When Steven K. Bannon commissioned yours truly in early 2015 to write the Breitbart series “Rove-Stupid,” based on the 2013 book about Rove and the establishment, I realized that there was someone who loathed the Republican establishment even more than I. Previously, I was not aware this was even possible, but Bannon is like that. He is full pedal to the metal, and more intense, singularly focused, and passionate than anyone you’ll ever meet. We agree on most things, including the fact that Karl Rove was an accurate prototype for the incompetence, isolation, tone deafness and corruption of the GOP-E – even on issues where Rove was not specifically involved. That’s why both this series, and my book, featured “Turd Blossom, aka Rove,” in the respective titles.
That said, there was no way to know at the time that one day Bannon would in a manner of speaking become Karl Rove. He’s nothing like Rove of course, but he is in the exact same position for President Donald Trump that Rove occupied for George W. Bush. The analogy plays out further, as Bannon is considered more dangerous than Trump by elements of the left, much as Rove was more of a left wing target at times than Bush.
Moreover, many assumed Rove the brain behind Bush, and we’re seeing some of that with Bannon as well. After Bannon’s CPAC appearance, Charles Krauthammer proclaimed him the “brains of the operation.” The implication, left unspoken, was that Krauthammer meant the entire administration, not just the West Wing support staff. On this, Krauthammer and Saturday Night Live agree, even as SNL meant it as a dig at Trump, while Krauthammer’s point was to compliment Bannon as someone with serious intellectual heft.
The paradox of all of this is stunning. Like much of what happened over the past couple of years, the scenario of Bannon filling Rove’s role would’ve been rejected in a movie script as too fanciful.
And yet here we are. I would never insult President Trump by suggesting that Bannon is the brains behind Trump, but it is clear that Bannon is now one of the most influential people on the planet, and that Trump would likely not occupy 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue were it not for him. By the way, this started playing out long before Bannon officially joined Team Trump in August of 2016. He had unofficially joined more than a year earlier, putting the growing influence of Breitbart pretty clearly behind Trump, and this is a significant fact of history, equal in importance to his ultimate official hiring.
Consider: the nexus of Breitbart, Drudge, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity was a powerful force for Trump, worth billions of dollars of earned media, with much of it coming during the crucial early period when Trump was transitioning from a novelty act into a serious contender. In a March 2015 piece here, and here, I flatly stated that the incredible power of Breitbart, Drudge and the top talkers would determine the next nominee. This was months before Trump entered the race, but it is clear that Trump dominated this universe, while Ted Cruz was second. Isn’t it interesting how the voting mirrored that result exactly?
Now we can argue about whether these outlets powered Trump, or whether Trump powered them, and the truth is it’s probably some of both. We can speculate as to whether or not he would’ve successfully made the leap to serious contender without their help, but one thing we know for sure is that the end result is not up for debate. Donald Trump was nominated, then elected, even as so much of the nation remained in denial about the possibility of either.
Bannon saw this coming early on, and in a manner, that few if anyone else did. Then again, Bannon peered into the future in the 90’s and saw the incredible iconic nature of Seinfeld as well, and negotiated himself a piece of that action. That too, was a prophetic move. I’d love to know what he thinks “the next big thing” will be. Hell, it may be him, and one particular emphasis of his at CPAC makes me hope he is.
That is his promise to “deconstruct the administrative state.” Be still my heart. For years, the administrative state, or as I call them, the cubicle dwelling vermin at all levels of government, has been my main target in multiple books and hundreds of columns. These are the un-elected, un-accountable and un-firable reptiles who we pay to destroy our property rights, our businesses, our religious freedoms and anything else they can regulate out of existence.
The bureau, as Milton Friedman called it, is the deadliest government cancer, even more so than punitive taxation (which is also a big problem). My 30 years owning multiple businesses has convinced me that Friedman is right. That’s why I stood and cheered at this pronouncement by SKB, and I wasn’t even in attendance live.
Moreover, the administrative state is one of the GOP blind spots. This is another example of “Rove Stupid” in contrast to “Bannon Smart.” The bureau is what sustains the “swamp.” The biggest part of the swamp is the administrative state, and to the extent that we do have a “uni-party” in Washington, it’s their entanglement with all the bureaucrats that feed it. It is the source of the mischief with Obama Care, and with heretofore poor border enforcement. It’s one big reason Washington DC is among the nation’s richest areas.
The administrative state isn’t merely “an issue” – it’s part of every issue. At the bottom of almost every issue is this question: will we live in a free society, or one run by bureaucrats who are not accountable to us?
It wasn’t until Bannon joined the team officially that Trump started to aim his blistering communications skills directly at the administrative state. In fact, there is evidence early on that this was not an emphasis of Mr. Trump’s, which was the main part of my hesitancy to board the Trump train. Thus my enthusiastic welcome of this discussion during the last eighteen days of the campaign, and Bannon’s re-emphasis of it this week at CPAC.
Deconstructing the administrative state is Bannon Smart. Not recognizing it as a major fault line in the country is Rove Stupid.
As for the series Rove-Stupid? Once Trump, Cruz and Ben Carson pretty much lapped the field and proved that no establishment figure was going to get the nomination, we had secured a major victory over them, and I declared that victory on Christmas Eve in Breitbart. It wasn’t a total victory, nor a permanent one, but it was a big one. To the extent we can roll back the administrative state, that will be another.
Edmund Wright is a contributor to American Thinker, Breitbart, Newsmax TV, and author of several books including the Amazon Best Selling Election Book WTF?: How Karl Rove and the Establishment Lost …Again.