An antagonistic interview with Steve Bannon

In my futile effort to show that people need not fear public presentations of Steve Bannon, I present one interview from the Showtime program “The Circus”. It was sent by reader Paul, who said this:

This show is one of my favs as it combines behind the scenes looks at US politics and good food and drink.
Well, I wasn’t that impressed by the food and drink, but the 8-minute Bannon interview, from 12:30 to 20:25 in the clip below, is quite enlightening. In contrast to the last video I showed (the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s interview with Bannon and Sarah Ferguson), the interviewer, John Heilemann, just takes out from the beginning after Bannon. And Bannon doesn’t look very good. Not only does he paint a completely ridiculous picture of Trump as a very smart man, but Bannon also spouts rather unintelligible politicospeak. Here’s the YouTube summary.
The Gathering Storm. With the looming midterm elections, the Trump presidency under siege, and Hurricane Florence bearing down on the Carolina coast, Washington has a lot on its collective plate. Executive Producer and Host John Heilemann interviews Steve Bannon. Season 3 Episode 7 premiere. Watch The Circus Sundays at 8pm ET/PT.
The entire video covers a variety of topics, but all are centered on the frightening Trump presidency. Although I wasn’t as impressed as Paul with the show’s format, I was engrossed by the hard-hitting interview. My point is that it shows how unfounded is people’s fear that a public talk by Bannon—or interview, as proposed by both my University and David “Invertebrate” Remnick at the New Yorker Festival—will hurt feelings and, indeed, constitute a form of violence. Bannon is a fairly eloquent right-wing ideologue, but when pressed by somebody that knows something, his facade collapses. There’s nothing to be scared about having Bannon speak in public, or in a debate format.


  1. GBJames
    Posted September 19, 2018 at 9:48 am | Permalink


  2. Randall Schenck
    Posted September 19, 2018 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    Kind of odd, as we speak, Trump is in Carolina on television giving a speech. It is not good. Maybe they will give him some paper towels to throw. He and his director of FEMA are mostly talking to each other.

    John Heilemann is a regular on MSNBC. He is very good, very knowledgeable on all things political. I had not seen his show Circus on showtime.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted September 19, 2018 at 10:42 am | Permalink

      Maybe those lucky Carolinian storm victims will get to catch some paper towels tossed by Dear Leader!

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted September 19, 2018 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

        No paper towels but they had cars drive by while he handed out food thru the car window. I guess it was take out? So now, people of Carolina, you are saved.

  3. rickflick
    Posted September 19, 2018 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    Bannon seems desperate to block a blue wave in November. I like the feel of that.

    • mikeyc
      Posted September 19, 2018 at 10:06 am | Permalink

      Got the same vibe. It did feel good.

  4. Posted September 19, 2018 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    Yes, not much about food on this episode. One food segment that I got a kick out of was from an earlier show where they interviewed Anthony Scaramucci over dinner. The Mooch showed excessive concern over what others at the table were ordering and whether they were happy with their food. He’s a very strange bird.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted September 19, 2018 at 11:00 am | Permalink

      Yeah, the Mooch is a rara avis, all right. Odd thing is, if you watch clips of Donald Trump from a couple decades back, like this one, his persona was much closer to Scaramucci’s — not nearly as smooth or smart or slick as the Mooch’s, maybe, but much more soft-spoken than he is now, and nearly as glib. The gilded-Archie-Bunker character Trump plays on tv now seems not to have emerged until sometime during his run on The Apprentice.

      • Posted September 19, 2018 at 11:08 am | Permalink

        I am not sure that Donald Trump’s character has really changed over time. I think what we are comparing is Trump in a comfortable context vs one in which he is challenged. And by “challenged”, I mean both by interviewers, debaters, reporters, etc. and by the intellectual stress of not understanding much about foreign policy, economics, etc. — all the things a President ought to know. There’s also the natural corruption of power.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted September 19, 2018 at 11:17 am | Permalink

          Oh, Trump’s character is consistent; it’s his persona that’s changed. The character on the podium at these Nuremberg-style rallies isn’t the same one he played in his slick, young NY real-estate developer phase (though he is, of course, still the same narcissistic sociopath underneath).

      • mikeyc
        Posted September 19, 2018 at 11:17 am | Permalink

        Anthony Scaramucci – that guy gives me the creeps. I saw him described as the human embodiment of a double parked BMW.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted September 19, 2018 at 11:32 am | Permalink

          Yeah, like the Donald back during his Studio 54 days.

        • darrelle
          Posted September 19, 2018 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

          That’s one’s pretty good.

          The Trump team guy that scares me the most I think is Stephen Miller. That guy seems to be seriously disturbed.

    • Rod Wilson
      Posted September 19, 2018 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

      Of course the Mooch is going to care about people enjoying their food. He’s old school Italian. I’m surprised he didn’t pinch everybody’s cheek with curled index and middle finger.

      • Posted September 19, 2018 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

        Maybe it’s the combination of old school Italian and Trump apologist that make the Mooch seem so odd. It’s caring about people and not caring about people all wrapped up in one odd guy.

  5. Ken Kukec
    Posted September 19, 2018 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    Heilemann’s good. Hell, I even like Mark McKinnon (I mean, for a Republican, anyway 🙂 ). Glad the two of ’em aren’t carrying that perv-o harasser Mark Halperin on their backs around The Circus anymore. That guy, I never liked.

  6. Posted September 19, 2018 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    [Disclaimer: non-Trump supporter here]…
    But…. I didn’t think for one second that Bannon’s interviewer came of as anything other than an interrupting, arrogant repeater of the latest NYT op-ed.
    And as for Bannon’s points about Trump, consider how mucH he, T, has moved the Overton window on so many issues: NATO, China, Russia, NAFTA, Korea, Tax, Immigration… some good some bad, but no longer can be talked about in the same way, and so in some cases log jams have been broken.
    Pf in HK.

    • BJ
      Posted September 19, 2018 at 11:06 am | Permalink

      I absolutely cannot stand interviewers who think adversarial means “don’t let your interview subject finish any sentences, and immediately butt in with rebukes every time they begin saying something with which you disagree.” It makes the interviewer look childish and the interviewee look like the reasonable adult in the room. I had that awful feeling when that Nick Ferrari of LBC interviewed the South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner about those stupid tweets regarding reporting “hate non-crimes.” Even though Ferrari was clearly right and the Commissioner sounded like a bumbling idiot, neither side came out of it looking good, and I ended up sympathizing with the Commissioner only because of the way he had been treated during the interview.

      • Posted September 19, 2018 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

        Unhappily, I have to agree with you. I couldn’t watch the whole thing–not because of Bannon but because of Heilemann’s interview style. “Jesus, give me a break!” is hardly an intelligent rebuttal.

        • Gamall
          Posted September 19, 2018 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

          I agree. That could scarcely be called a discussion. Bannon tries to make some (vague) points, which are interrupted by expressions of bewilderment from the interviewer.

          I also “liked” the “Trump couldn’t follow this discussion” from Heilemann; there was no discussion to follow, just a keyword salad at this point.

          • Posted September 19, 2018 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

            The Left just has to get wise to the tricks of people like Bannon. I think this is something Heileman gets intuitively. His interview of Bannon doesn’t have much in the way of reasoned discussion. Instead it consists of Bannon taking a ridiculous position (eg, Trump is smarter than all of us) and Heileman blowing it up. People like Bannon still need to be challenged, with reasonable debate when possible, but often with biting sarcasm and humor when necessary.

            • Posted September 20, 2018 at 10:26 am | Permalink

              No reflection on your sense of humor, Paul, but I don’t find rolling one’s eyes or constantly interrupting either satirical or humorous. However, I didn’t watch the whole thing, so if you can site an example of satire or humor, I’ll retract my comment.

              • Posted September 20, 2018 at 10:40 am | Permalink

                Humor is always a matter of personal taste. I offer things I like in the hope that others like them too but I recognize that some will not and that’s ok with me.

              • GBJames
                Posted September 20, 2018 at 11:05 am | Permalink

                Not everyone owns the same model humor module.

                And some people have broken modules. In my experience, those with broken modules seldom get them repaired.

  7. Laurance
    Posted September 19, 2018 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    Oh yipes…I was just thinking that it’s good to hear what Bannon and his ilk have to say, and to counteract bad speech with good speech. Expose his stuph to the light of day.

    And then I tripped over this essay that came rolling on in:

    Granted, she’s talking about debates, not an interview. I’m still thinking all this through. (And I don’t have time right now to see this video. But I will, I promise, before this day is over.)

    I’ve never heard of Longreads before, this is something new to me.

    • Giancarlo
      Posted September 19, 2018 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

      A very good article, though perhaps the “justification-suppression model goes a bit too far (“bigots refrain from directly defending their own bigotry but get hugely riled up justifying the abstract right to express bigotry”)
      The overall gist of the piece reminded me of a line I heard recently in the HBO show “Succession” by the liberal presidential candidate: “I’m in a knife fight, and all I have is a dildo made of American cheese.” The knife here being the attention grabbing performative theater of the right while the sensible intellectual arguments of the left are the cheese dildo.

  8. Mark Reaume
    Posted September 19, 2018 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    Here is another interview (he seems to be making the rounds) with Zanny Minton Beddoes (from the Economist). I found it interesting but a little frustrating with the constant interruptions.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted September 19, 2018 at 11:10 am | Permalink

      Guess Bannon’s got plenty of time for interviews ever since getting bounced from Breitbart and shitcanned from the White House.

      That’s what backing Roy Moore and flapping your gums to Michael Wolfe will do for a you.

  9. Chris
    Posted September 19, 2018 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    I think you’re over-intellectualizing this, as if it’s just/only/primarily about an exchange of ideas, and as if, if just presented with the best information, best argued, that progress will win.

    I think we need exchanges of ideas. We need to be informed. We need to be thoughtful. But you really keep seeing/thinking of this myopically, as if it’s just/only/primarily an intellectual debate (and one that exists in a vacuum). And as if certain ideas, such as the equal humanity of all people, even deserve debate. At least some of this, to me, would be akin to debating the core of racism (that some groups of people are inferior to others).

    There are, I guess, two separate but related/overlapping issues at hand. The first is the question of whether there is anything to gain information-wise. On this front, I maintain, Bannon’s ideas are pretty much out there (and therefore he deserves no more airtime for this purpose). (Note my language: he’s free to speak as much as he wants, how much of that, now, that he deserves to have listened to by society is a different matter.) In addition to the fact that there’s little if anything new to learn, there are other negatives to Bannon continuing to receive attention. Giving him attention legitimizes his views and worldview. I realize and understand that people share his worldview, but among the many other issues with providing Bannon a platform is the normalizing that’s involved with that. I’m all for critiquing normative values of “polite society,” but in this case I think there’s actually a slight value to it. If/when Bannon’s ideas are/were fringe, it would have been unseemly to so overtly support them. (I agree that the problems from people having that worldview doesn’t disappear, but there is something to be gained by not having it be part of the mainstream, by marginalizing such a worldview.) But now? They’re a legitimate part of the debate, apparently. And continuing to advocate for airtime for Bannon just makes this worse.

    • Posted September 20, 2018 at 7:22 am | Permalink

      (and therefore he deserves no more airtime for this purpose). (Note my language: he’s free to speak as much as he wants, how much of that, now, that he deserves to have listened to by society is a different matter.)

      Society is not a conscious being. Society is composed of people who all have different preferences and ideas about who deserves to be listened to. You do not speak for society and neither do the regressive left people who want Steve Bannon to be deplatformed.

      The problem here is that somebody at the New Yorker does think that Steve Bannon deserves some airtime but other people decided that is not what society wants and stopped them. I didn’t ask these people to speak on my behalf. I didn’t vote for them. I wish they’d just “go forth and multiply”.

  10. Historian
    Posted September 19, 2018 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    I have seen John Heilemann many times on MSNBC. He is quite politically savvy, but this was not his best performance. For viewers unfamiliar with Bannon, I think they would come away from this interview knowing little more about him except that he thinks Trump is smart (perhaps this would be enough to turn them off from Bannon). At the end of the interview, Bannon stated that the American people decided Trump was fit for office by electing him in 2016. At least in the video, Heilemann didn’t respond. I would have answered by first saying that in 2016 the American people did not decide that Trump was fit to serve, the Electoral College did, and second that how the American people felt in 2016 doesn’t mean they feel the same way in 2018. All in all, I feel that listening to this particular interview was a waste of time.

  11. Ken Kukec
    Posted September 19, 2018 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    I doubt Bannon’s neo-Confederate compadres will appreciate his praise for Abe Lincoln.

  12. Ken Kukec
    Posted September 19, 2018 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    I dunno, might not be haute cuisine, but those burgers looked pretty good (though they oughta get ’em the hell outta those styrofoam clamshells), even if the fries looked limp and lame.

    • darrelle
      Posted September 19, 2018 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

      So, not quite on the level of the burger and truffle Gorgonzola fries from the Seafood Bar at the Breakers?

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted September 19, 2018 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

        There’s some guys from Philly who just opened a cheese-steak joint around the block from me. They do frites in duck fat. I’m a goner for that stuff. 🙂

        • darrelle
          Posted September 20, 2018 at 10:40 am | Permalink

          Heck yes. I’ve had frites in duck fat once or twice. Food of the gods level stuff.

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