Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon delivered a barn-burner of a speech tonight in Macomb County, which played a key role in Donald Trump’s 2016 election victory, laying out an ultraconservative agenda to defeat the Republican establishment in Congress.
Even as left-wing, anti-Trump protesters chanted outside the venue, Bannon mostly ignored the Democrats and focused on separating the partisan wheat from the chaff within the Republican Party.
Addressing a Macomb GOP “unity dinner” in Warren, Bannon left no doubt that he remains a Trump ally and influencer even though he was forced out of his administration post as senior adviser to the president during internal upheavals in August.
Speaking in his typical conversational tones, Bannon didn’t rile his sold-out audience of several hundred with hard-hitting applause lines but, based on a live video feed via cell phone from the fundraising event, it was evident that the crowd was with him every step of the way.
Delivering his speech on the 1-year anniversary of Trump’s unexpected 2016 win over Democrat Hillary Clinton, the controversial right-wing figure engaged the faithful in past, present and future.
Here are some highlights from his remarks:
- Reflecting nostalgically about the final weeks of the ’16 campaign, Bannon claimed that political pundits in the “corporate media” expected a Clinton win by 30 points, with the Democrats seizing control of the House and Senate.
- What the Trump campaign was fighting against was “the fundamental destruction of the greatest country in the history of mankind.”
- Trump, the non-politician, “talked to folks like an adult,” spreading his populist message about the rejuvenation of U.S. manufacturing and blue collar jobs while Clinton engaged in foolish identity politics. Meanwhile, the mainstream media presented the GOP nominee as a “barbarian,” or a “psychopath” while the so-called political amateurs running the Trump campaign knew that the election would hinge on states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Wisconsin.
- Regarding his awkward pairing in 2017 with then-White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, the former Republican National Committee chairman, Bannon offered this snarky remark: “All I knew about Reince Priebus was we lit him up every day on Breitbart.” That was a reference to the contentious right-wing Breitbart news site that Bannon directed prior to his appointment as Trump campaign boss – the job that he returned to immediately after exiting the White House.
- In his only brief reference to city and state elections on Tuesday where Democrats fared well across the country, Bannon said that former RNC chairman Ed Gillespie’s loss in the Virginia gubernatorial race was understandable, given that Virginia is a Blue State. He did not mention that the Republican edge in the Virginia House of Delegates by a 66-34 margin may now amount to a 50-50 split with the Democrats.
- He referred to U.S. free trade deals as “economic hate crimes” and said the departure of U.S. manufacturing companies to overseas sites is directly related to America’s opioid addiction crisis.
- Praising Trump’s “America First” approach to foreign policy, Bannon compared the futile Vietnam war with the ongoing U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan, and he conversely linked the Cuban Missile Crisis with the current standoff between the Trump administration and North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.
- Bannon said Trump’s Middle East policies led to the recent shakeup within the Saudi monarchy and he declared that the president deserves full credit for destroying the ISIS jihadi network in just nine months. The ISIS reference is curious because the ongoing collapse of the ISIS caliphate represents a major U.S. foreign policy success story that Trump has mostly ignored in his frequent Twitter posts.
- China has transitioned from a hard-core communist country to a “mercantilist dictatorship,” he said, that relies on its newfound economic muscle to exert tremendous influence over Iran, Pakistan and Turkey.
- Bannon explained that he stepped aside from his powerful White House post to embrace a rogue persona attacking the Washington swamp – a “lethal system” that works against middle class interests – and to boost the GOP forces that oppose gridlock on Capitol Hill. He singled out Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, boasting that Bannon’s wing of the Republican Party had “dropped the hammer” on McConnell to force advancement of conservative causes in Congress.
- Bannon also played to his audience, with Macomb County’s strong support for Trump in 2016 providing the difference that led to the president’s all-important win in Michigan. “You saved the country,” he said. “… It’s you guys who really won this great victory.”
- “Macomb County has got to lead the way in ’18. You’ve got to lead the way in ’20.”