The best thing I've heard in weeks! Steve Bannon is thinking of running for President in 2020.
I know, I know. It's too good to be true. But apparently, he looks in the mirror and sees a president instead of a derelict. Gabriel Sherman joined him on the road for his trip to China and speeches to conservative groups recently. He may be more narcissistic than Trump, if that's even possible. Yes, he's probably smarter, but that doesn't make him a genius. That bar is very low.
“I realized if you’re not out there for the hobbits, you’re not in their lives,” Bannon said, using his affectionate moniker for Trump voters. During the week I traveled with him from New York to Tokyo to South Florida, for what was Bannon’s first major profile since leaving the White House, he made a half dozen speeches to conservative groups, hosted Breitbart’s talk-radio show, and helped market a new biography Bannon: Always the Rebel. Inside the right-wing echo chamber, Bannon is lionized as a conquering folk hero. Well-wishers flock to snap selfies, press the flesh. At one event I chatted with an elderly man waiting his turn on the receiving line. “If I could ask him one question, it would be, why aren’t you president?’”
That has at least been a passing thought. In October, Bannon called an adviser and said he would consider running for president if Trump doesn’t run for re-election in 2020. Which Bannon has told people is a realistic possibility. In private conversations since leaving the White House, Bannon said Trump only has a 30 percent chance of serving out his term, whether he’s impeached or removed by the Cabinet invoking the 25th amendment. That prospect seemed to become more likely in early December when special counsel Robert Mueller secured a plea deal from former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Bannon has also remarked on the toll the office has taken on Trump, telling advisers his former boss has “lost a step.” “He’s like an 11-year-old child,” Bannon joked to a friend in November.
While Bannon praised Trump during our conversations—he said he’s the best orator since William Jennings Bryan—he doesn’t deny he was unhappy in the White House. “It was always a job,” he said. “I realize in hindsight I was just a staffer, and I’m not a good staffer. I had influence, I had a lot of influence, but just influence.” He told me he now feels liberated. “I have power. I can actually drive things in a certain direction.”
Not surprisingly, the idea of Bannon as a political figure, let alone a presidential candidate, inspires ridicule and venom from the Republican establishment. The Wall Street Journal editorial page called Bannon’s roster of candidates a bunch of “cranks and outliers.” Former McConnell chief of staff Josh Holmes said Bannon is a “white supremacist.” Stuart Stevens, a veteran of five Republican presidential campaigns, told me that Bannon is “an odd, strangely repulsive figure who is trying to use the political process to work through personal issues of anger and frustration.” He added, “like many people in their first campaign, he confused his candidate winning with the fantasy voters supported him.”
A prominent Republican described Bannon’s crusade as a vanity exercise doomed to fail. “I think there was a lot of rage when he was in the White House,” the Republican said. “Steve had to subsume his ego to Donald, who Steve thinks is dumb and crazy. With Steve, it’s not about building new things—it’s about destroying the old. I’m not sure he knows what he wants.” As evidence, he pointed out the recent Virginia governor’s race, where Republican Ed Gillespie got crushed by nine points running on a Bannon-esque platform defending Confederate monuments and inciting fear over illegal immigrant crime. “The issues didn’t just fail, they failed miserably,” the Republican said.
Bannon’s response to all this criticism is a variation on his personal motto: Honey badger don’t give a shit. “I don’t give a fuck,” he told me when I visited him one morning at the Bryant Park Hotel. “You can call me anything you want. Do you think I give a shit? I literally don’t care.”