The crude caricatures obscure the complex intellectual influences that motivate the 63-year-old, who ran Breitbart News before joining the Trump campaign last summer. He’s been an officer in the U.S. Navy, earned his MBA from Harvard and succeeded as an investment banker, including at Goldman Sachs. Everyone who has ever worked with Bannon describes him as an intense bibliophile who is deeply familiar with history, from Europe to ancient Greece, and the literary canon.
Bannon routinely talks about books that have moved him or otherwise shaped his thinking. Here are five significant examples:
-- “The Art of War,” by Sun Tzu:
Julia Jones, who for 16 years worked as Bannon’s screenwriting partner in Hollywood, described the 5th century Chinese military strategy tract as “HIS BIBLE” during an appearance on CNN last week.
“All warfare is based on deception,” Sun Tzu wrote. “Hold out baits to entice the enemy. Feign disorder, and crush him. … Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.”
In the context of the White House’s early moves, Yahoo’s Jon Ward reread the book, which emphasizes the importance of using secrecy, trickery and confusion to accomplish one’s goals. “Nothing in Bannon’s background or temperament suggests he’d be bothered by a little disorder if it helped,” Jon relays. “If Bannon’s fondness for ancient Chinese military strategy is any indication, [Paul] Ryan may want to watch his back. … It’s [also] possible that the latest reports of [Reince] Priebus’ increased power are an effort by Bannon to reduce the focus on him.”
-- “The Best and the Brightest,” by David Halberstam:
Marc Tracy, who covers college football for the New York Times, spotted Bannon at the Atlanta airport on the day after Christmas reading this 1972 history of the strategic errors that led to the quagmire in Vietnam. “I’m having everyone in the transition read it,” Bannon told Tracy. “It’s great for seeing how little mistakes early on can lead to big ones later.”
Bannon has explained to associates that the book is a warning to “always keep the 'law of unintended consequences' in the front of your mind,” according to a separate report from Jonathan Swan at Axios, as well as the idea that “the governmental 'apparatus' has an institutional history, memory and methodology.”
Marc noted in a piece for the Sunday Review section that the book begins with John F. Kennedy’s transition to the White House, in December 1960. “If a novelist were imagining the Trump presidency, this book, a case study in what can go wrong from the outset of an administration ushered in by a change election in uncertain times, is precisely what Mr. Bannon would be reading,” he wrote. “The central argument … is that the very brilliance of the men whom President Kennedy appointed to his cabinet and senior advisory roles was responsible for what Mr. Halberstam, who had reported from Vietnam for The Times, saw as epic failure.”
Halberstam, until he died, was annoyed that the phrase “the best and the brightest” was so frequently misused, “failing to carry the tone or irony that the original intended,” as he put it in a 1992 preface to the book. “Mr. Halberstam’s caustic title and the nearly 700 pages that follow indict the notion that society’s smartest are necessarily the ones best equipped to tackle society’s biggest problems,” Marc concludes in his piece. “If ‘The Best and the Brightest’ is a brief against the East Coast meritocracy, though, its proposed alternative is not pure ideology. It is expertise. Time and again, in Mr. Halberstam’s telling, lower-level government officials who understood Vietnamese politics, sentiments and even geography assessed reality accurately and offered correct policy recommendations to the major characters — who shunted them aside.”
-- “The Fourth Turning,” by William Strauss and Neil Howe:
Sometime in the early 2000s, Bannon was captivated by this book, which argues that American history can be described in a four-phase cycle, repeated again and again, in which successive generations have fallen into crisis, embraced institutions, rebelled against those institutions and forgotten the lessons of the past — which invites the next crisis. “These cycles of roughly 80 years each took us from the revolution to the Civil War, and then to World War II, which Bannon might point out was taking shape 80 years ago,” David Von Drehle writes in his cover story for the current issue of Time Magazine. “During the fourth turning of the phase, institutions are destroyed and rebuilt.”
Bannon contacted Howe about making a film based on the book. “That eventually led to Generation Zero, released in 2010, in which Bannon cast the 2008 financial crisis as a sign that the turning was upon us,” per Von Drehle. “Howe agrees with the analysis, in part. In each cycle, the postcrisis generation, in this case the baby boomers, eventually rises to ‘become the senior leaders who have no memory of the last crisis, and they are always the ones who push us into the next one,’ Howe said. But Bannon … seemed to relish the opportunity to clean out the old order and build a new one in its place, casting the political events of the nation as moments of extreme historical urgency, pivot points for the world.” Howe said he was struck by what he calls Bannon's “rather severe outlook on what our nation is going through.”
Bannon now seems to be trying to bring about the Fourth Turning, Linette Lopez argues on Business Insider: “He has never been secretive about his desire to use Trump to bring about his vision of America. He told Vanity Fair last summer that Trump was a ‘blunt instrument for us.... I don’t know whether he really gets it or not.’ … Bannon believes that the catalyst for the Fourth Turning has already happened: the financial crisis. So now we are in the regeneracy. Howe and Strauss describe this period as one of isolationism, one of infrastructure building and of strong, centralized government power, and a reimagination of the economy.”
-- “American Jihad: The Terrorists Living Among Us,” by Steven Emerson:
The author of the 2002 book asserts that many Muslim institutions in the West have provided ideological support for militants. He was listed as the executive producer on an outline for a documentary-style movie that Bannon considered making 10 years ago called the “Islamic States of America.”
The Post’s Matea Gold obtained the eight-page document last week. It’s unclear why the movie never went into production, but the document shows how Bannon — years before he orchestrated the travel ban — sought to issue a warning about the threat posed by radical Muslims and their “enablers among us.” Although driven by the “best intentions,” the outline says, institutions such as the media, the Jewish community and government agencies were appeasing jihadists aiming to create an Islamic republic.
“We are in an outright war against jihadist Islamic fascism,” Bannon said during a 2014 talk via Skype to a group at the Vatican. “And this war is, I think, metastasizing far quicker than governments can handle it. … I believe you should take a very, very, very aggressive stance against radical Islam.”
Tim Watkins, a producer who participated in discussions with Bannon about the 2007 project, said he and Bannon met with Emerson at an Italian restaurant in Washington and discussed the movie project. A section of the film was to be drawn from his research archives, according to the document.
After hearing about Emerson’s research, Watkins said he came up with the idea for an opening sequence that featured the American flag above the U.S. Capitol replaced by a crescent and star, with chants of “Allahu Akbar” coming from inside.
-- “Antifragile,” by Nassim Taleb:
The 2014 book, which has been read and circulated by Bannon and his aides, reads like a user’s guide to the Trump insurgency, Politico’s Eliana Johnson and Eli Stokols write in a piece that posted this morning. “It’s a broadside against big government, which Taleb faults for suppressing the randomness, volatility and stress that keeps institutions and people healthy.” The volume also includes an extended critique of the global elites.
“As with neurotically overprotective parents, those who are trying to help us are hurting us the most,” Taleb writes. “We are witnessing the rise of a new class of inverse heroes, that is, bureaucrats, bankers, Davos-attending members of the I.A.N.D. (International Association of Name Droppers), and academics with too much power and no real downside and/or accountability. They game the system while citizens pay the price.”
-- "The 202 Live” is back this Friday: I'll interview Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) about Democratic strategy in Trump’s Washington from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Register to attend here.
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit will hear oral arguments tonight on whether to restore President Trump’s controversial immigration order. The hearing, which will be conducted by telephone at 6 p.m. Eastern (and livestreamed), is to review the order by a district court judge in Seattle to put Trump’s directive on hold. The judges deciding the fate of the order were tapped by Jimmy Carter, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, respectively. At issue is whether Trump exceeded his authority and violated the First Amendment and federal immigration law, and whether his executive order imposes irreparable harm on those it affects. The states of Washington and Minnesota argued in a filing Monday that reinstating the ban would “unleash chaos again” by “separating families, stranding our university students and faculty, and barring travel.” Justice Department lawyers countered that noncitizens outside the United States have “no substantive right or basis for judicial review in the denial of a visa at all." (Matt Zapotosky)
-- A lawyer for Melania Trump argues in a new lawsuit that an article falsely alleging she once worked for an escort service hurt her chance to establish “multimillion dollar business relationships” during the years in which, as first lady, she would be “one of the most photographed women in the world.” Tom Hamburger reports: “The suit, filed Monday in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan against Mail Media, the owner of the Daily Mail, said the article … last August caused Trump’s brand to lose ‘significant value’ as well as ‘major business opportunities that were otherwise available to her.’ The suit noted that the article had damaged Trump’s ‘unique, once in a lifetime opportunity’ to ‘launch a broad-based commercial brand.’ ‘These product categories would have included, among other things, apparel accessories, shoes, jewelry, cosmetics, hair care, skin care and fragrance,’ according to the lawsuit, which was filed on Trump’s behalf by California attorney Charles Harder. … Harder has represented several high-profile clients, including wrestler Hulk Hogan, who won a $140 million invasion of privacy verdict against Gawker last year.”
GET SMART FAST:
- Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R) signed “right to work” legislation, making his state the 28th to adopt a law barring unions from forcing employees to pay dues. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
- The NCAA threatened to block all of its sports championship games from being held in North Carolina until 2022 unless legislators agree to repeal the so-called “bathroom bill." That could cost the state another $250 million in potential revenue. (Matt Bonesteel)
- The Syrian government secretly executed up to 13,000 political prisoners at a single Damascus-area jail as part of a campaign to eliminate opposition to Bashar al-Assad, according to a new Amnesty International report. Prisoners were allegedly given minutes-long “sham trials” before being hanged and buried in a mass grave outside the facility. The report offers a rare, detailed look at the scale of exterminations in Syria — many of which were carried out against ordinary people who joined in peaceful protests. (Liz Sly)
- Israel passed a contentious law that would allow the state to retroactively legalize thousands of Jewish homes built in the West Bank. Opponents said the bill is reckless and will “turn the world against Israel.” It is likely headed for a high court challenge, where many analysts expect it to be overturned. (William Booth)
- Iraqi forces near Mosul discovered an Islamic State file that details “problem” foreign fighters within its ranks, listing more than a dozen militants who were refusing to fight for various reasons. Some militants had medical notes to excuse them from battle, while others requested transfers and others simply refused to participate. (One complained of head pain.) While the document hints at signs of rebellion within ISIS ranks, it has also triggered concerns that disillusioned fighters may attempt to return home. (Loveday Morris and Mustafa Salim)
- Federal prosecutors are expected to seek an indictment this week against Harold T. Martin III, the former NSA contractor accused of carrying out the biggest theft of classified information in U.S. history. He is expected to be charged with violating the Espionage Act, and, if convicted, could face 30 years to life in prison. (Ellen Nakashima)
- Turkey said it has detained more than 800 people in a nationwide security operation against the Islamic State — carrying out a week-long series of raids in 29 cities. It is the largest operation by Turkish authorities against ISIS militants and comes in response to a gunman rampaging through a nightclub in Istanbul on New Year’s Eve. (Kareem Fahim)
- The number of civilians killed in the anti-Taliban fight in Afghanistan has spiked to its highest level since 2009, with nearly 3,500 killed since the beginning of 2016. Officials said the number of children killed has also spiked by 24 percent since 2015 — more devastating violence as government forces continue to cede territory to insurgents. (Sayed Salahuddin and Pamela Constable)
- Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte made headlines once again for his bombastic rhetoric — this time denouncing the Catholic Church after it critiqued his so-called drug war as a “reign of terror.” Duterte dismissed the church with dark bravado, urging his countrymen to “join” him in hell. (Emily Rauhala)
- An Illinois law requiring elderly citizens to take driving tests has paid dividends, according to an insurance industry report. More frequent testing has culled the riskiest drivers from the road, and reduced the number of elderly crash rates in the state. (Ashley Halsey III)
- A historic drought in California is responsible for killing off thousands of acres of centuries-old forest in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. But some have said there is a silver lining to the ecological tragedy — er, or a golden one, if you happen to be a logger. They’re the beneficiaries of a $50 million statewide effort to get rid of the burned-out trees. And as they flock west for the high-paying deforesting gigs, officials say the phenomenon has created something of a modern-day gold rush. (Darryl Fears)
- Television maker Vizio has agreed to pay $2.2 million to settle a lawsuit over accusations that it was secretly spying on its customers — and then selling back private consumer information. (Hayley Tsukayama)
- A 42-year-old Indian woman plagued by a persistent “tingling” sensation near her eyes and nostril thought she could be coming down with a cold — until doctors traced her discomfort to a full-grown cockroach living in her skull. Officials said the insect had been lodged between her eyes, not far from the brain, and were forced to perform a delicate extraction procedure for the still-live roach. (Samantha Schmidt)
-- Virtually all Democratic senators are expected to vote against Trump’s nominees to lead the departments of Education, Justice, Health and Human Services, Labor, Treasury and OMB — delivering a historic rebuke of a first-term president’s Cabinet selections. Ed O'Keefe reports: "If not total unanimity, we’re going to have near Democratic unity in opposing the remaining nominees," Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said yesterday. His declaration came as Democrats launched a night of floor speeches to show opposition to Betsy DeVos. Vice President Pence is expected to cast the tie-breaking vote for her this afternoon, the first time in U.S. history a vice president has used this tie-breaking vote to put someone in the Cabinet.
-- Labor Department nominee and fast-food CEO Andrew Puzder admitted that he previously employed an undocumented immigrant to work as a housekeeper: In a statement last night, he claimed that he was unaware of the woman’s undocumented status but, after being made aware, “immediately ended her employment” and offered assistance to help her receive legal status. It is unclear how much damage the news will cause for Puzder, who has faced a series of obstacles during his confirmation process that would kill any normal nominee under a conventional president. Deputy White House press secretary Lindsay Walters said that Puzder has “no intention” of withdrawing. (Jonnelle Marte and Ed O'Keefe)
-- A senior official at the ATF has written a proposal to help the Trump administration scale back gun regulations. The 115-page “white paper” suggests lifting restrictions on the purchase of gun silencers, as well as possibly lifting the ban on importing assault weapons into the United States. (Sari Horwitz)
-- Trump’s State Department is in a “cone of silence” due to lack of staff, Bloomberg’s Nick Wadhams reports: “For the third consecutive week, State Department press briefings normally held every workday haven’t been scheduled, no chief of staff has been named and many of the most senior posts at the department remain vacant. By this time in the Obama administration, the State Department had given 11 daily briefings. ... Even when he hires a deputy, Tillerson will face a backlog of more than 200 jobs requiring Senate approval in the coming months. Many of those are ambassadorships, and the key for Tillerson will be the 20 to 30 undersecretaries and assistant secretaries who help carry out day-to-day policies on specific issues or regions of the world.”
-- Rand Paul, who could be the deciding vote on the Foreign Relations Committee, comes out swinging against Elliott Abrams to be deputy secretary of state. From the Kentucky Republican senator's op-ed for Rare: “I hope against hope that the rumors are wrong.… Crack the door to admit Elliott Abrams, and the neocons will scurry in by the hundreds. Neoconservative interventionists have had us at perpetual war for 25 years. While President Trump has repeatedly stated his belief that the Iraq War was a mistake, the neocons (all of them Never-Trumpers) continue to maintain that the Iraq and Libyan Wars were brilliant ideas….
- “I voted for Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State because I believe him to have a balanced approach to foreign policy. My hope is that he will put forward a realist approach. I don’t see Abrams as part of any type of foreign policy realism….
- “Just as importantly, Congress has good reason not to trust him — he was convicted of lying to Congress in his previous job. His conviction for deceiving Congress over secret arms deals, better known as the Iran-Contra scandal, show that his neocon agenda trumps his fidelity to the rule of law.”
-- 2020 watch: Elizabeth Warren yesterday hired her very own “NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER.” From The Boston Globe: “Sasha Baker, who last served as the deputy chief of staff to former Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, joins the staff following Warren’s appointment to the Senate Armed Services Committee. … Her new role will help her fill in national security and foreign policy gaps” on her resume.
-- Trump’s acting SEC chairman Michael Piwowar is trying to get rid of an Obama rule that forces companies to disclose what their CEOs earn compared to their employees, taking aim at a “pay ratio” disclosure requirement that attempts to highlight disparity between top company brass and rank-and-file employees. (Renae Merle)
-- Trump allies are building a legal case to try to oust Consumer Finance Protection Bureau chief Richard Cordray. The Obama ally has long been in the crosshairs of free-market conservatives and Wall Street lawyers, and now some are informally compiling a dossier that would give Trump excuses to fire him. The only way the president could do so legally would be for "inefficiency, neglect of duty, or malfeasance." Cordray’s supporters are itching for that fight. "Firing him would ignite a political fuse that could cause more damage than it’s worth to his foes. Even some Trump advisers are ambivalent about the idea, saying it might be easier to live with Cordray until his term expires in July 2018," Politico’s Lorraine Woellert and Josh Dawsey report.
-- Nearly 450 former EPA employees signed a petition urging Congress to reject Scott Pruitt to lead the agency. “Our perspective is not partisan,” the group wrote, noting that many signees had served under both Republican and Democratic administrations. “However, every EPA administrator has a fundamental obligation to act in the public’s interest based on current law and the best available science. Mr. Pruitt’s record raises serious questions about whose interests he has served to date and whether he agrees with the long-standing tenets of U.S. environmental law.” (Brady Dennis and Juliet Eilperin)
TRUMP VS. THE WORLD:
-- If you read one thing: Trump tried and failed to build a wall in Ireland. That could mean big trouble for Europe. Griff Witte reports: “Before Trump proposed a 1,000-mile wall on the U.S.-Mexico border … he tried to build a two-mile barrier on a pristine stretch of Irish coast to rein in an ocean. He didn’t succeed. Irish surfers, weekend beachcombers, environmental scientists, local planners and even a microscopic snail got in his way. For a man who loves to win, the defeat … has left a bitter taste. And despite the motley nature of the resistance, Trump seems to have singled out a lone culprit: the European Union, whose rules and regulations underpinned many of the objections. In interviews and public statements, Trump has cited his tangle over the golf-course wall as Exhibit A in justifying a jaundiced view of the E.U. that puts him at odds with decades of bipartisan U.S. foreign policy. 'I found it to be a very unpleasant experience,’ he told British and German interviewers last month after bringing up the wall dispute, unbidden, when asked his opinion of the E.U. The bureaucratic battle over a golf-course sea wall makes for an unlikely inflection point in geopolitical history. And yet in Europe, Trump’s hostility toward the union that backers credit with keeping decades of continental peace is seen as a potentially fatal blow."
-- Trump will probably not be addressing British lawmakers during his state visit to Britain after an extraordinary — and highly unusual — intervention from the speaker of the House of Commons. In a Monday night speech, he told lawmakers that he was “strongly” opposed to Trump addressing both houses of Parliament in Westminster Hall, citing “racism” and “sexism” among the reasons for his opposition. “We value our relationship with the United States. If a state visit takes place, that is way beyond and above the pay grade of the speaker," John Bercow said. "However, as far as this place is concerned, I feel very strongly that our opposition to racism and to sexism, and our support for equality before the law, and an independent judiciary are hugely important considerations in the House of Commons.” (Karla Adam has more from London.)
-- The Trump-ordered military raid in Yemen last week had a secret objective: To capture or kill the head of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Though a Navy SEAL, 14 al-Qaeda fighters and some civilians were ultimately killed in the operation, the main target, Qassim al-Rimi, is still alive. NBC News reports that he is considered the world’s third most dangerous terrorist and is taunting Trump in a new audio message.
-- Trump keeps talking about the threat from the U.S.-Mexico border. But he may be looking in the wrong direction: FBI reports show that far more suspected terrorists try to enter the country from the northern border with Canada than from the south, The Daily Beast’s Jana Winter reports: “Seven FBI Terrorist Screening Center ‘monthly domestic encounter reports’ dating from April 2014 to August 2016 detail the number, type, and location of encounters with known or suspected terrorists across the United States. In all seven reports, the numbers of encounters at land border crossings were higher in northern states than southern. ‘We are looking the wrong direction,’ said a senior DHS official familiar with the data. ‘Not to say that Mexico isn’t a problem, but the real bad guys aren’t coming from there—at least not yet.’”
-- National security adviser Michael Flynn is expected to recommend that Trump allow the small Balkan nation of Montenegro to join NATO, despite intense opposition from Russia. The decision will be a major test of Trump's policy toward Moscow, which opposes any eastward expansion of the Western military alliance. (Politico)
-- On today's front page, the New York Times looks at Bannon’s open hostility toward Pope Francis and his deep alliances with anti-Francis factions inside the Catholic Church: “While Mr. Trump, a twice-divorced president who has boasted of groping women, may seem an unlikely ally of traditionalists in the Vatican, many of them regard his election and the ascendance of Mr. Bannon as potentially game-changing breakthroughs,” Jason Horowitz files from Rome. “Just as Mr. Bannon has connected with far-right parties threatening to topple governments throughout Western Europe, he has also made common cause with elements in the Roman Catholic Church who oppose the direction Francis is taking them. Many share Mr. Bannon’s suspicion of Pope Francis as a dangerously misguided, and probably socialist, pontiff.”
-- The Kremlin demanded an apology after Fox News host Bill O’Reilly called Vladimir Putin a “killer” in a televised interview with Trump. “We consider such words by the Fox News company correspondent to be unacceptable and insulting,” a Kremlin spokesman told reporters in a conference call. “And honestly, we would prefer to receive an apology addressed to the Russian president from such a respected television station.” O’Reilly responded to Moscow in his show last night: "Apparently the Putin administration in Moscow is demanding that I, your humble correspondent, apologize for saying old Vlad is a killer. So I’m working on that apology but it may take a little time. Might want to check in with me around 2023." (Sarah Larimer)
-- The real significance of Trump’s refusal to condemn Putin as a killer has little to do with Russia, The Atlantic’s Julia Ioffe explains: “In fact, it’s hard to say Putin is a killer. Rather, he has created an atmosphere in which his minions … can kill with impunity. Even when tens of thousands of people protested against him … he didn’t respond with mass arrests and purges. He sent a few dozen people to jail, not for 25 years, but for two or three. The government picked sample protestors from each social group — an anarchist, a pensioner, a young liberal — because the point was not so much to punish specific individuals but to send a clear, targeted message about the costs of going against him. By American standards, Putin may be a killer, but by Russian standards, he is downright moderate in how he dispatches with his enemies.” But the far more troubling point, Julia says, is that the man now in charge of the U.S. “seems to believe that being a killer is a good thing.” She warns that Trump too has created an atmosphere of hostility against journalists that could spill into something real and bloody.
-- Australia says a deal for the United States to accept hundreds of mostly Muslim refugees is still continuing as planned, even following Trump’s outspoken criticism of the deal, but has been slowed by the White House’s stringent vetting procedures. Australian officials now say the resettlement process between the countries could take months. (Wall Street Journal)
TRUMP VS. THE FOURTH ESTATE:
-- The president speculated that the press is “intentionally” covering up terrorist attacks, making a stunning and unsubstantiated claim during a speech at the MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa. “You’ve seen what happened in Paris, and Nice. All over Europe, it’s happening,” he told the group of military leaders, without attempting to offer a shred of evidence support his assertion. “In many cases, the very, very dishonest press doesn’t want to report it. They have their reasons, and you understand that.” John Wagner and Philip Rucker report:
- Attempting to soften Trump’s remarks, Sean Spicer later told reporters that the president believes the attacks were “underreported”: “He felt members of the media don’t always cover some of those events to the extent that other events might get covered,” he said on Air Force One. “Protests will get blown out of the water, and yet an attack or a foiled attack doesn’t necessarily get the same coverage.”
- After being pressed for proof, the White House later released a list of 78 terrorist attacks that had occurred globally since 2014, arguing that “most” were not widely reported. The list includes very heavily covered events such as last year’s Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando and the terrorist attacks in Paris.
-- This appears to be part of a broader effort by Trump to lay the groundwork to shift blame for any future terrorist attack on U.S. soil from his administration to the federal judiciary and the news media, Rucker reports in an important piece: Since a judge ruled against his travel ban on Friday night, Trump has sent nine tweets invoking the judge and stoking fears that suddenly the door had been opened for terrorists to enter the U.S. and cause “death & destruction.” (“Bad people are very happy!” he declared on Saturday night.) “Trump’s terrorism blame-game is in keeping with how he ran his campaign, looking for scapegoats at nearly every turn,” Rucker writes. “He often blamed his own failings … on the media or other perceived enemies, and he fed his own conspiracies that his adversaries were out to undermine him.”
Former Hillary Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmier, a veteran of Bill's and Obama's White House, adds: “It’s chilling because the president of the United States should be responsible for keeping the American people safe but is seeking to preemptively blame a judge. If an attack happens on American soil when he’s commander in chief, then he’s responsible. It’s chilling to see the president of the United States almost wish for an attack for the purpose of blaming somebody else.”
WEST WING INTRIGUE:
-- Sean Spicer's standing has been further damaged by Melissa McCarthy’s caricature of him on “Saturday Night Live,” according to Politico: “More than being lampooned as a press secretary who makes up facts, it was Spicer’s portrayal by a woman that was most problematic in the president’s eyes, according to sources close to him. And the unflattering send-up by a female comedian was not considered helpful for Spicer’s longevity … ‘Trump doesn't like his people to look weak,’ added a top Trump donor. … Trump’s uncharacteristic Twitter silence over the weekend about the sketch was seen internally as a sign of how uncomfortable it made the White House feel…“Internally, people close to Trump are eager to point out that Spicer was also not Trump’s first choice for the high-profile position … but that chief of staff Reince Priebus pushed … Kellyanne Conway and Hope Hicks still attend the daily briefings and sit on the side to watch him — a move some interpreted as a sign that Spicer still needs supervision. The ‘SNL’ clip was seen by some in Trump’s orbit as devastating because it was accurate. ‘I thought they had Sean down pretty good,’ said one Trump ally.”
-- Conway has aggressively pushed back on criticism for her mentioning a nonexistent “Bowling Green Massacre” during an MSNBC interview last week to justify the travel ban, but it was not the first time she referred to the fake terrorist attack during an on-the-record interview. In an interview with Cosmopolitan, Kellyanne not only used this same phrasing but also went a step further – claiming that Obama called for a temporary "ban on Iraqi refugees” after the “Bowling Green massacre.” And on the same day, she referred to the fictitious attack during a brief TMZ interview, the Daily Beast reports. (Kristen Mascia)
-- The New Yorker looks into Julia Hahn, Bannon’s 25-year-old protégé who has landed a plum job inside the White House after writing venomously about Paul Ryan for Breitbart: “Hahn was raised in Beverly Hills and attended Harvard-Westlake, an exclusive private high school in Los Angeles. … She majored in philosophy at the University of Chicago and studied in Paris. … Hahn’s senior thesis, about ‘issues at the intersection of psychoanalysis and post-Foucauldian philosophical inquiry,’ drew on the work of Leo Bersani, whose ideas she called ‘hugely transformational.’ Bersani, a left-wing cultural theorist who taught at Berkeley, is known for his provocative writings on Freud and sexuality…
“After college, Hahn moved to Washington, D.C., hoping, she told friends, to ‘get a job in media.’ She didn’t seem to care what kind. At around this time, a Chicago classmate who worked at a think tank saw Hahn at a party; Hahn said that she was a producer for Laura Ingraham, a fixture of far-right talk radio. ‘I asked, ‘Oh, is that what your politics are?’’ the classmate recalled. ‘She went, ‘Nah, I’m apolitical.’ I thought, O.K., there are two possibilities. Either she’s dissembling because she doesn’t feel comfortable being outed as a hyperconservative or she actually is just a pure social climber.’”
THE FIRST FAMILY:
-- Tiffany Trump paid a visit to NYU Law School last week, sitting in on a Friday class as she continues a whirlwind tour of prospective schools that has so far included Harvard and Columbia. The youngest Trump daughter did not exactly fly under the radar, however. Signs posted outside the classroom where she visited said “Save us tiffany, you’re our only hope.” (Emily Heil)
-- White House staffers are considering changing a key tenet of Trump’s paid maternity leave proposal – potentially extending benefits to apply to both males and females after critics complained that the policy was discriminatory. A White House spokesperson would not confirm whether the president’s policy -- originally championed by Ivanka Trump -- had changed, but noted, “It’s a top priority of his. The president has expressed a need for a comprehensive maternity plan.” (Danielle Paquette)
-- Natalie Jones, former deputy chief of protocol under Obama, withdrew her name from consideration to be Trump’s new social secretary. Jones “felt like it wasn’t the best fit, though it was all very positive,” said a source. News of Jones’ decision comes as Melania moves to assemble her White House staff, hiring Bush veteran Lindsay Reynolds and New York party planner Stephanie Winston. (Emily Heil)
DISPATCHES FROM A DIVIDED AMERICA:
-- “Super Bowl ad about immigration draws attention to tiny Eighty Four, Pa.,” by Sandhya Somashekhar and Terence Samuel: “All it took was a few minutes of lush, expensive, emotional advertising during the Super Bowl to pull this little town in the far southwestern corner of Pennsylvania into the center of the national debate on immigration. Many people around the country viewed the Super Bowl ad — the tale of a mother and daughter traveling through Mexico on their way to the U.S. border — as unambiguously pro-immigration … And it came as something of a surprise, in part … because [the county] voted 61 percent for President Trump. … [Still], residents here in Eighty Four, reluctant to think ill of the company known locally as a good employer and corporate citizen, filled in what felt to them like an ambiguous scene with their own views on immigration and the American Dream. For most of those interviewed Monday, that vision was of an America that is a magnet for the world — but with a front door that is not open to everyone."
-- “History is weaponized to praise or condemn Trump,” by Michael S. Rosenwald: “On social networks and talk radio, in classrooms and at kitchen tables, the country’s past is suddenly inescapable. Many, many people — as President Trump would put it — are sharing stories about key moments and figures in American history to support or oppose one controversial White House executive order after another. Andrew Jackson and Huey Long are alive in Facebook feeds. Twitter is afire with 140-character bursts of historical moments — the St. Louis steaming toward Miami in 1939 with Jewish refugees fleeing Germany’s Third Reich, or the ‘Saturday Night Massacre,’ President Richard Nixon’s firing of a special prosecutor in 1973 during the Watergate scandal. Trump may or may not make America great again, but he has certainly revived interest in U.S. history. ‘History really feels explosive to many people right now,’ Harvard University historian Jill Lepore said. ‘People are reaching out for whatever twig is streaming by to give some meaning to what they’re seeing.’”
-- Repeating the same mistake Democrats made in 2009, Republicans now say they see “Astroturf” in Democratic protests, as Trump officials and some Fox News commentators join forces to say that protesters against the president are “absolutely” being paid. “Protesting has become a profession now,” Sean Spicer said on “Fox and Friends” this weekend. "They have every right to do that, don’t get me wrong. But I think we need to call it what it is. It’s not these organic uprisings that we have seen over the last several decades. The tea party was a very organic movement. This has become a very paid, Astroturf-type movement." "It was the clearest endorsement yet of an idea that has become taken for granted in conservative media — that the protests hounding Republican members of Congress are fabricated by big money," David Weigel observes in a smart take. "The chief culprit is seen to be George Soros, a financier who has plowed hundreds of millions of dollars into progressive and pro-transparency causes since the 2004 election … [But] in reality, the mushrooming protests have been organized similarly to the very first tea party rallies, by novice political activists getting permits or crowdsourcing their tactics."
-- Organizers of the Woman’s March on Washington are planning "a general strike," declaring their intention to hold a follow-up event after the protests that galvanized millions of demonstrators after Trump’s inauguration. The group first gave word of the strike on Monday, updating social media accounts with posts reading, “General Strike: A Day Without a Woman.” They have yet to pick a date. (CNN)
-- New England Patriots player Devin McCourty said he too will skip the ceremonial White House visit after winning the Super Bowl, turning down the congratulatory trip to protest Trump. He joins tight end Martellus Bennett. (Time)
-- Trump White House aide Omarosa Manigault was escorted to her car by Nordstrom employees this weekend after she was heckled while shopping for bridesmaid’s dresses in Tyson’s Corner. “These fat ladies won’t stop following me,” Manigault complained, according to a bystander -- and the situation reportedly escalated from there. “They were letting her have it,” recalled a witness. One woman reportedly shouted “Trump’s whore” at Manigault before department store security arrived to de-escalate the brouhaha. (Helena Andrews-Dyer)
-- Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) said Trump’s actions are “leading himself” to possible impeachment. She said on Twitter last week that her “greatest desire” is to “lead him right into impeachment.” "I have not called for the impeachment yet. He's doing it himself," Waters clarified when asked about the statement at a news conference. "Let me just say that the statement I made is a statement in response to questions and pleas that I'm getting from many citizens across this country. What are we going to do? How can a President who is acting in the manner that he's acting?" (CNN)
-- Kanye West may have soured on his relationship with Trump: Less than two months after the artist traveled to Trump Tower for a bizarre meeting with the then president-elect – ostensibly to discuss education and violence in inner cities – West has deleted all his tweets about the New York businessman. (Vanity Fair)
-- “How a U.S. team uses Facebook (and) guerrilla marketing to peel off potential ISIS recruits,” by Joby Warrick: “Sometime today, a teenager in Tunis will check his smartphone for the latest violent video from the Islamic State. But the images that pop up first will be of a different genre: young Muslims questioning the morality of terrorists who slaughter innocents and enslave girls for sex. The video is one of several paid ads that are turning up on millions of cellphones and computer screens in countries known to be top recruiting grounds for the Islamic State. Most of them make no mention of the ads’ sponsor: a small unit inside the State Department that is using guerrilla marketing tactics to wage ideological warfare against the Islamic State. Then they bombard them with anti-terrorism messages that show up whenever the youths go online. Other government agencies have tried unsuccessfully to compete with militant jihadists in cyberspace. But officials at the State Department’s new Global Engagement Center say they’re the first to tap into the Internet’s vast stores of personal information to discourage individual users from joining [ISIS]."
-- “‘Hillbilly Elegy’ made J.D. Vance the voice of the Rust Belt. But does he want that job?” by Karen Heller: “Seven months ago, Vance’s (book) exploded into the national political conversation. … He’s in high demand as a lecturer, being offered what he deems ‘a preposterous amount of money.’ His schedule is such a circus that he recently had to hire a personal assistant. The Trump whisperer, they call him. Also, J.D., the Rust Belt anger translator. A weird place to be, he concedes. ‘It’s an indictment of our media culture that a group that includes tens of millions of people is effectively represented by one guy,’ he says. ‘I feel sort of uncomfortable being the guy.’ But for now, he is…
“On this night, a long way from his family’s origins in a Kentucky holler, Vance will feast on a $46 steak, drain a $19 martini, slumber in a $700 hotel room and shake his head at the absurdity of it all. Vance lives in San Francisco — the antithesis of his home town of Middletown (Ohio) — where he works as a principal in an investment group co-founded by Peter Thiel, one of the few Silicon Valley poo-bahs to support Trump. But he and his wife, Usha, are moving to Columbus, most likely by the end of the month. There, he plans to run a small nonprofit organization ‘to work on battling the opioid crisis and bringing durable capital to the region,’ he says. … ‘It’s been a crazy year,’ says Usha Vance, the daughter of Indian immigrants and an associate in a San Francisco law firm. They met in law school. They’re expecting their first child, a boy, due June 1.” Vance’s wife is going to clerk for Chief Justice John Roberts next term. Usha’s mother, a biology professor in California, plans to take time off and help with the baby.
-- Former George W. Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson warns of the long-term damage Trump will do to the conservative movement if GOP congressional leaders continue to kowtow and capitulate: “I am grateful to Trump for the wise nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the high court. But the trends of the first two weeks are not good for the Republican Party or for the long-term interests of conservatism. Republicans are on the horns of a bull in a china shop. Perceptive leaders can see their party eventually physically reduced and morally diminished to a fanatical ethno-nationalist core. But opposing Trump in public risks Twitter attacks and primary challenges. In Trump’s amoral, counterpunching ethic, even the mildest criticisms can result in massive retaliation. Trump has already succeeded in creating an atmosphere of intimidation in Washington…
“Several members of the Senate are willing to take on Trump on a case-by-case basis. But almost the whole of the Republican House is riding the populist wave or waiting quietly until it passes. And Speaker Paul D. Ryan seems to have embraced the Faustian bargain with open eyes — a chance to legislate if he occasionally ignores his conscience.”
-- Trump is a particularly bad role model for our children, Richard Cohen laments in his column: “A father instructs. He raises a child to be good, to be honest, to tell the truth, to be humble, to be fair, not to be petty, to respect women, to accept fair criticism, to protect the weak and not to injure the injured, such as the bereaved parents of a son who died heroically in Iraq and a reporter with a physical disability. Trump teaches otherwise. He shows a boy that the manly virtues are for suckers, that the narcissism of youth should be cherished and that angry impulses have to be honored. Lots of men have failed as presidents, as Trump surely will, but few fail so dismally as role models. He’s a boy’s idea of a man. He’s a man’s idea of a boy.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Many reporters called out Trump for falsely saying the media doesn't cover terrorist attacks:
This New York Times:
CNN's national security correspondent:
AFP's White House reporter:
From the founder of Wonkette:
The actor George Takei said the episode is emblematic:
Chelsea Clinton responded:
Many Democratic senators stayed up overnight to give floor speeches against DeVos, including a bunch of up-and-comers:
Cory Booker spoke at 10:30 p.m. last night:
Watch Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) talk about why he will oppose DeVos:
Sean Spicer says the resistance is really "astro-turf:"
The Democratic senator from Hawaii sought to show otherwise:
Media reporters buzzed about CNN's decision not to book Kellyanne Conway. The White House gave Pence to every Sunday show but Jake Tapper's and offered her instead. Tapper said no.
Conway denied the report:
This prompted CNN's P.R. account to reply:
Mika Brezinski, from rival network MSNBC, backed up CNN:
Cue "you can't unsee this" jokes about Trump in his bathrobe:
New York Rep. Yvette Clarke (D) introduced this:
Senators celebrated Ronald Reagan's birthday:
Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.) has a special friend:
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
-- Wired, “Russians engineer a brilliant slot machine cheat – and casinos have no fix,” by Brendan I. Koerner: “Digging through a slot machine source code helped a St. Petersburg-based syndicate make millions.”
-- A CAUTIONARY TALE FOR TRUMP’S INFRASTRUCTURE PLANS --> “As Trump Vows Building Splurge, Famed Traffic Choke Point Offers Warning,” by the New York Times’s Charlie Savage: “Millions of people who travel between the Mid-Atlantic and the Midwest each year fight through Breezewood, Pa., a strange gap in the Interstate System. A leg of Route I-70 brings drivers north from Washington and Baltimore to plug into the Pennsylvania Turnpike … But no ramps join these two huge highways at their crossing. Instead, drivers travel an extra two-mile loop that takes them out of rural Appalachia and into several suddenly urban blocks. …. [Why?] The answer lies at the intersection of politics and transportation policy. At a time when President Trump wants to spend a trillion dollars on infrastructure, the story of Breezewood offers a vivid case study in governance over such projects. It shows how legal quirks, powerful politicians and opaque bureaucratic procedures can influence decisions about how to spend taxpayer dollars. One result is what critics call the preservation of an inefficiency that benefits a few while imposing widely dispersed costs on many."
-- “The Trump administration has mounted a vigorous defense of its ban on travel from seven majority-Muslim nations, saying it is necessary to prevent terrorists from entering the United States,” The Times’ Donald G. McNeil Jr. reports: “But the ban … also ensnared travelers important to the well-being of many Americans: doctors. Foreign-born physicians have become crucial to the delivery of medical care in the United States. They work in small towns where there are no other doctors, in poor urban neighborhoods and in Veterans Affairs hospitals. Forty-two percent of office visits in rural America are with foreign-born physicians, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. Across the U.S., more than 15,000 doctors are from the seven Muslim-majority countries covered by the travel ban … [including] almost 9,000 from Iran, almost 3,500 from Syria and more than 1,500 from Iraq …”
-- The Atlantic, “Bracing for Trump's Revenge,” by McKay Coppins: “Trump has never made a secret of his penchant for personal vengeance. He boasts about it, tweets about it, tells long, rambling stories about it on the transcontinental speaking circuit. When, last year, he was asked to identify a favorite Bible passage, he cited “an eye for an eye.’ ‘My motto is: Always get even,’ he wrote [in his 2007 book]. ‘When somebody screws you, screw them back in spades.’ For those who have crossed Trump, then, these are understandably anxious times. As he enters the White House and takes the reins of the most powerful government in the world, a small cadre of high-profile conservatives—the haters, the losers, the Never-Trumpers who never fell in line—has found itself wondering whether their party’s president will use his new powers to settle old scores. ‘The question is not whether he’s vengeful,’ [said] conservative columnist Ben Shapiro … ‘The question is how willing he is to use the levers of government to exact that revenge.’”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“Lawmaker Wants Women To Spend Sundays Making Husbands Breakfast In Bed,” from HuffPost: “Two North Dakota Representatives have some pretty outdated ideas for how women should be spending their Sunday mornings. In their defense of North Dakota’s ‘Blue Laws’ ― which require some businesses to open late on Sunday mornings and some businesses to stay closed altogether ― Representatives Bernie Satrom and Vernon Laning seemed to express that Sunday mornings should be spent time traveling back to the norms of the 1950s rather than running errands. According to Satrom, women should spend their Sunday mornings bringing their husbands breakfast in bed. Satrom said that Sundays should be devoted to ‘spending time with your wife, your husband...Making him breakfast, bringing it to him in bed and then after that go take your kids for a walk.’ Rep. Laning also chimed in with some sexist commentary. ‘I don’t know about you, but my wife has no problem spending everything I earn in 6 and a half days,’ he said. ‘And I don’t think it hurts at all to have a half day off.’”
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“Lena Dunham: 'Soul-crushing pain' of Trump's election made me lose weight,” from Entertainment Weekly: “Most people turn to diets and exercise to lose extra pounds, but Girls star Lena Dunham is sharing a new weight-loss trick you may not want to try at home. Dunham stopped by Howard Stern’s SiriusXM radio show Monday morning and revealed that she has none other than [Trump] to thank for her slim figure. ‘He became president and I stopped being able to eat food, 'she told Stern after he complimented her look. 'Everyone’s been asking like, ‘What have you been doing?’ And I’m like, ‘Try soul-crushing pain and devastation.' Dunham, who famously pledged a move to Canada if Trump won the election, also clarified those comments to Stern, saying that, at the time, a Trump win ‘seemed like an impossible joke that would never happen. I was like, ‘The most qualified candidate we’ve ever had is running against a steak salesman. We’re going to be fine.'”
At the White House: Trump will receive his daily intelligence briefing before being joined by Pence at the White House, where they will host a listening session with a group of county sheriffs. Later, Trump will speak to Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan separately by phone, and Pence will travel to Capitol Hill for a Republican policy lunch with senators. Later, Pence meets with “Right To Try” advocates.
On Capitol Hill: The full Senate will vote on DeVos for education secretary. She is expected to squeak by after just a single tiebreaking vote from Pence. Also likely to receive floor votes today are Jeff Sessions, Tom Price, and Steve Mnuchin. Meanwhile, the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs will consider the nomination of David Shulkin as VA secretary. Check out the full schedule here.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“It’s a very strange phenomenon. We get along, I don’t know if he’ll admit this, but he likes me. I like him,” Donald Trump said of Barack Obama. Bill O’Reilly asked: “How do you know he does?” Trump replied: “Because I can feel it. That’s what I do in life, it’s called -- like, I understand.” (Fox News)
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- Washington’s disorienting warm weather continues today, forcing us to double check the calendar to remember what month it is. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Partly to mostly cloudy with a chance of showers until midday. Highs rocket up into the upper 60s to middle 70s (the current record high at National Airport is 64!).” But then we’re due for another cold front – and by Thursday, we could even get some snow.
-- Smithsonian officials have announced Bao Bao's official moving date: The beloved three-year-old giant panda will depart for China on Feb. 21, in keeping with a long-arranged breeding deal. But friends of Bao Bao will have plenty of chances to say goodbye -- the zoo is sending her off with a Reddit chat, ice cake parties and plenty of other farewell celebrations. (USA Today)
-- Violent crime on the Metro has increased by “significant proportions” last year, according to new transit agency statistics. While officials said serious crime on Metro actually dropped by about five percent, physical confrontations such as aggravated assaults, rapes, and other violent crimes have spiked. The numbers come as the agency seeks to rehabilitate its image and will only fuel the perception that the beleaguered transit has become more dangerous. (Faiz Siddiqui)
-- The Wizards lost to the Cavaliers 140-135, ending their win streak at home, courtesy of LeBron James.
-- Ed Gillespie gave the convocation at Liberty University yesterday. Laura Vozzella reports from Lynchburg: “The Republican candidate for governor of Virginia stood before 15,000 students to share how his faith has helped him understand that painful disappointments — from his failure to gain admission to his top choice for college (Williams) to his squeaker loss to Sen. Mark R. Warner (D) in 2014 — were part of God’s plan and ultimately for the good. ‘The truth is, I was not raised to talk about my personal relationship with our savior, Jesus Christ,’ Gillespie said at a convocation. ‘Happily, over time that’s become more comfortable to me.’”
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Did you know Stephen Colbert is a Bowling Green massacre "truther?"
Make your Valentine swoon with a Ron Charles book recommendation: