On Wednesday, the small, progressive magazine the American Prospect published a candid interview with White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, a key advisor to President Donald Trump and a founder of Breitbart, an outlet he himself has called “the platform for the alt-right.”
Later reports revealed Bannon apparently hadn’t intended for his phone call to American Prospect reporter Robert Kuttner to be published as an interview — he seemingly only called to discuss Kuttner’s thoughts on China.
But according to the American Prospect, Bannon never said his comments were off the record, and the resulting interview offered a surprising look at Bannon’s agenda.
1. Bannon isn’t worried about nuclear war with North Korea.
Despite Trump’s “fire and fury” rhetoric around North Korea’s nuclear developments, Bannon told the American Prospect that the threat of mutually assured destruction meant the idea of nuclear war was off the table.
“There’s no military solution [to North Korea’s nuclear threats], forget it,” Bannon said. “Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that 10 million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us.”
2. He wants the U.S. to be “maniacally” focused on an “economic war” with China.
In the Wednesday interview, Bannon repeatedly stressed his belief that the U.S. is “at economic war with China” and that the next “25 or 30 years” will determine whether China or the U.S. becomes an economic “hegemon.”
“To me, the economic war with China is everything,” Bannon said. “And we have to be maniacally focused on that.”
His strategy for winning that war? Create a coalition of trade “hawks,” push out the “doves” at the State Department and minimize the power of the National Economic Council, which has no aims of an aggressive “economic war” with China.
3. Bannon attempted to distance himself from the white supremacists and neo-Nazis in Charlottesville.
When asked about Saturday’s deadly gathering of white supremacists and neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Virginia, Bannon — whose presence in the White House has been seen as a victory for white nationalists — dismissed the hate groups that gathered for the “Unite the Right” event.
“Ethno-nationalism — it’s losers. It’s a fringe element. I think the media plays it up too much, and we gotta help crush it, you know, uh, help crush it more,” Bannon told American Prospect, calling members of such groups “a collection of clowns.”
4. He thinks he has a strategy for beating Democrats.
In Bannon’s opinion, there’s a clear strategy for beating Democrats: Keep Trump’s enemies talking about what he dismissed as “identity politics.”
“The Democrats ... the longer they talk about identity politics, I got ’em. I want them to talk about racism every day,” he told American Prospect. “If the left is focused on race and identity, and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats.”