“Trump has skin thinner than his wife and an ego bigger than my ass,” Helen Philpot wrote on her insightful blog to her friend Margaret. At the same time, Donald Trump (DDT), who desperately needs accolades, suffers from popular culture’s ridicule and criticism. Comedians’ humor and magazine covers’ condemnation highlight the elevation of DDT’s chief strategist to de facto President of the United States.
In two memorable skits from Saturday Night Live last weekend, the one featuring Melissa McCarthy as Press Secretary Sean Spicer was a particular embarrassment to DDT because he hates weakness—and women, to DDT, are weak. Even worse for DDT, allies found the representation to be accurate. After McCarthy’s success, Rosie O’Donnell has offered to play Steve Bannon on SNL.
Another SNL skit last week portrayed Bannon as the Grim Reaper who pulls the strings for DDT’s actions. Playing DDT, Alec Baldwin alienates leaders of U.S. allies, and the Bannon character says, “It was just according to plan.” The Bannon figure moves to the president’s desk at the end of the skit while the DDT character becomes child-sized.
Harsher than SNL, Trevor Noah played “Who’s the Real President” on The Daily Show. His pick is, of course, Steve Bannon. Noah used the Bannon image on the Time cover as evidence that “even the ‘dishonest media’ recognizes that Bannon is the ‘real power behind the throne.’” Time titled Bannon as “The Great Manipulator.”
In the past, DDT has (falsely) bragged about his appearances on the cover of Time. Thus far he hasn’t tweeted anything about his image on the cover of Der Spiegel with the words “America First.” The artwork shows how the United States is rising to the top—by beheading Lady Liberty.
This cover is a classier version of the New York Daily Post illustration in December 2015 after DDT first called for a complete ban on Muslims “until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”
The cover of The Economist, illustrated an unusually radical editorial:
“The bleak cadence of last month’s inauguration was still in the air when Donald Trump lobbed the first Molotov cocktail of policies and executive orders against the capital’s brilliant-white porticos. He has not stopped…. His grenade-chuckers-in-chief, Stephen Bannon and Stephen Miller, have now carried that logic into government… The secrecy and confusion of the immigration ban are a sign not of failure, but of how his people shun the self-serving experts who habitually subvert the popular will. Trump’s politics of conflict extends, of course, to foreign policy, and that is where they see serious problems looming.
“A web of bilateralism and a jerry-rigged regionalism are palpably worse for America than the world Mr. Trump inherited. It is not too late for him to conclude how much worse, to ditch his bomb-throwers and switch course. The world should hope for that outcome. But it must prepare for trouble.”
MSNBC Joe Scarborough, known for his campaign support for DDT, broadcast a clip of the Alec Baldwin skit and the cover from Time on The Morning Joe Show. During his monologue, he asked if Bannon was “calling the shots.” An hour later, DDT tweeted:
“I call my own shots, largely based on an accumulation of data, and everyone knows it.”
Not everyone. The day before the tweet, Madeleine Albright, secretary of State for Bill Clinton, told CNN that she assumed Bannon was “the person that’s pulling the strings.” Other pundits and politicians have suggested the same idea.
DDT’s ego is suffering from the belief that he is not in control and the fact that a mere member of his staff has taken the place on Time that he thinks should belong to him. A White House source said, “I assume President Trump was not pleased with the Time cover, because that is reserved for Donald Trump.” Trump-supporter and GOP strategist John Feehery said, “Any time you have staff members on the cover of Time magazine, that’s a problem.”
Bannon’s presidential duties include writing vague, confusing executive orders with no professional vetting, ones that DDT sometimes signs without reading them. A prime example is the one that put Bannon on the National Security Council while removing career military and intelligence people. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of national intelligence are allowed to attend only when issues concern their “direct areas of responsibilities.” Crazy torturer Michael Flynn, National Security Advisor, stayed.
Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said, “This is a ‘Holy Crap’ moment.” One of these happened with Bannon’s involvement in the disastrous Yemen raid that killed a Navy Seal and many civilian women and children but leaving its target, Al Qaeda Leader Qassim Al-Rimi, still alive and taunting DDT.
“What I’m concerned about is the president’s executive order reorganizing the NSC in a way that removes the director of national intelligence, the only person who can provide a comprehensive overview of intelligence on a policy issue, and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, the only one who has the comprehensive view of the military consequences of a particular policy from the principal’s committee.”
The danger of Steve Bannon as president goes far beyond his ignorance. His goal, according to past writings and speeches, is to put the United States in the midst of a global war using DDT as “a blunt instrument for us,” possibly the white supremacists. Bannon has been praised for his similarity to Leni Riefenstahl, Hitler’s favorite propagandist and his racist, anti-Semitic, misogynist, and Islamophobic voice.
Bannon’s friends have cited his aggression and obsession with war and aggression as he looks forward to social chaos, the purpose of his executive orders. His goal is to demolish the United States and recreate a Tea Party-led version of the Bolshevik Revolution. He has predicted that He predicts that “we’re at the very beginning stages of a very brutal and bloody conflict.” Despite Bannon’s hatred for Islam, that he calls the “most radical” religion in the world, the Middle East isn’t Bannon’s only warring focus; he also aims at “war in the South China Sea.” He also wants to depose Germany’s Angela Merkel to create a white supremacy in Europe.
In Bannon’s attack on the free press, he described the media as a “fifth column,” defined as a group that fights for a nation’s enemies. The position parallels the actions of dictators and tyrants who manipulate by “owning” information through “alternative facts” by scattering doubt and confusion about truth. Toward that end, Bannon persuades people that he opposes the “elites” who work in media. He said:
“The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while. I want you to quote this. The media here is the opposition party. They don’t understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States.”
Bannon found satisfaction in the turmoil and condemnation of the Muslim ban that raised huge protests and media attention. He sees the publicity as a PR win. It was Bannon’s decision “to include green card holders in the president’s temporary ban on travel from Muslim countries,” according to Raw Story’s David Edwards. Vanity Fair’s Emily Jane Fox pointed out that Bannon responsible for “fuel(ing) Trump’s firefight with the media, discrediting and undermining the mainstream voices opposed to his anti-immigrant and anti-trade agenda.”
Just as DDT refused to repudiate the Ku Klux Klan, he has refused to condemn Bannon’s Islamophobic remarks and sent a message to white supremacists the he’s on their side. DDT has been delighted to pass his presidential obligations to someone else because of his short attention span and no interest in public policy. His specialty is marketing shady real estate deals and making money off declaring bankruptcy. All he wants is to preen in front of hand-picked crowds that approve of his boorish behavior and make up information that has no reality in real life. Whenever he finds himself criticized, he angrily tweets and then leads the crowds into another diversion before he calls another country’s leader to alienate them.
A question is how long Bannon will last with constant derision of Bannon’s control. And how close to the sun will hubris take Bannon and DDT before they fall into the sea, just as Icarus did in Greek mythology.