Thursday, September 07, 2017


This is pathetic:
Several influential House conservatives are privately plotting ways to use the legislative calendar this fall to push their hard-line agenda — including quiet discussions about possibly mounting a leadership challenge to House Speaker Paul D. Ryan.

The group has gone so far as to float the idea of recruiting former House speaker Newt Gingrich or former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum as potential replacements for Ryan (R-Wis.) should there be a rebellion. The Constitution does not require that an elected member of the House serve as speaker.
Where would a cockamamie idea like that come from? Let's see:
The closed-door conversations are being led by Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, in consultation with his allies on the right, in particular Stephen K. Bannon, President Trump’s former chief strategist who recently returned to his perch as executive chairman of the Breitbart News website.
Bannon seems to have delusions of grandeur:
Bannon and Meadows have been talking for weeks and huddled Monday afternoon at the “Breitbart Embassy” — a Capitol Hill townhouse that houses Bannon’s office and the website’s offices. Matthew Boyle, Breitbart’s Washington editor, also joined the conversation.

In conversations with friends and associates, Bannon has described the potential move against Ryan, should tensions escalate, as the beginning of a “war” against the Republican establishment.
The beginning of a "war"? Oh, please. Breitbart has been at "war" with the Republican establishment since before Bannon went to the White House. The establishment is still in place -- it just can't govern, even though the GOP controls both houses of Congress and the White House, in large part because of Breitbart's pals in the Freedom Caucus. But the Freedom Caucus is only powerful enough to block the Republican establishment agenda; it's not powerful enough to overthrow that establishment -- certainly not with a ridiculous idea like electing a new speaker who isn't a current member of Congress.

But the idea is man-bites-dog enough to make the news -- the story quoted above is from The Washington Post -- and that seems to be enough to satisfy Bannon. He gets press, he gets to declare "war" on someone, and who cares if the result is that President Trump gives up on the GOP, if only momentarily, because the party is too divided and dysfunctional to govern? Who cares if Republicans lose the House in 2018? Bannon got to fight a so-called "war." Bannon got media attention. For Bannon and Breitbart, life is good.

BuzzFeed has another preposterous story about Bannon:
Steve Bannon is out of the White House, back at Breitbart, and out to assert his political authority once and for all. But his first target — this month’s Republican runoff in the Alabama special Senate election — is a weird fit.

... Bannon and Breitbart, long used to pumping up underdogs, are going with the frontrunner: former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, the top vote-getter in the August primary and the leader in recent polls.

... And then there’s the fact that the move seems grounded in trying to reestablish Breitbart and Bannon as a viable threat to the Republican establishment. Backing Moore bucks President Donald Trump, who has endorsed Sen. Luther Strange, the GOP establishment favorite who was appointed to the seat earlier this year.
Bannon is backing Moore not so much because he wants to defy Trump as because he wants to stick a thumb in the eye of Mitch McConnell, who's endorsed Luther Strange, Moore's opponent.

Here's what's sad about this: First, Bannon seems to think he'll deserve the credit if Moore wins, even though Moore has been channeling (and stirring up) voter rage in Alabama for years, and thus is a perfect candidate for this era, even if his particular brand of rage is more Christian-rightist than Trump's. Moore is winning this race on his own, but Bannon wants Moore's victory, if it comes, to be seen as a Bannon production.

Second, Bannon is doing this even though his readers don't care:
A low-stakes Senate primary isn’t a place where Breitbart can expect to reap millions of readers, but it does offer something else: The former White House strategist has set the groundwork to claim credit for a victory.

“The audience doesn't give two shits about Roy Moore versus Luther Strange,” said a former Breitbart employee who worked with Bannon. “There’s a very serious gap between what Bannon’s interests are and what Breitbart's interests are as a business and a site.”

While the contest is clearly a priority for Bannon, the former Breitbart employee said most regular national readers tend to care little about his pet races — preferring to click on tried-and-true conservative web content about issues like illegal immigration....
Breitbart doesn't drive voters to the polls in races like this. The BuzzFeed story reminds us of Breitbart's role in the 2012 Missouri Senate race:
Todd Akin emerged from a competitive GOP primary with help from evangelicals and from Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill, who highlighted his ultra-conservative views in an ad because she suspected he would be her weakest general election opponent. Sure enough, Akin’s campaign later imploded after he asserted in an interview that “legitimate rape” rarely causes pregnancy.

The Republican establishment soon was walking sideways from Akin — but not Breitbart. “Mainstream Media Cover Akin's Gaffe Non-Stop But Ignore Biden's 'Chains' Blunder,” read one headline on the website. “It’s also worth noting that Akin likely meant ‘forcible rape’ when he said ‘legitimate rape,’” Breitbart’s John Nolte wrote in another piece. “He claims he misspoke, and it makes sense that what he meant was to exclude consensual sex that the law later qualifies as rape, such as statutory rape.”
Akin lost by 16 points. So much for what happens when Breitbart goes to "war" on your behalf in a state race.

Not mentioned in the BuzzFeed story is Breitbart's effort to unseat Paul Ryan in 2016. Breitbart ran story after story attacking Ryan and praising his primary challenger, Paul Nehlen. When the ballots were counted, Ryan won that primary, 84%-16%, after which he won the general election by 35 points. Another electoral failure for the "war"-fighters at Breitbart.

Bannon is a legend in his own mind. He tells the dupes who read his site that he's taking the battle to the establishment; he lucked out with Donald Trump (thanks to a little help from Russia, James Comey, and an email-obsessed mainstream media), but he hasn't really done anything else to the establishment except make it more dysfunctional, and less able to pass either its own agenda or Trump's. But if he can keep his readers believing that he's the giant-killer, then I guess it doesn't matter that the giants rarely seem to fall.

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