Excerpts from his new book revealed that journalist Michael Wolff extracted some highly inflammatory quotes from ex-White House aide Steve Bannon, who criticized his former boss, members of his family, and White House colleagues. In an unusually well-written, if unrestrained, response, the President used a rhetorical blowtorch on his former ally, writing,
“Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my Presidency. When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind. Steve pretends to be at war with the media, which he calls the opposition party, yet he spent his time at the White House leaking false information to the media to make himself seem far more important than he was. It is the only thing he does well. Steve was rarely in a one-on-one meeting with me and only pretends to have had influence to fool a few people with no access and no clue, whom he helped write phony books.”
- Once again, we have the unforgivable spectacle of a once highly placed member of an administration team betraying trust to vent, to get publicity, to settle scores, or to cash in. It’s not whistle-blowing, and its not in the public interest. It hurts the current President and future Presidents, by making a breach of loyalty and confidentiality that was once unimaginable routine. David Stockman, Reagan’s bitter budget director, started this trend with a tell-all book after his star fell to earth, and now every Presidential appointee is a potential Judas. If any of these creeps were ethical, professionals or patriots, they would wait until the administration they had worked for were out of power and in the rear-view mirror, and ideally, way, way in the rear view mirror, like a decade or more. Better yet, they would take the secrets they were entrusted with to the grave.
But what’s the fun in that? More to the point, where’s the money in it? Ten years from now, Steve Bannon will be the answer to a trivia question.
- These sources for Woolf and other authors of similar books–Bob Woodward has made his post-Watergate career with them—shouldn’t be talking anonymously either. Like Bannon, however, they probably were leaking to reporters, unethically, even illegally, all along.
When I am forced to think about these despicable people, I reflect fondly on my late friend Robert McElwaine, Hollywood publicist and confidante of dozens of stars and celebrities. Bob was asked to write tell-all books; he was offered lots of money too: all he had to do was tell the secrets he had learned about some of Tinseltown’s most famous luminaries, many of whom were dead by the time Bob retired. He wouldn’t do it. He knew about affairs, crimes, love-children, he-man stars who were secretly gay, bomb-shells who preferred women, addictions, phobias, and more. Bob McElwaine took those secrets to the grave. “These people paid me to be discreet and to keep their secrets, and as far as I’m concerned, that duty never expires,” he told me. Exactly. Bob was an ethical, trustworthy man. Steve Bannon is not. Apparently trustworthiness and professionalism are old-fashioned. Apparently loyalty, integrity–ethics–are also old-fashioned.
- As in the similar but less consequential case of Omarosa, the President brought this on himself. Anyone could have told him that Bannon couldn’t be trusted; I’m sure many did. It should have been obvious that he was poison, and that this day was inevitable. Nah, Trump knows better. This is the often fatal flaw of those who prosper by ignoring conventional wisdom. Eventually everyone was right, and you are horribly, disastrously wrong.
It was Presidential malpractice to bring someone like Bannon into the White House.
- Sure, the statement is unpresidential, but so is Trump. For this President, it’s effective, and certainly not unfair. It is also self-indicting. If Bannon was that bad, why did Trump hire him?
Bannon probably thinks he can win this battle. If so, he’s a fool.
- This a wonderful integrity check for all of the journalists and Trump critics who pronounced Bannon a liar, a Nazi, an evil agent of darkness whispering in Trump’s ear. Watch them turn on a dime, and suddenly treat him as an unimpeachable source and truth-teller.