It's no secret that Stephen K. Bannon, the past chairman of Breitbart News and now a senior strategist to the president, is behind much of Trump's anti-media rhetoric. The idea of the media as the “opposition party” or the “enemy” — two phrases Trump has used of late to describe those who cover him — is pure Bannon.
So, there was no reason to think that Bannon was going to be anything but confrontational with the media during a joint appearance with Trump White House chief of staff Reince Priebus at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday afternoon.
But, even by Bannon's standards, he seemed to ramp up his attacks on the media and offer a very clear message to political journalists: You think this is bad? Just wait.
“It's going to get worse every day for the media,” Bannon said, insisting that the “corporatist” media would continue to see Trump pursue exactly the sort of economic nationalism that journalism allegedly despises. Then he added this call to arms: “If you think they are giving you your country back without a fight, you are sadly mistaken.”
The message from Bannon was unmistakable: The enemy of Donald Trump and those who think like him is not, really, Democrats but, in actuality, the media. And the only way to combat the media is to fight like hell against them on everything and anything.
As I've noted before, presidents (and their staffs) always have an adversarial relationship with the press. The administration insists the press isn't telling the story of the White House right. The press complains about a lack of access to the key players in the White House. It's been that way for as long as I can remember.
But what Bannon and, by extension, Trump are up to is something very different than simply an adversarial working relationship with the media. Bannon doesn't want to change the media. He wants to totally dismantle the media. He wants to break its back and leave it for dead by the side of the road. And he's not afraid of telling the media to their faces about that plan.
That was the message Bannon wanted to get across at CPAC. That Trump — and he — would never back down. That the perceived scorn of the so-called “mainstream media” only made him more convinced that the course Trump is taking is right. And that things are going to get plenty worse for the media over the next four years.
It's a remarkable declaration of all-out war on the media from one of the most powerful people in the Trump White House.