White House senior adviser Steve Bannon called an anti-Trump left-wing journalist to tout the administration’s plans to win an “economic war” with China — and the interview is setting political media ablaze.
Robert Kuttner of the American Prospect writes:
You might think from recent press accounts that Steve Bannon is on the ropes …
But Bannon was in high spirits when he phoned me Tuesday afternoon to discuss the politics of taking a harder line with China, and minced no words describing his efforts to neutralize his rivals at the Departments of Defense, State, and Treasury. “They’re wetting themselves,” he said, proceeding to detail how he would oust some of his opponents at State and Defense.
“To me,” Bannon said, “the economic war with China is everything. And we have to be maniacally focused on that. If we continue to lose it, we’re five years away, I think, ten years at the most, of hitting an inflection point from which we’ll never be able to recover.”
Bannon’s plan of attack includes: a complaint under Section 301 of the 1974 Trade Act against Chinese coercion of technology transfers from American corporations doing business there, and follow-up complaints against steel and aluminum dumping. “We’re going to run the tables on these guys. We’ve come to the conclusion that they’re in an economic war and they’re crushing us.”
In addition to clashing with the bureaucracy at Foggy Bottom and the Pentagon, Bannon admitted freely to Kuttner that he is clashing with the Treasury department, as well as National Economic Council chain Gary Cohn and the “Goldman Sachs” lobby. (Bannon himself once worked for Goldman Sachs before becoming involved in politics.)
President Donald Trump has often taken a hawkish position on trade with China, one that Bannon hopes to boost by enlisting allies from both the right and the left — which is why he called Kuttner.
In the course of their discussion, Bannon also slammed the right-wing extremists who protested in Charlottesville: “Ethno-nationalism—it’s losers. It’s a fringe element. I think the media plays it up too much, and we gotta help crush it, you know, uh, help crush it more. … These guys are a collection of clowns.”
He added that he welcomed the Democrats’ obsession with the Charlottesville incident, and identity politics in general.
“The Democrats … the longer they talk about identity politics, I got ’em. I want them to talk about racism every day. If the left is focused on race and identity, and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats.”
Bannon also told Kuttner that there was nothing the U.S. could do about North Korea, given the likelihood of mass death in South Korea as a result: “There’s no military solution [to North Korea’s nuclear threats], forget it. Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that ten million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us.”
That comment is raising eyebrows in Washington, according to Axios, which reported Wednesday evening — citing anonymous sources — that Bannon’s colleagues are “disturbed” by the interview.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.