Ban­non role sets off crit­i­cal firestorm

Kuwait Times - - ANALYSIS -

White su­prem­a­cists and neo-Nazis have rarely, if ever, in re­cent his­tory been so en­thu­si­as­tic about a pres­i­den­tial ap­point­ment as Don­ald Trump’s choice of Steve Ban­non to be his chief White House strate­gist. Be­fore he took over as chief ex­ec­u­tive of Trump’s cam­paign in Au­gust and led it to vic­tory last week, Ban­non headed Bre­it­bart News, a web­site and voice for the alt-right move­ment, a loose right-wing con­fed­er­a­tion that in­cludes hard­core na­tion­al­ists, neo-Nazis, white su­prem­a­cists and anti-Semites.

Five days after Trump de­feated Demo­crat Hil­lary Clin­ton, Trump re­warded Ban­non, 62, a for­mer Gold­man Sachs banker and a Navy vet­eran, by ap­point­ing him senior coun­selor and chief strate­gist - jobs not sub­ject to US Sen­ate con­fir­ma­tion. Democrats, rights ac­tivists and mi­nor­ity groups were out­raged and said Trump, him­self ac­cused of racism and misog­yny dur­ing the cam­paign, had just flung open the White House doors to hate­mon­gers. Many urged him to re­con­sider.

“Bring­ing Steve Ban­non into the White House is an alarm­ing sig­nal that Pres­i­dent-elect Trump re­mains com­mit­ted to the hate­ful and divisive vi­sion that de­fined his cam­paign,” House Demo­cratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a state­ment on Mon­day. “There must be no su­gar-coat­ing the re­al­ity that a white na­tion­al­ist has been named chief strate­gist for the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion,” Pelosi said. The South­ern Poverty Law Cen­ter, the An­tiDefama­tion League and the Coun­cil on Amer­i­can-Is­lamic Re­la­tions (CAIR) also de­nounced Ban­non.

Nazi, KKK Sup­port

Ban­non, who grew up in a Demo­cratic fam­ily, has a rep­u­ta­tion of try­ing to tear down a Repub­li­can Party es­tab­lish­ment that he deemed too soft and too en­trenched. As a senior ad­viser to the Repub­li­can Trump, Ban­non will be ex­pected by far-right groups to cham­pion their views and make sure that Trump, who takes of­fice on Jan 20, keeps such cam­paign prom­ises as build­ing a wall on the south­ern US bor­der, crack­ing down on Mus­lims en­ter­ing the coun­try and re­strict­ing the in­flux of Syr­ian war refugees.

“Per­haps ‘The Don­ald’ is for real,” Rocky Suhayda, chair­man of the Amer­i­can Nazi Party, told CNN. David Duke, a long­time leader of Ku Klux Klan move­ments, and Richard Spencer, a white na­tion­al­ist who runs the Na­tional Pol­icy In­sti­tute, were among the lead­ing alt-right fig­ures to praise Ban­non’s ap­point­ment. In re­marks pub­lished in the New York Times on Tues­day, Ban­non as­cribed his in­ter­est in pop­ulism and Amer­i­can na­tion­al­ism to a de­sire to curb what he views as the cor­ro­sive ef­fects of glob­al­iza­tion. He re­jected what he called the “ethno-na­tion­al­ist” ten­den­cies of some in the move­ment. “It’s not that some peo­ple on the mar­gins, as in any move­ment, aren’t bad guys - racists, anti-Semites. But that’s ir­rel­e­vant,” he told the Times.

Po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor Arm­strong Wil­l­liams, a close as­so­ciate of for­mer Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Ben Car­son, said Ban­non was “one of the finest and most hon­or­able peo­ple I’ve ever met” and not big­oted in any way. The Trump cam­paign had been strug­gling to man­age Trump’s un­con­ven­tional can­di­dacy when Ban­non took over. He stayed be­hind the scenes and de­vised the strat­egy for the fi­nal days of the cam­paign that kept Trump on mes­sage and en­abled him to up­set Clin­ton in cru­cial states such as Michi­gan.

It was Ban­non and Jared Kush­ner, Trump’s sonin-law, who in­vited three women who ac­cused Bill Clin­ton of sex­ual as­sault to at­tend a pres­i­den­tial de­bate in hopes of un­nerv­ing Hil­lary Clin­ton. Ban­non, look­ing typ­i­cally un­kempt with mussed hair and stub­bly chin, grinned from the back of the room as Trump and the women held their pre­de­bate news con­fer­ence. “Ban­non is a le­git­i­mately sin­is­ter fig­ure,” Ben Shapiro, who had been ed­i­torin-chief of Bre­it­bart un­der Ban­non, wrote in Au­gust on the dai­ly­ con­ser­va­tive news web­site which he founded. “He is a vin­dic­tive, nasty fig­ure ... He will at­tempt to ruin any­one who im­pedes his un­end­ing am­bi­tion and he will use any­one big­ger than he is - for ex­am­ple, Don­ald Trump - to get where he wants to go,” Shapiro wrote. While Ban­non was at Bre­it­bart, it had sto­ries with head­lines such as “Birth con­trol makes women unattrac­tive and crazy, ”Po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness pro­tects Mus­lim rape cul­ture” and “Hoist it high and proud: The Con­fed­er­ate flag pro­claims a glo­ri­ous her­itage.” The site’s pro-Trump agenda fea­tured spec­u­la­tive sto­ries ques­tion­ing Hil­lary Clin­ton’s health and ac­cus­ing her close aide Huma Abe­din of be­ing a Saudi spy.

Ban­non was charged with do­mes­tic vi­o­lence and bat­tery in 1996 after his then-wife, Mary Louise Pic­card, said he grabbed her by the throat and arm dur­ing an ar­gu­ment. The case was dropped when she did not ap­pear in court. In 2007 Pic­card said in court doc­u­ments Ban­non did not like the school the girls at­tended be­cause it had too many “whiny brat” Jewish stu­dents.

Ban­non had a var­ied and prof­itable ca­reer be­fore join­ing Bre­it­bart. He earned de­grees from Vir­ginia Tech, Ge­orge­town Univer­sity and Har­vard Busi­ness School and served four years in the Navy. It was his Navy ex­pe­ri­ence, he said, that led him to shed his fam­ily’s Demo­cratic al­le­giance and be­come an ad­mirer of Repub­li­can Ron­ald Rea­gan.

He was at Gold­man Sachs be­fore start­ing his own in­vest­ment firm, which spe­cial­ized in me­dia. Through ne­go­ti­at­ing a stu­dio sale, he ob­tained a stake in the roy­al­ties for the pop­u­lar tele­vi­sion show “Se­in­feld,” a money-mak­ing pow­erhouse in syn­di­ca­tion. He was an ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer of the fea­ture movies “Ti­tus” and “The In­dian Run­ner” be­fore pro­duc­ing, di­rect­ing or writ­ing con­ser­va­tive-ori­ented doc­u­men­taries such as “Clin­ton Cash” about the Clin­ton Foun­da­tion, “Gen­er­a­tion Zero” about the global eco­nomic cri­sis of 2008-2009 and “The Un­de­feated” on for­mer vice pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Sarah Palin.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kuwait

© PressReader. All rights reserved.