Virgil: Making America Great Again—Or Not: The Establishment Targets Trump’s Top Strategist

AP, BNN Edit

Part Three of a three-part series…

In Part One we saw how the gospel of globalism inspires its believers to disdain, even despise, middle-class nationalists—that is, the people who voted for Donald Trump.  And in Part Two we saw how the Deep State, one of the many weapons in the globalist arsenal, is now targeting  Trump and his agenda for America.  Here in Part Three, we will focus on how one well-placed Trump opponent is seeking to pick off a key member of the new presidential staff. 

1. Fake News: “Bannon vs. Trump”

Attacks on Stephen K. Bannon, the former executive chairman of Breitbart, slated to become the top strategist in the Trump White House, are nothing new.  Just since the election, Mother Jones magazine has called him “worse . . . than a racist,” Joy Behar labeled him “a fascist,” and former Vermont governor Howard Dean insisted, against all evidence, that he is “a Nazi.”  You get the idea.  

Okay, these head-on assaults haven’t gotten very far; they were tried, too, during the 2016 campaign, and Bannon’s standing within Trump world has never wavered. 

And yet, of course, the assaults keep coming.  And so to help keep track of them all, perhaps we should assign them into categories.  For example, in an earlier article, not part of this series, Virgil cited the ways in which “argument from authority”—argumentum ad verecundiam—can be used and, more often these days, misused.   

So now we can add a second, slyer, category of media falsehood.  We can call this one the “assertion of a false conflict,” declaratio contra falsum.  This one is a version of the familiar attempt to stir the pot, whipping up hard feelings between people: Hey, did you hear what he said about you? 

That’s what Virgil thinks was happening when The New York Times’ David Brooks headlined his January 10 column, headlined, “Bannon vs. Trump.”  That is, he is simply trying to cause trouble; yet since it’s right there in the nation’s leading newspaper, some gullible readers might believe it.

Brooks got right to his point: Within the Trump administration, he asserted, a future fight was brewing.  On one side, “Republican regulars,” and on the other side, “populist ethno-nationalists.”

The Timesman made it perfectly clear whom he was rooting for in this alleged feud: The Republican regulars, he cheered, have based their thinking “upon the post-World War II international order—the American-led alliances, norms and organizations that bind democracies and preserve global peace.”

Meanwhile, on the other hand, in Brooks’ telling, there were those rotten populist ethno-nationalists, “the forces of perpetual chaos unleashed by Donald Trump’s attention span.” Yes, because Trump isn’t paying attention to his own administration, Brooks continued, the dreaded populist ethno-nationalists threaten to undermine the international status quo with their radical critique.  According to Brooks, their critique “is simultaneously moral, religious, economic, political and racial”—and always, bad.  And the essence of it, Brooks added, is to be found “in the remarks Steve Bannon made to a Vatican conference in 2014.”

And here’s Brooks’ description of the gist of Bannon’s speech: 

Humane capitalism has been replaced by the savage capitalism that brought us the financial crisis.  National democracy has been replaced by a crony-capitalist network of global elites.  Traditional virtue has been replaced by abortion and gay marriage.  Sovereign nation-states are being replaced by hapless multilateral organizations like the E.U.  Decadent and enervated, the West lies vulnerable in the face of a confident and convicted Islamofascism, which is the cosmic threat of our time.

So that’s how Brooks characterizes Bannon’s beliefs.  And Brooks is just warming up.  He then goes on to compare Trump to Vladimir Putin, and Bannon to a conservative Russian political figure in Putin’s orbit, Alexander Dugin.  

Yet after making these dark comparisons, Brooks offers his readers a ray of light: The dark ethno-nationalists, he predicts, will fail.  Why? Because, Brooks chortles, Trump is such a lazy, egocentric, lightweight that he will lose interest in these Bannonite topics and so will drift over to the side of the globalists.  

A question leaps immediately to mind: Did Brooks get some scoop as to Trump’s thinking?  Some revelatory interview? The answer, Brooks indicates, is “no.”  It’s just his hunch: 

I’m personally betting the foreign policy apparatus, including the secretaries of state and defense, will grind down the populists around Trump.

In other words, Brooks, having contrived a false conflict between Trump and Bannon, further admits that all of it is his own wishful thinking.

Okay, and so to another question: Why does Brooks keep using “ethno-nationalist”—four times, in fact—as a descriptor for Bannon, even though he has specifically, and repeatedly, rejected the term?  Indeed, Bannon has been so emphatic on this point that even others in the MSM have had to acknowledge it; hence this CNN headline from November 21, 2016, “Bannon rejects white nationalism: ‘I’m an economic nationalist.'” That story, and many others, are easily available to Brooks, but he doesn’t seem to care; he is happy slinging around his slurs.  And once this story is debunked, soon enough, no doubt, he’ll be peddling still more fake news about Trump, Bannon—or someone else in the Trump administration. 

2. So Who Is David Brooks, Anyway?

David Brooks has enjoyed a good career in the MSM.  Born in 1961, he’s nominally a conservative, having worked variously at National Review, The Wall Street Journal, The Weekly Standard, and, since 2003, as a opinion columnist for The New York Times.

And along the way, he has expressed some interesting ideas; for example, in 2006, he opined that Sens. John McCain and Joe Lieberman should form their own third party, based mostly on their shared neoconservatism and globalism.  Needless to say, nothing ever came of Brooks’ suggestion.  

Over his career, Brook has been notable for three things: first, a book published in 2000 that celebrated the upper-class luxe lifestyle; second, a fervent advocacy of the 2003 Iraq War; and third, his journalstic love affair with Barack Obama.

In other words, he’s the perfect sort of housebroken “conservative” for Washington, DC, just the sort of fellow who gets that long-term gig on the PBS NewsHour

Okay, so let’s consider Brooks’ track record on Donald Trump.  We can sum it up with two points: First, he hates Trump; and second, he is not a good forecaster.

In March of last year, the headline of his column was “No, Not Trump, Not Ever.”  In that piece he harumphed, “Donald Trump is epically unprepared to be president. He has no realistic policies, no advisers, no capacity to learn.” 

Then Brooks really got going:

Trump is perhaps the most dishonest person to run for high office in our lifetimes.  All politicians stretch the truth, but Trump has a steady obliviousness to accuracy.

And since Trump was so terrible in Brooks’ mind, it was hard for him to imagine that anyone else could like him.  Thus in June 2016, he predicted that in the November election to come, Hillary Clinton would beat Trump.  As he put it, “People will be sick of Donald Trump, and they will go for her.” 

To cap it off, in a column published on November 4, four days before the 2016 general election, Brooks doubled down on his endorsement of Clinton, describing her as “the bigger change agent.”  Then he went on to describe Trump as “solipsistic, impatient, combative, unsubtle and ignorant,” all the while insisting that Clinton was “better suited to getting things done.”  Amusingly, among the things Clinton would get done, Brooks told his readers, was developing a plan to “secure the border.” 

Perfectly expressing the Times’ view of the world, Brooks added, “Any sensible person can distinguish between an effective operating officer [Clinton] and a whirling disaster who is only about himself [Trump].”

Okay, so Brooks, along with 99.9 percent of the rest of the Times, liked Clinton and didn’t like Trump.  We get that. 

Yet further details of that column are revealing—revealing, that is, about Brooks.  Here’s how the piece starts:

A few weeks ago I met a guy in Idaho who was absolutely certain that Donald Trump would win this election.  He was wearing tattered, soiled overalls, missing a bunch of teeth and was unnaturally skinny.  He was probably about 50, but his haggard face looked 70.  He was getting by aimlessly as a handyman.

We might linger over some of those snobby word choices: “tattered, soiled overalls . . . missing a bunch of teeth.” Virgil might pause to ask: Since the 1972 movie Deliverance, has has there ever been a more profoundly perfect stereotype of how a posh Easterner looks down his nose at the rubes in the rest of the country?  

In the piece, Brooks, himself blissfully confident that Hillary was going to prevail, then goes on recount how he tried patiently to explain to the man that he was wrong in his thinking.  And yet, Brooks writes with a sigh, “It was like telling him a sea gull could play billiards.” 

One might think that the actual election results, four days later, would have humbled Brooks a bit, but they haven’t—not at all.  

Since the election, he’s been as strongly anti-Trump as ever.  And, amazingly, he’s still in the game of making predictions for Times readers, “The guy will probably resign or be impeached within a year.”

Yet as we have seen, given Brooks’ poor record as prophet, nobody on Team Trump should be worried.    

In the meantime, Trump has a country to run. 

3. Trump’s Vision, Bannon’s Vision

Trump’s vision for America is ambitious and complex, and yet even so, it can be summed up in the four words he made famous during the campaign: “Make America Great Again.” 

We can quickly note that this idea of American greatness is at the heart of our national history.  For example, the Great Seal of the United States, created in 1782, includes the Latin words, novus ordo seclorum, “new order for the ages.” That is, the Founders believed America should and would set the standard, a high bar, for the future.  Yes, that’s thinking big; that’s the American Way.  And so it’s not surprising that the same Latin motto has been on the back of the US dollar bill since 1935. 

And Trump has other other key phrases that Virgil expects to characterize the Trump presidency.  As he said on August at the  Cleveland Republican convention, “Americanism, not globalism, will be our credo.”  And since the election, he has added that the Trump administration will pledge to follow “two simple rules: Buy  American and Hire American.”  No wonder the globalists hate Trump!

As for Steve Bannon, he has views that can only be described as Trumpian, and he has held them for a long time.  So of course the globalists hate him, too.

Since Bannon only rarely gives interviews, some might be curious to know more about his thinking—that is, looking beyond the nasty canards hurled at him by the likes of Mother Jones, Behar, and Dean.

In fact, Bannon has been articulating his vision for a long time; since 2004, he has produced no fewer than 16 documentaries.  

Yet a more direct and personal window into Bannon’s thinking can be found in his 2014 speech to the Vatican; that’s the one that Brooks ripped in his January 10 column.  So, without Brooks’ “help,” let’s take a closer look:

Bannon begins by saying that he believes, strongly, that there’s “a crisis” in our time—that is, “a crisis of our faith, a crisis of the West, a crisis of capitalism.”  And so he begins with the spiritual question; yes, many today are well off, but the question they should be asking themselves is deeper than money: 

What is the purpose of whatever I’m doing with this wealth? What is the purpose of what I’m doing with the ability that God has given us, that divine providence has given us to actually be a creator of jobs and a creator of wealth?

He continues in this vein:

It really behooves all of us to really take a hard look and make sure that we are reinvesting that back into positive things.

Yes, we should invest in positive things, things of faith and belief, which money can’t buy.  Thus the “crisis of faith.” 

So now we come to Bannon’s “crisis of the West.”  Here, we need only look to Angela Merkel’s Germany; it’s the richest country in Europe, and yet it is now in deadly danger of demographic dissolution—and threatens to take the whole continent down with it. 

Indeed, Bannon’s words from 2014, before Merkel foolishly chose to open her borders while subsidizing permanent dependence, now look prescient.  He warned then that the threat from jihadi Islam is “going to come to Europe . . . it’s going to come to the United Kingdom.”  Moreover, in his talk he took note of a tweet that very day from ISIS, promising to turn the United States into a “river of blood.” Yes, a crisis of the West, indeed. 

Now let’s turn to the “crisis of capitalism.” Back in December, a talented journalist named David Hawkins considered some of Bannon’s points from a philosophical perspective.  

Hawkins summarized Bannon’s Vatican speech, in which Bannon argued that in recent decades, capitalism seems to have come mostly in two forms, both at least somewhat pernicious: First, there’s the bailout-oriented “crony capitalism” that we saw in the scandalous 2008 bailouts; and second, there’s the “Ayn Rand influenced . . . libertarian capitalism, which he sees as commoditizing people into mere producers and products.”  This latter kind, Hawkins continued, weakens “our collective moral strength.”  

The answer, Hawkins concluded, is “enlightened capitalism”—that is, the capitalism in which capitalists think about the fate of their country, not just their bank account.  As Hawkins put it:

It was this enlightened capitalism that gave the West-–through wide asset ownership–-its strong middle class and an aspirant and affluent working class which provided the moral and economic foundations for the West to defeat Nazism in 1945 and support Ronald Reagan in standing-up to and defeating the Soviet Union during the Cold War.  And now this has been corrupted and in turn weakened the West itself and Bannon believes the West now faces losing everything it has gained across more than 2000 years. [emphasis added]

Hawkins ended his essay with these hopeful words:

With Bannon, Trump and “Trumpism” the US and the West has an opportunity for economic, moral and political renewal—a new enlightenment. 

Okay, so Hawkins ably describes the problem, and outlines the ultimate desired outcome.   And yet we might ask: How, exactly, does America get there?  How do we get from the crisis of 2017 to a better place—as soon as possible? 

For the answer, we might return to Bannon’s 2014 talk, in which he called for aggressively building “a center-right populist movement,” the heart of which should be:

. . . the middle class, the working men and women in the world who are just tired of being dictated to by what we call the party of Davos.

Interestingly, that seems to have happened in the last three years! 

We can also pause to note that “Davos,” of course, is shorthand for the World Economic Forum, a conclave of billionaire globalists and their courtiers, meeting every year in Davos, Switzerland.  And so Bannon’s reference to “the party of Davos” speaks to the reality that global high finance seems to have conquered most of the politics, and most of the parties, of most of the world—and as a result, the America middle class, now sinking in the globalist broth, has been made worse off. 

It might be worth noting that the next Davos meeting is just a few days away, on January 17 to 20.  And since this is the first session since the November election, there’s going to be some soul-searching—and a lot more attempted blame-shifting.  

Here, for example, Hence a headline in Bloomberg Business Week:Davos Wonders If It’s Part of the Problem: Did the global elite’s devotion to borderless capitalism sow the seeds of a populist backlash?” Many would say that the answer, of course, is “yes.”  

And yet Davos Men, and Davos Women will not be giving up so easily.   For instance, one of the scheduled “chats” at Davos will be between Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook and Meg Whitman of HP together they will offer their jet-setting audience their focus-grouped thoughts on shaping “a positive narrative for the global community.”  That is, a “global community” that’s safely profitable for Facebook and HP, wherever in the world they might choose to operate. 

Will these efforts at spinning globalism succeed?  Will the globalists be permitted to keep inflating their financial bubbles—and keep getting bailed out when they pop?  The Davosians surely hope so, but it’s possible, after Trump (and before Trump, Brexit), that the jig is up. 

But wait!  There’s still hope for the globalists.  The new American president might not think much of Davos, but the president of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping, thinks differently. Indeed, he is scheduled to speak at Davos in a few days; it will the first-ever appearance by a Chinese head of state.   

We can assume, of course, that Xi, picking up the torch from, say, Barack Obama, will offer a full-throated defense of globalism; after all, globalism has been very, very good for his country.  

4. Trump’s Moment

In the meantime, the eyes of the world are on the soon-to-be 45th president.  As noted in Part One, Trump’s energetic economic activism is already making itself felt: And the good news has continues to pour forth: Just on January 12, Amazon announced that it would commit to creating 100,000 new jobs in the US.  Moreover, on January 13, Lockheed, which had earlier been chastised by Trump for price-gouging, announced that it would pledge not only lower costs for its F-35 fighter, but also an additional 1800 jobs in Texas.  

As Virgil also noted earlier, it’s astonishing that past presidents didn’t engage in this sort of pro-jobs, pro-profits, pro-American economic patriotism; perhaps they didn’t know how, or perhaps they didn’t care.  

In any case, Trump does know how, and he does care.  And the American people are noticing.  According to a January 10 Quinnipiac Poll, 47 percent of Americans believe that Trump’s economic policies will help the economy, while only 31 percent say they will hurt.  In other words, Trump has already built for himself a 16-point advantage on that question.  And his presidency has not yet even begun. 

To be sure, in the next few years, Trump, and his team, will be tested again and again.  And while it’s impossible to predict the future, it would be foolish to bet against them. 

By contrast, it would be smart to bet against David Brooks.  Addled as he is by his hatred of Trump and his aide Bannon—and probably many other Trumpians that he hasn’t yet had time to attack—Brooks is always wrong.


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