Getting Inside Bannon’s Head

Have you ever known someone who was so emotionally stunted that they pretended to take pleasure in pissing people off? That’s what I thought of when I read a portion of the big Washington Post story about Trump’s refusal to believe that the Russians interfered with the 2016 election. It came during a description of the conflict between Bannon and McMaster about support for the NATO alliance.

Bannon and McMaster clashed in front of Trump during an Oval Office discussion about NATO in the spring, officials said. Trump, sitting behind his desk, was voicing frustration that NATO member states were not meeting their defense spending obligations under the treaty. Bannon went further, describing Europe as “nothing more than a glorified protectorate.”

McMaster, an ardent supporter of NATO, snapped at Bannon. “Why are you such an apologist for Russia?” he asked, according to two officials with knowledge of the exchange. Bannon shot back that his position had “nothing to do with Russians” and later told colleagues how much he relished such confrontations with McMaster, saying, “I love living rent-free in his head.”

I was reminded of an email exchange between Yiannopoulos and Bannon after Clinton’s speech about the alt-right.

On August 25, after Hillary Clinton’s alt-right speech, Yiannopoulos emailed Bannon, “I’ve never laughed so hard.”

“Dude: we r inside her fucking head,” Bannon wrote back.

When an opponent’s arrow hits its mark, Bannon’s defense is to gloat about having gotten in their head. Think about what that means for his maturity level. It isn’t a strategy that will take you very far in the world of politics, but it’s clear why he has been such an effective leader of the Republican insurgency. The people he attracts are the nostalgia voters who are immersed in the politics of resentment. Often times their take on issues is based simply on what will make liberals the most angry, i.e., things that will get inside their heads.

With the humiliating loss of Bannon’s candidate Roy Moore in the Alabama special election this week, it looks like McConnell is going to press his advantage in the civil war between the Republican insurgents and establishment. I couldn’t help but giggle a bit at the possibility of this tweet from McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund getting inside Bannon’s head (keep in mind that in 2014, Jeff Sessions ran unopposed).

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.