Steven K. Bannon Trump’s Indispensible Puppet Master

It has been reported that Donald Trump is not too bright, that his IQ is at least 40 points below that of President Obama. Perhaps he bought his way through the prestigious Wharton School of Business. Perhaps that is why he never tires of promoting his superior intelligence. Truly smart folks never feel compelled to make an issue of their brilliances. Indeed, it would seem that without the evil one, Steven K. Bannon, pulling his strings, the Donald is hardly more than an egomaniacal blithering idiot.

Steve is the third in a succession of dark characters that have shaped and directed the fractured mind of Donald Trump. First, of course, there was Trump’s workaholic and soundly bigoted Father, Fred Trump, whom at least in attitude if not in brainpower the Donald mimics quite well. Second in the mentoring cast of characters was the terrifying big-time lawyer, Roy Cohn, the ruthless stiletto behind the infamous 1950s Senator from Wisconsin, the commie hunter and smasher of reputations, Joseph McCarthy, a man famously brought down by the preeminent newsman Edward R. Murrow.

And finally Trump has come under the tutelage and direction of one whom many have called the evil genius, Steven Bannon of Breitbart notoriety. Yes there are lots of other Republican luminaries dogging Trump — his chief of staff Reince Priebus, Vice-President Mike Pence and the leaders of the House and Senate Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell — but it’s Bannon who really pulls Trump’s strings.

Steve has a quite varied and interesting resume of training and job experience. His undergraduate studies were taken at Virginia Tech, graduating in1976. He then move on to a master’s degree in National Security Studies at Georgetown University. Finally in 1985 Bannon obtained an MBA degree with honors from the Harvard Business School. Upon completion of his education, Bannon served as an officer in the United States Navy for seven years.

He then moved to the big time as an investment banker with Goldman Sachs in the Mergers and Acquisition Department where he rubbed shoulders with the inside players on Wall Street. From there he progressed to form his own company, Bannon & Co. He then became a Hollywood producer and media gadfly, ending up taking over an internet hangout for bigots and ultranationalists, Breitbart News, upon the sudden death of its founder, Andrew Breitbart.

When in Hollywood Bannon began making political movies, kind of a study in power and leadership that was favorable to Ronald Regan. In the Face of Evil was among the most impressive of his productions. Its trailer has a demonic feel — scenes of bombs falling on cities alternating with images of Reagan backed by a melodically rising soundtrack denoting power and strength. The very clear message being that only one man was equal to the challenge posed by pending national and international threats. For years Bannon searched for that one man he could mold into such an all-powerful appearing leader. It turned out to be Donald John Trump. And as they say the rest is history, or soon will be.

Fast forwarding to more resent times, one wonders if Bannon was behind the ousting of the indomitable muscle that once directed the Republican Party’s talking points, Fox News’ Roger Ailes. With Ailes at the helm of Fox, and only slightly less of an influence with Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the rightwing talk radio gaggle, collectively Ailes’ and his boys and girls were the semi official voice of the conservative Republican cause.

But then sexual harassment charges against Ailes came front and center, and suddenly the seemingly all-powerful Ailes was gone. Rumors of Ailes harassment of female staff had been floating about the media ether for decades. But it was not until after the Trump/Ailes’ on and off again catfights materialized that the bright lights turned upon Ailes’ mistreatment of women. Basically in a heartbeat the right wing media empire passed from Ailes’ control to that of the Trump/Bannon combo.

With the sudden executive demise of Ailes, Fox and its media satellites became an out and out propaganda arm of what has become the Trump administration. If folks want the truth about anything in the news, Trump will direct them to ask Fox. No doubt that the Bannon playbook calls for totally discrediting and shutting down competing news sources and making its own media empire, the alt-right fake news operators, the sole providers of information, a standard move for those on the road to dictatorship.

Perhaps seeing the handwriting on the wall and not wanting to associate her reputation with a Nazi style propaganda organ, the sweet and mildly conservative, Greta Van Susteren, quietly left Fox a few month ago and now lately has shown up among the MSNBC stable of program hosts. But Greta is not the only personality scurrying off the ship of Fox. Super star Megyn Kelly, too, has decided to get out of the storm’s path and head for higher ground at NBC. No use being associated with an attempted dictatorial take over if sanity eventually reestablishes itself in America.

In any event, Bannon is finessing “our” president in all sorts of ways for exactly what purpose it is not clear, but likely it’s simply a pure power thing. What is clear are his classic tactics of taking control of a country’s levers of power and mindset. Hitler long ago wrote the definitive handbook for dictators, and Bannon, deeply steeped in history, has mastered its essence in spades.

Fact is that the skids were well greased for a dictatorial takeover long before Bannon and his dummy decided to give it a fling. Discrediting the government had long been a sport of those running for office. The nation’s institutions have been subjected to being undermined in the public’s eye for decades. Bannon merely had Trump jump up and down on that branch, saying how corrupt and weak was the federal government, until it snapped and he, Trump, by a quark of the Electoral College, became the 45th president of the good old U S of A.

With his strong connections to the financial community, Bannon is managing to stuff the Trump administration full with some of America’s sleaziest billionaires. The swamp is not being drained it is being hit by a monsoon of highly unethical characters. Perhaps the biggest example of big money sleaze is Steven Mnuchin, Trump’s pick for secretary of the treasury. Steve was literally born into the Goldman Sachs family — Mnuchin’s father having been a longtime Goldman employee.

Mnuchin’s critics claim a laundry list of unethical practices that netted the financer (and one who as with Bannon ended up producing movies) hundreds of millions. He is said to have heavily profited from the housing collapse and the schemes of Bernie Madoff, and that his own hedge fund was stained with fishy offshore dealings. No doubt that Bannon and Mnuchin were well acquainted with each other during their Goldman and movies producing days, and that being the primary reason for Mnuchin’s pick to head the treasury department.

Moving on, what’s behind the strange affinity that the Trump administration exhibits toward Russia and Putin? US intelligence reports make it clear that the Russians wanted Trump to defeat Clinton. That was the entire purpose of the Russian hacking campaign of the American election process. Is there a lucrative deal for both Putin and Trump’s teams in the works? Is that why Putin’s American chum, former Exon Mobile CEO Rex Tillerson, is being put up for secretary of state? Do Putin and his henchmen have dirt on the Donald? Did they somehow manage to get hold of Trump in secret and brainwash him into their version of the fictional Manchurian Candidate, with Bannon as his handler. Then, too, what is really behind Trump’s refusal to release his tax information? Does that have anything to do with the Russians?

Meanwhile, except for that old warhorse, Senator John McCain and his loyal sidekick Lindsey Graham and a few diehards, the great Republican never Trump opposition has wilted into submission. Apparently it has come to the full realization of the ruthless juggernaut that is arrayed against it.

Moreover Bannon’s forces are moving quickly to decapitate the career professionals from atop the various government departments, not even waiting until they can find replacements of their own liking. As with a highly poisons snake injecting venom into its prey, Bannon will soon have the entire government apparatus paralyzed to work against the administration’s every wish. Upon Trump’s next Bannon directed appointment to the Supreme Court, which Republicans will of course feel compelled to rubber stamp, the Court will fall before the intentions of the insurgents as well. Bit by bit what’s left of America’s traditional idealism is crumbling before Bannon’s machinations.

Questions about this weird administration just keep rolling along. For instance, why does the Trump administration contradict itself as to various policy positions on literally an hourly basis most days? Is it a tactic for keeping press and public off-balance? Or is it simply due to newness and incompetence? Indeed, there are a million questions swirling around Trump and his madcap administration. But one thing is for sure, the puppeteer running Trump’s latest reality gig is Steve Bannon, the indispensible man.

Jim Ridgway, Jr. military writer — author of the American Civil War classic, “Apprentice Killers: The War of Lincoln and Davis.” Christmas gift, yes!

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