White House strategist Stephen Bannon out-rants Donald Trump in rare speech

White nationalist Richard Spencer. Photo: Twitter/@TheeCurrentYearWashington: In a week in which the US media has been found to be vastly more credible than Donald Trump, the White House has doubled down in its war with reporters, with Trump’s chief strategist Stephen Bannon declaring the new administration to be locked in an unending battle against the media and other “globalist” forces.

Claiming that Trump was “maniacally focused” on keeping his campaign pledges, Bannon warned in a speech to a conservative political conference of a daily fight against the media – which he often brands as the opposition party.

On stage with White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, Bannon assailed the media as, to use a Trump phrase from last week, the enemy of the American people.

“The mainstream media ought to understand something: all those promises are going to be implemented,” he said.

This was CPAC, standing for Conservative Political Action Conference, where audience members have staged walkouts in the past because the likes of former Florida governor and failed presidential hopeful Jeb Bush was deemed to be not conservative enough.

Thousands of delegates come from across the country, and this year they are finding Washington a new fit. As they eagerly awaited Trump’s scheduled speech on Friday, many seemed to forget that a few years ago they had booed him.

Others, too, have come full circle – Breitbart News, controlled by Bannon until last year, used to host an event for the uninvited, those who were ejected or not given a speaking gig, but this year as many as seven Breitbart employees are listed as speakers or panelists.

The conservative jamboree coincides with a series of polls that can be expected to anger Trump.

Not only did the Quinnipiac University poll find that it was Trump, not the media, that was the more bountiful source of “fake news”, when respondents were asked who they trusted more, 52 per cent chose the media, compared with just 37 per cent who opted for Trump.

And despite partisan assessments by Republican and Democratic voters, when middle-of-the-road independent voters were included, 61 per cent disapproved of Trump’s treatment of the media, compared with just 35 per cent who approved.

In the same poll, 58 per cent of respondents said they were embarrassed by Trump, with majorities seeing him as dishonest, not level-headed​ and lacking leadership skills. And though a majority saw him as intelligent, a majority also declared that he did not share their values.

Bannon was enthusiastic in his depiction of a White House at war with vested interests: “The corporatist, globalist media are adamantly opposed to an economic nationalist agenda that Donald Trump has.”

As some in the cheering crowd leapt to their feet, Bannon put his foot down, seemingly out-ranting his boss: “He’s going to continue to press his agenda and as economic conditions get better, as more jobs get better, they’re [opposition] going to continue to fight. If you think they’re going to give you your country back without a fight, you’re sadly mistaken.

“Every day is going to be a fight. That is the promise of Donald Trump … All the people who’ve came in and said you’ve got to moderate. Every day in the Oval Office he tells Reince and I: ‘I committed this to the American people, I promised this when I ran, and I’m going to deliver on this’.”

Bannon, who speaks of his West Wing office as “the war room”, stayed on the attack: “If you look at the opposition party and how they portrayed the campaign, how they portrayed the transition, how they portrayed the administration, it’s always wrong … you saw them all crying and weeping [on election] night.”

Describing Trump’s abandonment of the Trans-Pacific Partnership “one of the most pivotal moments of modern American history”, Bannon set out the Trump agenda as three “verticals” – national security and sovereignty; economic nationalism; and “deconstruction of the administrative state”.

There was nothing convoluted in Bannon’s language. But just to be sure, The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza offered a translation: “The message from Bannon was unmistakable: the enemy of Donald Trump and those who think like him is not, really, Democrats but, in actuality, the media. And the only way to combat the media is to fight like hell against them on everything and anything.

“Bannon doesn’t want to change the media. He wants to totally dismantle the media. He wants to break its back and leave it for dead by the side of the road. And he’s not afraid of telling the media to their faces about that plan.”

But not everyone gets their way at CPAC. Alt-right movement leader and white supremacist Richard Spencer, who has been a delegate in previous years, was shown the door after CPAC executive director Dan Schneider declared from the lectern: “There is a sinister organisation that is trying to worm its way into our ranks – we must not be deceived by [a] hateful, left-wing fascist group.”

It counted for nothing that Bannon, who after Trump is this year’s second-most loved CPAC darling, last year declared Breitbart to be “the platform of the alt-right”.

As Spencer spoke to reporters, a delegate who identified himself as “Grizzly Joe” interrupted with this message for Spencer: “F— you, you don’t represent us. Get the f— out of here. You don’t represent us. You’re a piece of s—. I hope everybody got that.”

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