Ethics Observations On The Steve Bannon-President Trump Blow-Up

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.


36 thoughts on “Ethics Observations On The Steve Bannon-President Trump Blow-Up

  1. Didn’t Jackie Kennedy’s cook also tell a bunch of secrets about her while she was still in the White House or am I remembering wrong?

  2. What an incredibly vile thing to do to a sitting President and his family! He will probably wind up as a commentator on CNN or MSNBC. Mister Bannon I hope you can live with yourself. Perhaps you should find a fig tree somewhere.

  3. “ Watch them turn on a dime”

    CNN’s opinion column turned in minutes. I read the headline ‘ Bannon calls meeting ‘treason’, read the article, came back to the main page and there was already an opinion column up, about Bannon being right about it being treason (I can’t find it now to put the title here properly, I’m sorry). I intend to call out EVERY person who does this.

  4. I said I’d never be back. Well, I’m back and taking one final bow.

    You wrote, “In an unusually well-written, if unrestrained, response, the President used a rhetorical blowtorch on his former ally, writing,”

    Yeah, sure, he wrote it. As if. Bridge, anyone? (This is symptomatic of Jack’s Legerdemain.)

    To the few good people here, I salute you. To the rest of you, Jack’s brainsoaked minions, I feel nothing but disappointment that you are so easily swayed by Jack. And for those of you caught on the fence, I urge you to draw your own conclusions independently of this site.

    I leave you with this interesting read… “Donald Trump Didn’t Want to Be President
    One year ago: the plan to lose, and the administration’s shocked first days.”

    (Never have I been so disappointed with a man I once trusted, Jack Marshall.)

    • Which such comments fatty, you betray yourself. It’s quite simple to write a screed and return to the dark of the internet. Yet I know you can’t take a substantive debate either as otherwise you would still be here debating.
      Farewell and adieu to you my sweet turned sour fattymoon

    • Hey, great to hear from you! Always a treat when you drop in. Have a Happy New Year after what I hope was a Merry Christmas!

      Since you won’t, apparently, I’d love someone to explain what it was about THIS post that prompted you to come out, see your shadow, spit on my metaphorical shoes, and go back into your burrow.

      Then explain to me 1) How anyone but the President would know what he really wanted or not, and when he changed his mind and 2) at this point, what difference does it make? I wrote long, long, long ago that Trump’s run wasn’t serious, and well into the campaign that he seemed like he was ambivalent at best about winning. So what? Clearly at some point he decided he did want to win because he hates to lose.

      Having studied the Presidents since I was 10, this kind of “news” seems like typical US historical ignorance to me. We’ve had a lot of Presidents who didn’t want to get there, at least when they did–the ones who became President after assassinations, resignation and sudden death, for example. I’m pretty sure at very least Fillmore, A. Johnson, Arthur, Coolidge, Truman and Ford all thought, “Oh, crap! NoW what am I going to do?” (Evidence suggests that Tyler, Teddy and LBJ were thrilled to have a shot.)

      So really, to someone who, you know, knows something, this BOMBSHELL news is just additional proof that Americans don’t understand their own leaders and institutions.But to the Anti-Trump Addled, who are beginning to lose hope that they can stage a coup of sorts, this sad speculation on nothing becomes a shiny beam of hope.

      Get well quick. I miss you.

    • So in other words, I still like everyone who agrees with me, and everyone else is a moron?

      Are you really that far gone that you think of this comment as anything but childish and destructive?

    • How intolerably rude. You are like a gigantic turd in a too-small toilet.

      I hope Jack flushes you. You have nothing useful to add but new ways to make a tinfoil hat.

      • Re-cycling lines from (more than one skit by) a famous comic trio:

        [Fourth man exclaims to trio, as they quarrel among themselves] Gentlemen…GENTLEMEN!

        [Trio, in unison – or, spoken by the lead stooge, on behalf of all three]
        Who came in?

        Well, Jack handled it like a gentleman, anyway – better than I ever could (which would require, I dare say, a “moonshot” to accomplish).

        TO THE ALICE, MOON! (or something like that) Bang-ZOOM!

  5. This is hardly the first time a presidential advisor has turned on an administration he has parted ways with. It’s also far from the first time a Republican figure has done so. Truth be told, I’m having a tough time thinking of a Democrat, or even a Republican substitute, who has turned on a Democratic administration after he (or occasionally she) has left or been pushed out.

    Richard Clarke became the defector-from-decadence hero of Michael Moore’s propaganda piece “Fahrenheit 9/11” as well as pushing a book. Paul O’Neill was hailed as some kind of hero and truth-teller, as well as publishing a tell-all book, after GWB gave him his walking papers. Colin Powell is still polishing his legacy of turning on GWB and advocating for the election of Obama (punctuated with a Khizr Khan-like anecdote about another Muslim soldier named George Khan who fell in the War on Terror) in, frankly, an attempt to get back into the crow’s nest after flying with the hawks all his life. I’m sure Comey is working on a book of his own, probably entitled “The Last Honest Man” or something similar, which the mainstream media will eat up like a spoon and push like they are having their first child.

    You don’t see Rahm Emmanuel publishing a book that might expose Valerie Jarett for the scheming and evil viper that she is, in fact he just shrugged and said “I fucked up,” after he lost a power play with her. You didn’t see Warren Christopher spilling his guts about Bill Clinton’s clumsy treatment of foreign policy as optional. Les Aspin never got the chance to say much, since he died soon after Bill Clinton turfed him out the door, but I don’t think he would have. William Cohen and Chuck Hagel have both been mostly mum about their time in office since, respectively, Cohen’s time in office expired with the end of the Clinton Administration and Obama tossed Hagel out for incompetence. Cohen’s pen has hardly been silent, but his memoir focused on what it was like to cross the color line (his wife is black), and not on Clinton’s handling of defense issues. Hagel in particular does not owe Obama or his legacy anything (Obama brought him in as a nominally conservative figurehead for Defense, then pushed him out when, surprise, surprise, an antiwar Republican was terrible at winning wars), and did unload to Foreign Policy magazine, claiming Obama had “backstabbed” him, but, unless you went to Wikipedia or to that magazine and looked it up, you wouldn’t know it. He certainly hasn’t published a book expanding on that interview nor taken it on tour.

    The major published critics of things liberal include Buzz Patterson, with his blunt “Dereliction of Duty” from the inside of the Clinton administration, and soon former Secret Service agent Gary Byrne, possibly exposing more of just what kind of slime the Clintons are in the forthcoming “Secrets of the Secret Service.” Patterson is roundly dismissed as a conservative crank, and I don’t doubt Byrne will be too, after a few Fox appearances.

    The fact of the matter is that both the publishing sector and the media sector are increasingly populated not only by liberals but by closed-minded liberals, who just aren’t interested in reading or telling stories that don’t fit their agenda. To them, those who turn on the liberal side, or even criticize it, are traitors and not worth bothering with. Conservative figures can still get published, there’s enough of a market for them. However, you’re unlikely to see them hawking their books anywhere other than Fox, and they are likely to be harassed if they take a book on tour, even more so now. However, those who turn on the conservative side are heroes, and you will hear plenty from them. There’s no other way to explain the above, and no other way to explain why Bannon, formerly considered the scum of the earth or the devil incarnate, depending on what’s more useful, and either an evil genius or not too bright, again depending on what’s more useful, is probably going to sprout wings and a halo as far as the left is concerned now.

    • The reason you don’t recall that Democrats wtote such books is that such books are almost immediately forgotten after a news cycle or two.

      How quickly they forget. Here’s a blast from 2014, the LA Times:

      Former Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates was first to land a punch. Then former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton weighed in with a memoir that distanced herself from her president’s foreign policy.

      And Tuesday, former CIA chief and Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, long a trusted advisor to Democratic presidents, released a book about his years in the administration in which he criticizes President Obama as a vacillating leader who often “avoids the battle.”

      All presidents have had in-house critics. But rarely has a president faced the degree of public criticism from former senior Cabinet members that Obama has this year.The critiques are particularly notable because they have appeared while Obama is still in office, struggling with a world beset with crises. Panetta’s “Worthy Fights” has appeared as the midterm election approaches, when criticism of Obama could boost his Republican opposition.

      • Actually we did have a fairly lengthy discussion about the ethics of what Leon Panetta did, now that you mention it. I was frankly unaware that Gates had published a memoir that was critical of Obama and his coterie. Good for him. He agreed to stay on under Obama and for what? To keep him from stumbling over his own feet in a war he had no clue how to run? Or to be his scapegoat when things went badly?

        However, as you correctly point out, a lot of these books disappear down the memory hole…or get thrown down it, and when last did one of the major networks have Panetta or Gates on?

    • “You don’t see Rahm Emmanuel publishing a book that might expose Valerie Jarett for the scheming and evil viper that she is”

      Don’t you think he’s otherwise occupied with ducking wayward bullets and hiding damning police videos?

      And Is “evil viper” any way to refer to a former POTUS…?

      Newsbusters: “Complete Turn Around: ABC, NBC Venerate Bannon for Turning on Trump”

      Lefty’s doing their best Frank “Frankie Five Angels” Pentangeli (Michael V. Gazzo/Godfather II)

      CHAIRMAN: “We have a sworn affidavit — we have it — your sworn affidavit that you murdered on the orders of MICHAEL Corleone. Do you deny that confession, and do you realize what will happen as a result of your denial.”

      PENTANGELI: “Look the FBI guys promised me a deal. So I made up a lot of stuff about MICHAEL Corleone ’cause that’s what they wanted — but it was all lies — uh — everything. And I kept saying — MICHAEL Corleone did this and MICHAEL Corleone did that — .uh — so I said yea sure, why not.”

      Warm water’s filling the tub, and the Lefty media is the only one that doesn’t know it…yet.

      • Oh…my…GODFATHER! Forty-how-many years, and I had to read your comment to FINALLY recognize “Frankie Five Angels!” (as in Pentangeli) And to think…ever since the early 1980s, when I recognized “Judy Buenoano” as the former “Judy Goodyear” (who seemed to make a sport of murdering her husbands and other males in her life), I thought I was SO GOOD at quickly recognizing the Anglicized forms of Spanish and Italian names. THANKS, Paul! Make that GRAZIE MILLE! (I do think Bannon will live on, though – tool that he has now made of himself. But I still agree with your last sentence, if I am making any sense.)

        • Paul: ”I’m your older brother, lucky, and I was stepped over!

          lucky: “That’s the way Pop wanted it.”

          Paul: “It ain’t the way I wanted it! I can handle things! I’m smart! Not like everybody says… like dumb… I’m smart and I want respect!”

          “I know it was you, lucky. You broke my heart, YOU BROKE MY HEART!

  6. “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.”

    It’s so surreal… Steve Bannon turned Breitbart into a Trump propaganda engine, his readers love Trump. Making them choose between mom and dad is a great way to hemorrhage your already flagging popularity. Especially when one is POTUS, and the other is a member of a media corporation that has spent months saying that media that discredits Trump is fake news. I’m not saying that I didn’t see this coming, I’m just waxing over how colossally stupid it is.

    • Stupid, but the way of things. Bannon is a radical and Trump is in it for himself. He’ Trotski to Trump’s Lennin, the scorpion to Trump’s frog, He’s what Louis Saint-Just would have been had he and Robespierre lasted longer. It’s in his nature.

      • 1. Comparing these two guys to Bolsheviks is a bit odd. no?

        2. That you would use the scorpion-frog metaphor makes me wonder if you actually read the post. Not cool to comment without having the courtesy to read it…or, in the alternative, to take the author’s comparison and use it as if it was all your idea.

    • ”Ten years from now, Steve Bannon will be the answer to a trivia question.”

      True enough, whether he’s around or not. The guy does not sport what I’d call a “healthy” complexion and he’s not engaging in longevity-promoting activity.

      One thing he has going for him, he hasn’t crossed the Clintons…yet.

    • It’s so surreal… Steve Bannon turned Breitbart into a Trump propaganda engine, his readers love Trump. Making them choose between mom and dad is a great way to hemorrhage your already flagging popularity. Especially when one is POTUS, and the other is a member of a media corporation that has spent months saying that media that discredits Trump is fake news. I’m not saying that I didn’t see this coming, I’m just waxing over how colossally stupid it is.

      I’m not sure the great swell of schadenfreude I’m feeling at this is entirely ethical.

  7. “Apparently trustworthiness and professionalism are old-fashioned. Apparently loyalty, integrity–ethics–are also old-fashioned.”

    Not so much old-fashioned, as not yet fully adapted or well-adapted (by people with the will to adapt them at all, ethically) to the new-fashioned means of communication – just my opinion.

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