Thursday, September 06, 2018


The Daily Beast has just published Marlow Stern's interview with Steve Bannon. (Please note that no "Twitter mob" has descended on the Beast.) The interview was conducted in Venice during the city's film festival, in which Errol Morris's Bannon documentary, American Dharma, was screened.

On one hand, Stern confirms my fear that Bannon would have bamboozled David Remnick at the New Yorker Festival -- Stern says that Bannon bamboozled Morris:
Despite subjecting Bannon to 18 hours of interviews over three days, Morris mostly cedes the floor to a man whom many have branded a “white nationalist,” granting him a big ol’ platform to preach his controversial doctrine, one that is spreading like wildfire across Europe.

“Did I struggle with the question?” Morris said of whether he should make a film about Bannon. “The answer is yes. If the question is, am I still struggling with it? The answer would be yes.”
Stern, on the other hand, mostly holds his own with Bannon, so it's conceivable that Remnick would have done the same. I'll admit that I'm sorry the festival's audience never got to witness exchanges like these:
...Trump is an “elite” though, right?

No, he’s not at all. He’s… he’s definitely a populist. Always been an outsider.

But he’s a billionaire with a superrich father. The guy inherited tens of millions—maybe more—from his father.

But that doesn’t... it’s not... he’s a guy from Queens.

Have you seen his penthouse apartment in Manhattan? The thing is solid gold, overlooks Central Park, and is worth over $100 million.

Many times.

You don’t think that constitutes “elite”? It’s one of the nicest apartments in Manhattan. It’s a $100 million, three-story, solid-gold penthouse.

It’s a nice crib. But “elite” is not just about wealth, it’s about mind-set. Trump connects with working-class people and lower-middle-class people.


Let’s go back to American Dharma for a second. There’s a lot of talk in the film about your mission to take on the “elites,” but Trump’s initial Cabinet was worth what, $15 billion? How do you square that?

Well, first of all, they’re all self-made people.

Elaine Chao and Betsy DeVos are self-made people? They come from family money.

OK, but no, come on, just because they’re successful doesn’t mean they’re part of the American elite.

They’re billionaires!

It doesn’t mean that they’re part of the elite, and it also doesn’t mean that they did not go along 100 percent with Donald Trump’s populist program.

But if they’re billionaires, how does that not make them part of the elite? What makes someone elite?

If you’re self-made. Donald Trump is not part of the American elite. Donald Trump has always been an outsider.

But he’s not self-made.

Donald Trump is totally self-made. He took a small grubstake of his father. His father gave him, what, $100 million? $50 million? $40 million?
Can you imagine Bannon going before a live New York audience and trying to get away with saying that Trump is self-made because his father gave him only "a small grubstake" of $40-100 million? Even upmarket totebaggers would have been howling for his head. Maybe a live audience for a Bannon would have been a good idea.


ALSO: Bannon may have insisted to Marlow Stern that Trump is a populist, but The Guardian's Tom McCarthy has been reading Bob Woodward's book and tells us that a few years ago Trump couldn't even pronounce "populist":
Before Donald Trump ran for president, he needed to build his political vocabulary. And so it was in an early meeting with Steve Bannon – in 2010, when Trump was considering a presidential run to unseat Barack Obama – that Trump encountered the concept of populism.

In a scene captured in the journalist Bob Woodward’s new book Fear: Trump in the White House, Bannon told Trump that he (meaning Trump) was for the common man, against crony capitalism and insider deals.

“I love that,” Trump said, according to Woodward’s account. “That’s what I am, a popularist.”

Woodward completes the scene:

“‘No, no,’ Bannon said. ‘It’s populist.’

“‘Yeah, yeah,’ Trump insisted. ‘A popularist.’”
But I guess knowing how to speak standard English is elitist.

No comments: