In his first major interview since departing Trump administration, former White House chief strategist and current Breitbart editor Steve Bannon discussed a number of highly revealing issues on "60 Minutes" with Charlie Rose. There's much to dig into, but one particular interaction between Bannon and Rose caught my attention as it revealed the sheer nastiness and misogynistic culture prevalent in the Trump campaign team that continues to this day.
When asked about the fallout after the leaked "Access Hollywood" tape that heard Trump tell Billy Bush that he could grab women "by the pussy" and "do anything" to them because he was "a star", Bannon appeared to take a great deal of pride in it, calling it a "litmus test" for who would be hired should Trump win.
"Trump went around the room and asked people the percentages he thought of – of still winning and what the recommendation," Bannon told Rose. "And Reince started off and Reince said, "You have – you have two choices. You either drop out right now, or you lose by the biggest landslide in American political history." And Trump, with his humor goes, "That's a great way – that's a great way to start our – start our conversation." We went around the room. And you could tell – I could tell from the incoming of politicians and I could tell from some of the politicians that were there, is that the natural inclination of politicians are – are – are to be so overwhelmingly stunned and shocked by how the media comes on you. But Trump wasn't that. And I told him as he went around, I was the last guy to speak, and I said, "It's 100 percent. You have 100 percent probability of winning.""
Bannon's description defies belief -- not only does he flippantly discuss Trump's humor in the face of one of the vilest campaign scandals in modern political history, but appears to view it as some sort of war story that portrays those who stood with Trump as brave warriors fighting against the evil liberal media. After dismissing Trump's repugnant comments as "locker room talk" to a clearly disgusted Rose, Bannon continued regaling him with tales of their valor for sticking with a man who had admitted to sexually assaulting women. The interaction went on:
Rose: Did you lose confidence in anybody because they came to you at that point and said, "Look, he ought to get outta this race," other than Reince Priebus? I mean, did your attitude towards those people who said that, they were just wrong?
Bannon: Absolutely. The Billy Bush Saturday to me is a litmus test. It's a litmus test. And I said it the other day to [White House Chief of Staff] General [John] Kelly during the Charlottesville thing, afterwards. It's a line I remember from the movie. "The Wild Bunch." William Holden uses it right before that huge gunfight at the end. "When you side with a man, you side with him," okay? The good and the bad. You can criticize him behind, but when you side with him, you have to side with him. And that's what Billy Bush weekend showed me. Billy Bush Saturday showed me who really had Donald Trump's back to play to his better angels. All you had to do, and what he did, was go out and continue to talk to the American people. … People didn't care. They knew Donald Trump was just doing locker room talk with a guy. And they dismissed it. It had no lasting impact on the campaign. Yet, if you see the mainstream media that day, it was, literally, he was falling into Dante's Inferno.
Rose: Boy, you took names on Billy Bush Sunday, didn't you?
Bannon: I did. O – I gotta – I gotta – you know, I'm Irish. I gotta get my black book and I got 'em. … Christie, because of Billy Bush weekend – and – was – was – not looked at for a Cabinet position.
Rose: He wasn't there for you on Billy Bush weekend so therefore he doesn't get a Cabinet position?
Bannon: I told him, "The plane leaves at 11 o'clock in the morning. If you're on the plane, you're on the team." Didn't make the plane.
It's fitting that the Alt-Right guru sees himself as a tough guy character in a Western -- a film genre that mythologizes the white men responsible for slaughtering native Americans and colonizing their land. But then this is what you would expect from someone like Bannon, a failed screen writer who left Hollywood to join a fringe political movement with veiled white supremacist ideas that offends everyone he spent a career brown nosing.
For decent people, the dividing line Bannon talks about was indeed very, very real, but for entirely different reasons. Decent people were appalled by Trump's statements and horrified by the prospect of a sexual predator becoming the Commander in Chief. Those who stuck by Trump were advocating his behavior and will be forever tarnished by their association with a repulsive abuser of women. Bannon may see himself as a brave and loyal soldier, sticking by 'his guy' through thick and thin, but most Americans view him as a disgusting creep with no moral compass and no respect for women. While Bannon continues to insist that the majority of Americans "don't care" about Trump's misogyny (or "locker room banter"), he seems to forget the fact that his man lost the popular vote by an astonishing 3 million people.
Bannon may be correct that Trump will win the next election, but it won't be because Americans accept his behavior. He'll win because American democracy has been ruined by an archaic, dysfunctional electoral college and Republican gerrymandering that allowed a halfwitted sex predator to become President. Likewise, Bannon won't go down in history as a brave warrior who fought alongside Trump for the American people -- he'll be remembered as a ghoulish monster who sold what was left of his soul to gain five minutes of fame.