Full Text of NYT article on Neo-Nazi Bannon’s National Security Council Coup

WASHINGTON — The whirlwind first week of Donald J. Trump’s presidency had all the bravura hallmarks of a Stephen K. Bannon production.

It started with the doom-hued inauguration homily to “American carnage” in United States cities co-written by Mr. Bannon, followed a few days later by his “shut up” message to the news media. The week culminated with a blizzard of executive orders, mostly hatched by Mr. Bannon’s team and the White House policy adviser, Stephen Miller, aimed at disorienting the “enemy,” fulfilling campaign promises and distracting attention from Mr. Trump’s less than flawless debut.

But the defining moment for Mr. Bannon came Saturday night in the form of an executive order giving the rumpled right-wing agitator a full seat on the “principals committee” of the National Security Council — while downgrading the roles of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of national intelligence, who will now attend only when the council is considering issues in their direct areas of responsibilities. It is a startling elevation of a political adviser, to a status alongside the secretaries of state and defense, and over the president’s top military and intelligence advisers.

In theory, the move put Mr. Bannon, a former Navy surface warfare officer, admiral’s aide, investment banker, Hollywood producer and Breitbart News firebrand, on the same level as his friend, Michael T. Flynn, the national security adviser, a former Pentagon intelligence chief who was Mr. Trump’s top adviser on national security issues before a series of missteps reduced his influence.

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But in terms of real influence, Mr. Bannon looms above almost everyone except the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, in the Trumpian pecking order, according to interviews with two dozen Trump insiders and current and former national security officials. The move involving Mr. Bannon, as well as the boost in status to the White House homeland security adviser, Thomas P. Bossert, and Mr. Trump’s relationships with cabinet appointees like Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, have essentially layered over Mr. Flynn.

Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, said Mr. Bannon — whose Breitbart website was a magnet for white nationalists, antiglobalists and conspiracy theorists — always planned to participate in national security. Mr. Flynn welcomed his participation, Mr. Spicer said, but the general “led the reorganization of the N.S.C.” in order to streamline an antiquated and bloated bureaucracy.

Former White House officials in both parties were shocked by the move.

“The last place you want to put somebody who worries about politics is in a room where they’re talking about national security,” said Leon E. Panetta, a former White House chief of staff, defense secretary and C.I.A. director in two Democratic administrations.

“I’ve never seen that happen, and it shouldn’t happen. It’s not like he has broad experience in foreign policy and national security issues. He doesn’t. His primary role is to control or guide the president’s conscience based on his campaign promises. That’s not what the National Security Council is supposed to be about.”

That opinion was shared by President George W. Bush’s last chief of staff, Josh Bolten, who barred Karl Rove, Mr. Bush’s political adviser, from N.S.C. meetings. A president’s decisions made with those advisers, he told a conference audience in September, “involve life and death for the people in uniform” and should “not be tainted by any political decisions.”

Susan E. Rice, President Barack Obama’s last national security adviser, called the arrangement “stone cold crazy” in a tweet posted Sunday.

Mr. Spicer said the language the Trump White House used in its N.S.C. executive order is, with the exception of Mr. Bannon’s position — which was created during the transition — almost identical in content to one the Bush administration drafted in 2001. And Mr. Obama’s top political operative, David Axelrod, sat in on some N.S.C. meetings, he added.

There were key differences. Mr. Axelrod never served as a permanent member as Mr. Bannon will now, though he sat in on some critical meetings, especially as Mr. Obama debated strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan. “It’s a profound shift,” Mr. Axelrod said. “I don’t know what his bona fides are to be the principal foreign policy adviser to the president.”

But Mr. Bannon’s elevation does not merely reflect his growing influence on national security. It is emblematic of Mr. Trump’s trust on a range of political and ideological issues.

During the campaign, the sly and provocative Mr. Bannon played a paradoxical role — calming the easily agitated candidate during his frequent rough patches and egging him on when he felt Mr. Trump needed to fire up the white working-class base. The president respects Mr. Bannon because he is independently wealthy and therefore does not need the job, and both men ascribe to a shoot-the-prisoners credo when put on the defensive, according to the former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.

Mr. Bannon is a deft operator within the White House, and he has been praised by Republicans who view him skeptically as the most knowledgeable on policy around the president. But his stated preference for blowing things up — as opposed to putting them back together — may not translate to his new role.

The hasty drafting of the immigration order, and its scattershot execution, brought a measure of Mr. Bannon’s chaotic and hyperaggressive political style to the more predictable administration of the federal government. Within hours of the edict, airport customs and border agents were detaining or blocking dozens of migrant families, some of whom had permanent resident status, until John F. Kelly, the new homeland security secretary, intervened.

Mr. Kelly’s department had suggested green card holders be exempted from the order, but Mr. Bannon and Mr. Miller, a hard-liner on immigration, overruled him, according to two American officials.

Mr. Priebus, speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, indicated a softening of the stance, saying the order would not block “green card holders moving forward” — but said anyone seeking to enter the country from the listed countries would be subjected to tighter scrutiny.

People close to Mr. Bannon said he is not accumulating power for power’s sake, but is instead helping to fill a staff leadership vacuum created, in part, by Mr. Flynn’s stumbling performance as national security adviser.

Mr. Flynn still communicates with Mr. Trump frequently, and his staff has been assembling a version of the Presidential Daily Briefing for Mr. Trump, truncated but comprehensive, to be the president’s main source of national security information. During the campaign, he often had unfettered access to the candidate, who appreciated his brash style and contempt for Hillary Clinton, but during the transition, Mr. Flynn privately complained about having to share face time with others.

Mr. Flynn “has the full confidence of the president and his team,” Hope Hicks, a spokeswoman for Mr. Trump, said in an email. Emails and phone calls to Mr. Flynn and his top aide were not returned.

A president who likes generals and abhors political correctness, Mr. Trump found in Mr. Flynn — who joined Trump backers in an anti-Clinton “lock her up!” chant during the campaign — perhaps the most politically incorrect general this side of his hero, Gen. George S. Patton.

But Mr. Flynn, a lifelong Democrat sacked as head of the Pentagon’s intelligence arm after clashing with Obama administration officials in 2014, has gotten on the nerves of Mr. Trump and other administration officials because of his sometimes overbearing demeanor, and has further diminished his internal standing by presiding over a chaotic and opaque N.S.C. transition process that prioritized the hiring of military officials over civilian experts recommended to him by his own team.

Mr. Flynn’s penchant for talking too much was on display on Friday in a meeting with Theresa May, the British prime minister, according to two people with direct knowledge of the events.

When Mrs. May said that she understood wanting a dialogue with Mr. Putin but stressed the need to be careful, Mr. Trump asked Mr. Flynn when the two were scheduled to speak.

Mr. Flynn replied it was Saturday — he had delayed it to fit in Mrs. May’s meeting for “protocol” as a United States ally, adding at length that Mr. Putin was impatient to chat.

Mr. Trump, the person said, appeared irritated by the response.

Still, the episode that did the most damage to the Trump-Flynn relationship occurred in early December when Mr. Flynn’s son, also named Michael, unleashed a series of tweets pushing a discredited conspiracy theory that Clinton associates had run a child sex-slave ring out of a Washington pizza restaurant.

Mr. Trump told his staff to get rid of the younger Mr. Flynn, who had been hired by his father to help during the transition. But Mr. Trump did so reluctantly because of his loyalty during the campaign, when dozens of former military officials were dismissing Mr. Trump as too unstable to command.

“I want him fired immediately,” Mr. Trump said in a muted rendition of his “You’re fired!” line in “The Apprentice,” according to two people with knowledge of the interaction.

That has not stopped the general’s son from spouting off: On Saturday, at a time when Trump surrogates were pushing back on the idea that the executive order did not discriminate against any religion, the younger Mr. Flynn tweeted his approval of the policy, adding “#MuslimBan.” The tweet was subsequently deleted; his entire account disappeared later in the day.

Still, the national security adviser has also continued to dabble in the kind of bomb-throwing behavior that concerns Mr. Trump’s allies, such as planning to attend an anti-Clinton “Deploraball” event at the time of the inauguration. He was urged to skip it by Trump allies, and ultimately agreed.

Both Mr. Trump and Mr. Bannon still regard Mr. Flynn as an asset. “In the room and out of the room, Steve Bannon is General Flynn’s biggest defender,” said Kellyanne Conway, another top adviser to the president.

But it is unclear when the maneuvers to reduce Mr. Flynn’s role began. Two Obama administration officials said Trump transition officials inquired about expanded national security roles for Mr. Bannon and Mr. Kushner at the earliest stages of the transition in November — before the younger Mr. Flynn became a liability — but after Mr. Flynn had begun to chafe on the nerves of his colleagues on the team.

Mr. Flynn’s reputation has raised questions among some in the cabinet. Two weeks ago, both men held a meeting with Rex W. Tillerson, Mr. Trump’s pick to run the State Department, Mr. Mattis and Mike Pompeo, now the C.I.A. director, to discuss coordination — Mr. Flynn was invited but did not attend.

Part of the meeting was devoted to discussing concerns about Mr. Flynn, according to an official with knowledge of it.


What exactly is/was racism, anyway?

I don’t think many people actually remember what racism used to be like here in the US (and elsewhere).

They don’t recall the open denigration of others as “inferior”. Hmm – even the word ‘denigration’ is itself prejudicial: it’s the assumption that this other group is untrustworthy, immoral, lazy, dishonest, stupid, and basically sub-human, by calling them black.

Today as I was taking my Sunday afternoon nap, I began remembering actual, personal experiences and personal interactions that I lived through in the 1950s and 1960s – as a white kid in DC and the MD  countryside. These memories put clearly into relief  just how bad it really was, right here in DC and in other parts of the US, and I was able to relate this to the many unhappy events in central Europe in the middle of the 20th century, if you get my drift.

Many of my white playmates from then-rural Clarksburg, Md openly used the n-word, in addition to “darkies”, “coons”, and, more neutrally, “colored”. Using the word “Negro” implied some recognition of their basic humanity and possible equality. However, if you insisted that you wouldn’t really mind if your sister married a black man (“black” was very rarely used back then), and if you made the apparently outrageous claim that there were some African-Americans who were nice and honest and hardworking and so on, then you had to then defend yourself against the charge of being a “nigger-lover”. From kids who were your classmates and whom you played with or against or ignored every day on the playground at school or in each other’s fields and woods.


And these kids also said it’s really too bad that the Confederacy lost, and that the best solution was simply to kill or re-enslave all the n—-s, or else send them back to Africa.

[No, I didn’t march on Washington with Dr. King in 1963. I was only 13, and I spent the afternoon playing some board game at a friend’s house, where we watched it on TV — or at least so I remember. I know my dad went, and I think my oldest brother went, but I could be conflating this march and another one. I don’t recall whether my mom went, but my other brother (15 at the time) and my sister (7 at the time) didn’t go either – she pointed out that there was a lot of anxiety that the march would be violent — though it turned out to be utterly peaceful. Later on, I did march and protest and wrote leaflets or something against South African apartheid, and went to debate the racist engineer William Shockley and ended up mock-applauding him — every time he started to open his mouth. It was a brilliant maneuver by members of the black student union who had come up with this way of shutting him up. You could look it up: I’m attacked by name in a crappy book called “Hollow Men”…]

The words are clearly offensive.

But it’s much more than the words: it’s the attitude that this other group of people is utterly subhuman. Any facts that contradicted this attitude were instantly dismissed; if you advocated otherwise, you were at times subjecting yourself to violence. It’s also the idea that EQUALITY ITSELF with those people is intolerable – it was an affront that needed to be met with pitiless, immediate brutality.

The connection to central Europe may not be obvious at first, but I assure you that it’s there. I recently read or re-read William L. Shirer’s Rise and Fall of the Third Reich after it was re-isssued on its 50th publication anniversary. Disgusted by the hideous ideas and criminal practices of Hitler and the Nazis, I decided to read some of Mein Kampf, which Shirer had repeatedly quoted from in his analysis of that criminal regime’s meteoric rise and satanic demise.

You see, Hitler was born not in Germany proper (neither republican or imperial), but in Austria, directly south-east of Germany itself. It helps to have studied European history, and I did: I helped my dad do historical research (he was a history prof at American U who specialized in European/American/agricultural history particularly in the 1700s and 1800s) and did translations from French into English and lived and went to school in France and had family friends who had just made it out of Nazi-controlled sections of Europe just in time, while the rest of their families perished…

So the Austro-Hungarian empire was sort of the continuation of one section of the Hapsburg empires that used to control huge sections of the lowlands (eg BeNeLux), Spain, Portugal, Latin America, the Philippines, northern Italy, parts of today’s Germany, a good fraction of the Balkan peninsula, and spent hundreds of years fighting against or on the same side of the Turks, Romanians, Serbs, Croats, Slovenes, Hungarians, Bulgars, Russians, and everybody else. In addition to all of those nationalities, the Austro-Hungarian empire also contained Poles, Jews, Gypsies, Byelorussians, Tatars, and a whole bunch of other peoples that you and I probably couldn’t tell apart if they were all dressed alike and had the same haircuts and so on.

Obviously, they all speak different languages and with different accents, and have long histories involving many wars.

Hitler’s book makes it clear that he was obsessed with proving that all of the other peoples of Vienna — all the Czechs, Slovaks, Jews, Magyars, Gypsies, Italians, and so on were utterly inferior, untrustworthy, immoral, and lazy people that needed to be forced to submit to the German race. And that anybody — like the Socialists or Communists — who advocated and practiced multi-racial unity of the working-class against the capitalists and aristocracy, deserved to be killed as soon as he and his gang had enough followers to do so.

It’s also clear from Shirer’s analysis of the history of the 3rd Reich that Hitler’s gang of Nazis was bankrollled, armed, outfitted, staffed, and given weapons and training by the German Army itself and its general staff, which operated in very close ranks with the aristocracy and the heads of the largest corporations. Hitler’s particular genius consisted of two things which many other psychopaths also excel at:

(1) He was an excellent speaker, very good at reading his audience and bringing them around to his point of view by telling them the lies they wanted to hear. (Kind of like Mitt Romney)

(2) He was a ruthless and utterly immoral maneuverer, able to form alliances and then to double-cross his former allies and humiliate them in a highly successful manner.

But his ultimate goal was to enslave all of the rest of the world, starting with Eastern Europeans (Slavs and Jews first of all), with Hitler as its murderous Fuehrer (leader, chief…).

The really sad thing is that so many Germans fell for it. Real resistance among Germans was very tiny, except for those who went into exile, like the Communists in the International Brigades in Spain or the Jews who got out just in time.  But those two groups were, obviously, no longer in Germany fighting back. Kibbutzniks I knew in Israel in the early 1970s described to me how disillusioned they were when, during the 1930’s still living in Germany, they saw that a given apartment building housing workers (and no managers) in, say, Berlin, one day stopped flying the Red Flag out of all of the windows on occasions that called for that sort of thing, and the next day, flew the Nazi Swastika instead.

Over the past 40 years, I’ve often wondered how that change occurred. Was it the result of plain, out-and-out intimidation, i.e., “fly this Nazi flag or you die”?

Or was it persuasion?

I don’t know.

However, two other books on Germany called “Hitler’s Willing Executioners”  and “Hitler’s Beneficiaries” indicated that the line that Germans had no choice and would be killed if they objected to genocide and so on, is just a line. Or, should I say, a lie. A German soldier could always refuse to kill Jewish,  Polish and Russian civilians. Few refused, and many volunteered. And until the very end of the war, Hitler managed to insulate most Germans from the consequences of World War 2, giving them new apartments and furniture if they got bombed out — apartments and furnishings looted from all those who were not ethnically German, starting, of course, with Jews. Even the exchange rates were diabolically manipulated so that German soldiers could go to conquered France and buy up everything for a song (including good food, girls, fine fashions, wine, and so on) while the non-Germans often were starved to death. (The French were treated much better than the Eastern Europeans.)

Here in the US, let us remember that non-landowning whites in the South also felt that they personally benefited from slavery. There were certain jobs that they would not have to work at, or at least not in the same degrading conditions and lack of remuneration. And, they could make a fairly decent (if somewhat precarious) living as a slave-driver, a foreman, a chain-gang sheriff, or a slave-catcher; none of which are nearly as unpleasant and as deadly as being a slave or a forced laborer under Jim Crow.

This attitude of contempt by whites, against blacks, often simply served to divide the working class in America. Blacks were often brought in by the capitalists to break totally JUSTIFIED strikes by white workers who previously refused to allow blacks to work alongside them. In a memorable textile strike in Gastonia, NC, the white workers who were on strike utterly refused to sit alongside black workers who were on strike along with them against textile manufacturers who were exploiting them. In a few other cases, working-class organizations such as the IWW and the CIO were successful in getting white and black and other colors to unite, correctly, against a common enemy and earn a better livelihood, safer conditions, and better pay by uniting.

But a lot of strikes were broken via racism.

Let us remember how vicious these racists really were.

And let’s not pretend that hypocrites like Strom Thurmond, Newt Gingrich, and even Thomas Jefferson were really about equality and freedom for all.

Published in: on October 14, 2012 at 3:05 pm  Comments (1)  
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