Stephen Miller defends the Trump administration forcefully and triumphantly in a hostile TV interview:
(Continuing from the post immediately below, being a commentary on an article by Gwynn Guilford and Nikhil Sonnad at Quartz, about the political philosophy of Stephen K. Bannon, whom President Trump has appointed Chief Strategist.)
The authors write:
It’s important to note that “Judeo-Christian values” does not necessarily seem to require that all citizens believe in Christianity. Bannon doesn’t appear to want to undo the separation of church and state or freedom of religion enshrined in America’s constitution. After all, both of these are traditions that have led America to success in the past. What he believes is that the founding fathers built the nation based on a set of values that come from the Judeo-Christian tradition. …
But the values the founding fathers built the nation on did not come from “Judeo-Christian values”; they came from a revolution against Christian values – the Enlightenment.
True, “Nature’s God” is mentioned in The Declaration of Independence, which also declares that Men “are endowed by their Creator” with certain rights. But when one looks at the actual values that the Declaration and the Constitution enshrine, they are the values of the Enlightenment – individual freedom, self-determination, tolerance, responsible ownership, rationality, patriotism: not the values of any religion.
It is [in Bannon’s view] through … the primacy of the nation-state’s values and traditions — that America can drive a stake through the heart of the global, secular “establishment”.
In addition to enriching themselves and encouraging dependency among the poor, global elites also encourage immigrants to flood the US and drag down wages. Immigrant labor boosts the corporate profits of globalists and their cronies, who leave it to middle-class natives to educate, feed, and care for these foreigners. The atheistic, pluralist social order that has been allowed to flourish recoils at nationalism and patriotism, viewing them as intolerant and bigoted. …
Atheism has nothing whatever to do with it. Hundreds of thousands of the immigrants have been Muslims, and however secular the Left governments have been, they have demanded that the host nation treat the – extremely intolerant – newcomers with deference. But it is true that those who welcome the Muslims “recoil” at nationalism and patriotism.
[Bannon] pointed out that each of … three preceding crises had involved a great war, and those conflicts had increased in scope from the American Revolution through the Civil War to the Second World War. He expected a new and even bigger war as part of the current crisis, and he did not seem at all fazed by the prospect. …
War with whom?
Bannon is left searching for a major, existence-level enemy. Does the “Party of Davos” alone qualify? Who else could this war be fought against?
In the 2014 Vatican lecture, Bannon goes further. “I think we are in a crisis of the underpinnings of capitalism, and on top of that we’re now, I believe, at the beginning stages of a global war against Islamic fascism. … I believe you should take a very, very, very aggressive stance against radical Islam…. See what’s happening, and you will see we’re in a war of immense proportions.” …
We agree with Bannon about that too.
Bannon’s remarks and his affiliations with anti-Muslim activists like Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer leave the impression that the enemy might well be Islam in general.
Yes. And so it is. Islam has declared war on the West, and sooner or later the West must fight and win it.
[He] entertains the argument that Islam’s “war” against Christianity “originated almost from [Islam’s] inception.”
He endorses the view that, in the lead-up to World War II, Islam was a “much darker” force facing Europe than fascism.
It was as dark. And Turkey and most of the Arabs were allies of Hitler and Mussolini.
Other ideas he has supported include: a US nonprofit focused on promoting a favorable image of Muslims is a terrorist front …
If they mean Hamas-affiliated CAIR, which seems most probable, then again Bannon is right …
… the Islamic Society of Boston mosque was behind the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing …
It very likely was …
and Muslim-Americans are trying to supplant the US constitution with Shariah law.
… Bannon’s diatribes against the media brim with spite toward journalists’ arrogance, superiority, and naivety.
“Spite”? The media are spiteful. Say “anger” instead, and there are millions of us who share it with him.
… [R]ecently, he told the New York Times that the media “should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while”. He added: “I want you to quote this. The media here is the opposition party. They don’t understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States.” …
Again, we agree.
In his 2014 Vatican speech, he says:
I could see this when I worked at Goldman Sachs — there are people in New York that feel closer to people in London and in Berlin than they do to people in Kansas and in Colorado, and they have more of this elite mentality that they’re going to dictate to everybody how the world’s going to be run. I will tell you that the working men and women of Europe and Asia and the United States and Latin America don’t believe that. They believe they know what’s best for how they will comport their lives.
And we think that is true.
But this cosmic avenger role Bannon seems to claim as voice-giver to the “forgotten” middle-classes hints at a deeper relish of conflict. … In particular, the aesthetic of his documentaries can be nauseatingly violent. Torchbearer is a tour de force of gore. (There are at least six separate shots of falling guillotines, as well as lingering footage of nuclear radiation victims, mass burials from Nazi gas chambers, and various ISIL atrocities.)
Events brought about by self-appointed elites and savage jihadis. Should they be ignored? Forgotten?
The authors then ask what all this means for the Trump presidency, and give us their answer:
Even before he took charge of Trump’s campaign, in Aug. 2016, Bannon’s philosophies pervaded its rhetoric. If there was any question about the role his views would play in the Trump administration, the last two weeks have made it clear: The president’s leadership hangs from the scaffolding of Bannon’s worldview.
Trump’s inaugural address was basically a telepromptered Bannon rant. Where inaugural speeches typically crackle with forward-looking optimism, Trump’s was freighted with anti-elite resentment. He described a Bannonistic vision in which the “wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed all across the world.” The “forgotten men and women of our country” — a meme that Trump claimed, but that appears in Generation Zero — had a cameo too.
Trump heaped blame on the “establishment,” which “protected itself” but not American citizens from financial ruin. “And while they celebrated in our nation’s capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land,” Trump continued. “We’ve made other countries rich, while the wealth, strength and confidence of our country has dissipated over the horizon.”
“America first” is Bannon’s economic nationalism in slogan form. Trump’s vow to “unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate from the face of the Earth” was a mellowed-out version of the West’s battle against “Islamic fascists.”
There’s more. Trump’s remarks that the “Bible tells us how good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity,” that “most importantly, we will be protected by God,” and that children from both Detroit and Nebraska are “infused with the breath of life by the same almighty creator” seemed kind of bizarre coming from a not-very-religious man. …
We are glad of that.
Within days of the inauguration came the dizzying spurt of executive actions — written by Bannon and Stephen Miller, [another] White House policy advisor …
Now the authors, whose hostility to Bannon has been growing in clarity and force, openly show their antagonism to the Trump administration:
Bannon’s philosophy toward Islam seems likely to have influenced the order, “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States”. Recalling that line about how immigrants are not “Jeffersonian democrats”, the document prescribes ensuring the allegiance to America’s “founding principles” and the US constitution of anyone admitted to the country, including tourists.
How is that an unreasonable requirement?
Trump also implied in a TV interview with the Christian Broadcast Network that he wanted to prioritize Christians refugees over Muslims, accusing the US government of favoring Muslim refugees over Christians in the past (a claim for which there’s no evidence).
That is an outrageous statement. The Christians of the Middle East have been, and are being, atrociously persecuted by Muslims, yet far more Muslims – who do not have any values in common with most Americans – have been let in enthusiastically by President Obama, while Christians, who do, and who need asylum far more urgently, have been admitted in far smaller numbers. They were deliberately excluded by Obama. See here and here.
Some argue (fairly convincingly) that Trump’s ban risks lending credence to ISIL recruitment propaganda claiming that the US is leading the West in a war on all of Islam.
And that is an absurd argument, not convincing in the least. ISIL/ISIS has been doing its atrocious deeds for years. Everyone knows it. It is long past time for it to be opposed, eliminated from the face of the earth – and all possible ways its operatives can enter America shut off. A banning order is common sense.
Another of the new administration’s focuses — the danger posed by Mexicans flooding over the border — is also a central theme of Bannon’s vision of America under siege. …
“America under siege”. Has Bannon made such a claim? Or Trump? A belief to that effect is attributed to President Trump by his opponents, but has he or Bannon ever actually said it? Anyway, the authors present some spurious arguments against Trump’s executive action which declares that “many” unauthorized immigrants “present a significant threat to national security and public safety” – something we all know to be true – and they back them up with reference to pronouncements made by “criminology and immigration experts”. The plain fact that “unauthorized immigrants” are in the United States illegally bypasses the authors’ consciousness.
Finally, Trump’s withdrawal of the US from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a multilateral trade deal supported by what would count as the “elite”, includes a special shout-out to “the American worker”, the classic Bannon theme.
The TPP was a rotten project. It was supported by the “elite”. American workers have been overlooked and made poorer. Bannon is not the only observer to have noticed that and Trump did not need Bannon to point it out to him.
The possibility that many of these positions are right and good, and the fact that many people support Trump in espousing them, are not considered by Guilford and Sonnad.
Bannon savors the power of symbolism. That symbolic power infused Trump’s campaign, and now, apparently, his administration’s rhetoric. … So it’s possible that the narrative flowing through Trump’s inaugural address and executive actions is simply what Bannon has calibrated over time to rouse maximum populist fervor — and that it doesn’t reflect plans to upend America.
There’s also, however, the possibility that Bannon is steering Trump toward the “enlightened capitalist”, Judeo-Christian, nationalistic vision that he has come to believe America needs.
Which it is, we can’t know, of course: Only Bannon knows what Bannon really wants. What we do know for sure, though, is that a man who has … a deep desire for a violent resurgence of “Western civilization” now has the power to fulfill it.
A “violent resurgence” of something dubiously called “Western civilization”. Is that deplorable? Is there no such thing as Western civilization? Is it not under attack?
Is there some means other than violence to destroy ISIS?
Or to stop Iran from nuking the West as it plainly intends to do?
The mind-set, assumptions, prejudices, and obliviousness to stark dangers that Guilford and Sonnad manifest, illustrate the need for the vision shared by President Trump, Stephen Bannon, and Stephen Miller to be acted upon by all necessary means.