Monday, September 11, 2017


The Charlie Rose interview of Steve Bannon aired on 60 Minutes last night. I can't decide which of two possibilities is more likely: Did Rose deliberately pull his punches in order to let Bannon get away with making easily challengeable statements, or did Rose simply not know how to challenge those statements?

A few examples, from CBS' partial transcript.

On immigration, Bannon said that DACA should be allowed to expire, after which its recipients would "self-deport." The obvious rebuttal to that is that many of them wouldn't self-deport -- so does America hunt them down and round them up? Rose's challenge was much milder: "That's being deported." To which Bannon said, in effect, "Yup." But this was the opportunity to paint a picture of what that would look like, and to challenge the bloodless "self-deport" nonsense. Instead, Rose allowed Bannon -- the most pompous right-wing pseudo-historian in American public life since Newt Gingrich -- to say play the history card:
STEVE BANNON: there's no path to citizenship, no path to a green card and no amnesty. Amnesty is non-negotiable.

CHARLIE ROSE: America was, in the eyes of so many people, and it's what people respect America for, it is people have been able to come here, find a place, contribute to the economy. That's what immigration has been in America. And you seem to want to turn it around and stop it.

STEVE BANNON: You couldn't be more dead wrong. America was built on her citizens.

CHARLIE ROSE: We're all immigrants.

STEVE BANNON: America was built on her--

CHARLIE ROSE: Except the Native Americans--

STEVE BANNON: --don't-- don't g-- don't-- don't--

CHARLIE ROSE: --who were here.

STEVE BANNON: --don't-- don't give me-- this is the thing of the leftists. Charlie, that's beneath you. America's built on our sys-- on our citizens. Look at the 19th century. What built America's called the American system, from Hamilton to Polk to Henry Clay to Lincoln to the Roosevelts. A system of protection of our manufacturing, financial system that lends to manufacturers, OK, and the control of our borders. Economic nationalism is what this country was built on. The American system. Right?
Control of our borders? In the nineteenth century? That's not even close to the truth. Why didn't Rose say so?

Rose also had the chance to challenge Bannon's phony populism -- he's the guy who says he stands up for the ordinary American, and yet what makes his heart beat faster when he talks about nineteenth-century America is "A system of protection of our manufacturing, financial system that lends to manufacturers, OK, and the control of our borders." Workers -- white laborers and, of course, slaves -- completely disappear from this. And Bannon says he hates "elites"?

On Russia, Bannon and RDose had this exchange:
STEVE BANNON: There's nothing to the Russia investigation. It's a waste of time.

CHARLIE ROSE: What do you believe? You know what the National Security-- Institution believes. What do you believe--

STEVE BANNON: What do you mean, what they believe? We don't really. I mean, that there may have been-- I-- I think-- look, I was there--

CHARLIE ROSE: No, no, no, you were-- you--

STEVE BANNON: --it's a total and complete farce. Russian collusion is a farce.

CHARLIE ROSE: OK, I didn't say collusion. Did the Russians try to influence the election?

STEVE BANNON: If you consider maybe something they did that at the DNC-- who-- who--

CHARLIE ROSE: Maybe something they did--

STEVE BANNON: --maybe someone that did--

CHARLIE ROSE: That's not what the CIA believes. That's not what the FBI believes--

STEVE BANNON: --maybe-- maybe what they-- have you seen-- have you seen the intelligence reports?


STEVE BANNON: OK, fine. So you don't know--

CHARLIE ROSE: Have you seen intelligence reports--

STEVE BANNON: I have seen the intelligence reports--

CHARLIE ROSE: And are you saying to me those intelligence reports do not suggest that the Russians tried to influence the election--

STEVE BANNON: I don't-- I would never devolve classified information on this show. But let me tell you, I think it's far from conclusive that the Russians had any impact on this election.
Bannon challenges Rose's assertion that the CIA and FBI believe Russia interfered in the election by arguing that we don't know that for sure because the intelligence reports aren't public. But a declassified intelligence community report said this was true. Intelligence officials have repeatedly said this was true in public forums. Bannon shouldn't be allowed to hide behind a pious declaration that he won't "devolve" secret information. But Rose lets him do just that.

And then there's this, on the subject of Trump and Twitter:
STEVE BANNON: ... I believe you're gonna see over time he's gonna have a greater appreciation that this is a city of institutions, and you must engage them as institutions, not just as personalities.

CHARLIE ROSE: Does that mean he'll be more quote "presidential."

STEVE BANNON: I think-- by the way, I think-- when you say presidential I think he's very presidential.


STEVE BANNON: OK-- OK, I think he's very presidential. This is one of the things he uses OK, he uses Twitter-- and not-- they used to call me, "Oh, you're the-- you're the enabler of the Twitter." I think what he does on Twitter is extraordinary. He disintermediates the media. He goes above their head and talks directly to the American people.

CHARLIE ROSE: It's not a question of going over the head of the American-- of-- over the head of the media, it's what he says.

STEVE BANNON: It's what he says. No, it's what he says that the mainstream media, the pearl-clutching mainstream media. The pearl-clutching mainstream media. What they deem is not correct, what they deem is not right.

CHARLIE ROSE: No, it's not a question--

STEVE BANNON: If you ask--

CHARLIE ROSE: --about right or not right.

STEVE BANNON: What you deem--

CHARLIE ROSE: It's not a question of appropriateness. It's--

STEVE BANNON: It's what you deem is--

CHARLIE ROSE: --it's a question of whether it's in his interest. That's the point. Not the appropriateness of it.
No, Charlie -- the problem with Trump's Twitter habit is "the appropriateness of it." He could use Twitter to get us into a war. He's using Twitter right now to threaten allies with trade wars. He's using Twitter to divide America into, in effect, his backers and enemies of America. The issue isn't whether Trump's use of Twitter is in "his interest." It's whether it's in America's interest.

But this seems to be what Rose and 60 Minutes wanted: Bannon holding forth, Bannon making provocative, newsworthy, potentially viral comments -- even if he's wrong on the facts. Rose challenged Bannon a few times, but for the most part Bannon was given the opportunity to broadcast large portions of the Manifesto of Himself he obviously spends much of his waking hours writing and rewriting in his head. Why allow him to do that? He has his own high-profile website. Let him beat his chest there.

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