TO the victors go the spoils, and having been the main driving force in the team that got Donald Trump elected President of the USA, Steve Bannon has become The Donald’s chief strategist in the White House.
He has also been nominated for the National Security Council and that is causing a great deal of grief in Washington DC as Bannon’s military and security experience consists of seven years’ service in the US Navy in the 1970s and 80s.
WHO IS HE?
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BANNON is a 62-year-old from Virginia who was raised, in his own words, in “a blue-collar, Irish Catholic, pro-Kennedy, pro-union family of Democrats”.
He has been married and divorced three times, with the split from his second wife being particularly messy as she alleged domestic violence, although the charges were later dropped.
Bannon has three adult daughters, with his eldest, Maureen, a champion basketball player, having attended West Point military academy and served in the 101st Airborne Division, known as the Screaming Eagles.
On leaving the Navy he made a career in investment banking – mainly with Goldman Sachs – and then his own boutique bank which specialised in media investments. He sold the bank, making millions, and then concentrated on a career in the media and film industry, producing such films as In The Face of Evil, a documentary about Ronald Reagan. He has had numerous stints as chairman and director of media-related companies, including a spell as chief executive of Affinity Media.
Through that Reagan production he met the publisher Andrew Breitbart and became a founder member of the board of Breitbart News, a right-wing website. From the start it was incendiary and it is known that the financial crisis of 2008 encouraged Bannon to become very hostile to the major financial institutions and the ‘Washington elite’ – he is said to detest the republican establishment only slightly less than the Democrats’ leaders.
He took over the running of Breitbart in 2012 after Andrew Breitbart’s death. Under Bannon, the website became famous – or infamous, depending on your viewpoint – for its extreme right-wing agenda, described as ‘alt-right’ by Bannon himself.
He continued to produce and finance films, including a flattering appraisal of Sarah Palin, and became heavily involved in the right-wing politics exemplified by the Tea Party.
SO HOW DID HE HELP GET TRUMP ELECTED?
AS soon as Trump made it clear in 2012 that he was a serious candidate for the White House, Bannon swung Breitbart behind him and he regularly featured Trump on the website and in his radio show.
With Trump behind in the polls, Bannon left Breitbart in August last year to become chief executive of the Trump campaign. He already had experience of trashing Hillary Clinton as he was involved in a book that exposed how the Clintons made their millions.
It was Breitbart who got the Trump campaign to go so heavily on the attack against Clinton and, assisted by the FBI, the mud stuck.
SO HOW POWERFUL IS HE?
EXTREMELY. He is Trump’s right-hand man and already many of the President’s words and tweets have originated in Bannon’s mind.
Time Magazine has called him the Great Manipulator, and suggested he might be the second most powerful man in the world.
Comparisons have already been made to the court of King Louis XIII of France in the early 17th century, when Cardinal Richelieu actually ran the country and conducted internal and foreign affairs with his own agenda.
Inside the White House he is known as one of the few men who can walk into the Oval Office uninvited. He doesn’t have to wear a suit and tie, either.
It is believed he was the main mover and part author of the Executive Order that Trump signed banning nationals from seven mainly Muslim countries from entering the USA.
Bannon will now also be a member of the top inter-agency group for discussing national security. Democrat minority leader, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, said: “It’s a stunning thing, that a white supremacist would be a permanent member of the National Security Council.”
Bannon says he is not a “white nationalist” but an “economic nationalist”.
IS HE LOYAL TO HIS BOSS?
AT the moment he is completely loyal to Trump and is virulently opposed to the mainstream media and its views on the President.
In an interview after the inauguration, he told the New York Times: “The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while.
“I want you to quote this. The media here is the opposition party. They don’t understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the President of the United States.”
Bannon understands perfectly why Trump won, because he more than anyone made it happen.