannon shakes hands with Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. Photo by Gage Skidmore; shared under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

Trent Blanchard

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When Donald Trump took the oath of office on January 21st, he effectively became the most powerful man in the country. But no man rules alone. In this new administration, just as in prior administrations, it will be the new President’s closest advisers who ultimately play the biggest role in shaping the actions of the White House over the next 4 years. In the early weeks of the new administration, one man seems to have the President’s ear more than any other, and that man is Stephen Bannon.

It should be no surprise that the chief executive of Trump’s successful campaign for the presidency would be rewarded in kind for his service.  He was swiftly appointed the then President-Elect’s chief strategist and senior counselor just 4 days after the election. But in an administration marred by controversial figures, Bannon quickly drew great ire from the media and the public. However, the same reasons he draws such controversy is the same reason that many so vehemently support him.

Born in Virginia in 1953, Bannon excelled in school, receiving a Bachelor’s Degree in urban planning from Virginia Tech before earning a Master’s in national security studies and business administration with honors from Georgetown University and Harvard Business School respectively. Bannon would go on to serve 7 years in the Navy as an officer in the late 70s and early 80s, then enter the business world with Goldman Sachs following the end of his service.

At Goldman Sachs, Bannon had a successful run, having risen to Vice President of the company upon the time he left the company for another shift in career direction. This shift saw Bannon take his first foray into the media world with his own investment bank company, which specialized in dealing with media organizations. This opened the door for Bannon to enter the film industry himself during the late 90s.

Bannon took this experience in the media industry and began to use it to push his own conservative and anti-establishment agenda, supporting groups like the Tea Party. In 2007, along with Andrew Breitbart, Bannon founded Breitbart News to challenge a perceived dominance by the left in the mainstream media. When Breitbart died in 2012, Bannon took the reins as new CEO and quickly finished transitions started by Breitbart to expand Breitbart News’ coverage and image. This expansion led to their publishing of conspiracy theories and other tabloid-esque stories leaning far right. It was his work in turning Breitbart into such a success among the right that eventually got Bannon the job as chief executive for Trump’s campaign.

From his new position, Bannon’s influence has already been felt through some of President Trump’s executive orders. Executive order 13769 or Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States was enacted by President Trump six days after taking office and is known to be drafted in large part by Bannon himself (along with most of Trump’s executive orders to date). This executive order bans people who hail from 7 majority muslim nations in the Middle East and North Africa from entering the country and has thus been referred to in the media as a “Muslim Ban.” (Despite vigorous protests to the contrary.)

Bannon’s influence for the ban can more or less be traced back to his days in documentary filmmaking. In 2007, Bannon produced an 8 page outline for a new documentary that would be titled Destroying the Great Satan: The Rise of Islamic Fascism in America in which he looked to brand Islam as a “culture of intolerance” and warned that the United States would be taken over by Islamic fundamentalists and turned into an Islamic Republic enabled by the mainstream media, the Jewish community, and U.S. government agencies including the CIA and FBI. This is a belief that Bannon still believes in and he elaborated on in 2014 to a Vatican conference of conservative Catholics. It was at this conference that Bannon stated that he believes that the Judeo-Christian West is in a “global war against Islamic fascism” caused by “crony-capitalists” and secularists in the West and called upon the “church militant” to fight this war, as reported by Buzzfeed earlier this year.

Another high profile controversy surrounding the fledgling administration is it’s well documented battle with the media, whom President Trump has declared as an “enemy of the American People.” Bannon’s hand seems to be firmly at the helm of this strategy as well. In a rare interview with the New York Times, Bannon had nothing but harsh words for the media, claiming they “should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while.” He continued, going so far as to call the the media “the opposition party,” saying, “They don’t understand this country.”

Many have interpreted the former Breitbart CEO’s words as a threat to a free press and infer that if Trump is waging a war on the mainstream media, Bannon is the general pulling the strings from behind the frontline that is the White House’s James S. Brady Press Briefing Room. Yet despite this power, Bannon’s influence over the new administration may be even more extensive than previously thought.

When the President issued the National Security Presidential Memorandum 2, observers noticed two important changes from previous administrations. First was that the Director of National Intelligence and the chief  of the Joint Chief of Staff are no longer permanent members of the National Security Council’s (NSC) Principals Committee (where much of the country’s national security policy is created) and would instead only attend “where issues pertaining to their responsibilities and expertise are to be discussed.”

Secondly, taking their place on the Principals Committee is Steve Bannon. Since there are no specific guidelines as to how the NSC must be organized, the attendees, selected by the President, are fairly indicative of how the President wishes to approach national security. For many, the inclusion of a man who believes we are in a religious war with Islam, who is a  self proclaimed Leninist, who wishes to “destroy the state,” and who wishes to “bring [the establishment] crashing down” in such a high position of power is worrying.

As if the situation couldn’t be anymore confusing and unorthodox, the New York Times broke a story that was quickly picked up by Fox News and others taking a look at the power struggle going on behind the walls of the west wing in which it was revealed that Trump was unaware of these changes to the NSC when he signed the executive order putting them into effect. As chief strategist to the President, it is likely that Bannon wrote at least part of the order before sending it to President Trump for approval. If these leaks from inside the administration are true, then not only does it show the chaos unfolding in the White House, but also hints that Bannon, not Trump, is the one calling the shots.

No man rules alone. The leader of the country needs people, willing or not, who will help enact his agenda if he hopes to achieve his goals. So that begs the question, is Bannon just an extra special pawn on Trump’s chessboard, or has he been the true King the whole game?

2 Comments

2 Responses to “Bannon Profile”

  1. D. Miles on March 22nd, 2017 12:10 pm

    Thank you, Trent, on this wonderfully elegant, thorough piece on President Bannon.

  2. anonymous on March 22nd, 2017 9:48 pm

    Great article!

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