The National Review Blames Bannon, Not Trump, for the Alabama Loss

Over at The Corner, the staff of the National Review seems unanimous in seeing Roy Moore’s defeat as an irresistible opportunity to say nasty and disrespectful things about Steve Bannon:

David French: Where do we go from here? The answers are obvious. Nominate conservatives with integrity. Retake the seat. Reject the vicious, malicious politics of men like Steve Bannon.

Jim Geraghty: There is no reason for any Republican to listen to Steve Bannon on any candidate selection ever again.

Kevin Williamson: So what have Steve Bannon and the rest of the half-bright moneyed dilettantes—and their talk-radio and cable-news cheerleaders—accomplished? …They didn’t even get Alabama!

Jonah Goldberg: The difference is that McConnell wanted nothing to do with Roy Moore for all the obvious reasons and Steve Bannon wanted to take credit for him! He wanted to take credit for Moore when it was clear Moore was a bigot, buffoon, and charlatan, and he wanted to take credit for Moore after Moore was credibly accused of being a child molester and jailbait fetishist. Bannon has an almost unblemished record of picking disastrous candidates on the theory that he knows what he’s doing. That theory is wrong.

Michael Brendan Dougherty: My own impressions are more modest. Alabama Republicans spared their party the shame of electing this creep to Congress. In backing Moore, Steve Bannon made a very reasonable bet—most of us expected Moore to win even after the revelations—but he lost this one.

Theodore Kupfer: [Bannon’s] mission is to find ridiculous candidates and convince voters they are legitimate; for years he has used his highly-trafficked site in an effort to do just that. Yet tonight, his ideal candidate lost a statewide election in Alabama. We already knew that a party made in Bannon’s image would be repulsive. Tonight we learned it is not even politically viable.

Fred Bauer: Supporting someone just because they inspire “librul tears” can be a counterproductive electoral strategy. It also might not be the best political strategy. The fact that someone is shocking doesn’t mean he can draft legislation, persuade the body politic, or forge a legislative coalition. And it certainly doesn’t mean he can win elections.

In general, these folks seem relieved that Roy Moore didn’t win, even if they’re unwilling to say one nice thing about Doug Jones. David French was willing to concede that Jones ran “a smart race,” but the rest of these pundits barely mentioned him, if at all. Their focus is one hundred percent on making sure that Bannon’s reputation takes a hit for getting involved in the race.

Of course, they would have also denied him any credit if Moore had retained the seat by pointing out that Bannon was late to the party and doesn’t have any juice in Alabama. The goal here isn’t to do any real autopsy of what went wrong in the special election. The goal is to get the upper hand in a civil war within the Republican Party. They don’t want Bannon to cannibalize the GOP’s congressional majority with a bunch of lunatics that praise Vladimir Putin and are a little too brazen about their white supremacy and hatred of gay people.

The only honest analysis they have actually contradicts their main argument. They feel like the Senate leadership erred by going after Rep. Mo Brooks in the primary and thereby lost the one candidate who could have beaten Moore in a two-man runoff. In other words, the people who are actually to blame for losing the Alabama seat are the people they’re defending and supporting, and the people Bannon is seeking to expel and replace.

None of them bothered to mention Trump, either, who certainly has more influence than Bannon. One after another, they submitted their “hot takes” on the election, and one after the other they completely failed to make any assessment of the president’s endorsements, his influence, or the repercussions for him now that he’s picked the wrong horse twice.

Attacking Bannon is also a way for them to avoid attacking Trump.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.