Former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon gave what was possibly his strongest live interview in recent memory (to be fair, he hasn't given many since leaving the White House) on Wednesday when he sat down with Michelle Caruso-Cabrera at CNBC's "Delivering Alpha" conference to discuss President Trump's geopolitical strategy, the controversy over his performance in Helsinki and the greater purpose of President Trump's trade war. Bannon, who looked clean-cut and unusually healthy, offered an articulate, coherent explanation of how President Trump is upending the unsustainable liberal world order and standing up to America's biggest foes with his actions, if not always his words. Meanwhile, Bannon convincingly portrayed Trump's political opponents as hysterics and prigs who are too focused on optics and parroting the "opposition party" media narrative.
In what was perhaps his most salient claim, Bannon insisted that President Trump's trade war will be remembered not as the economy-wrecking disaster but with a triumph that will save the US economy.
Unsurprisingly, Caruso-Cabrera opened the interview by asking Bannon for his take on President Trump's controversial performance in Helsinki, which drew condemnation from Republicans and Democrats alike.
"The opposition media missed the point...up until the last part, when he talked about the meddling and the collusion, [the press conference with Putin] was fine. I think the president has done a terrific job."
If Trump appeared too willing to tolerate Russia's illegal meddling, he clearly took Putin to task over the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to Europe, which some would describe as the biggest threat to NATO's security, given Germany and much of Europe's dependence on Russia for energy. Russia's success in courting Europe as a customer and its alliance with Syria were too major failures of previous presidents, including Obama and Bush. Trump, Bannon said, has actually been harder on Russia than any other president since the 1980s.
American foreign policy for 50 to 60 years was to keep Russia out of the Middle East...all of these super patriots...where were they on their watch? Was his command presence as strong as it was in Singapore? No. But it was a different environment.
Clearly, the problem isn't Trump - it's the mainstream media that focuses on "marginal optics" over the substance of the president's actions.
The mainstream media jumps on the marginal optics - 'its treason' and 'he didn't support the intelligence community'. Let's talk about Clapper and all these super patriots. Now, the president sometimes conflates the meddling and the collusion. Certainly the meddling is wrong...but President Obama kind of stood down.
Moving on to Trump's performance in Brussels earlier this month, Bannon argued that if Trump is being brusque with America's partners in NATO, it's only pursuance of an important goal: Transforming the other NATO members into true partners, rather than "protectorates."
I thought the visit to NATO and the UK could've taken place on Nov. 7. Donald Trump has done more than any other president to save NATO. That visit - if you take the whole totality of it. Look what he did with NATO. What he doesn't want is a protectorate. The problem we got ourselves in with this liberal rules-based order, it's a series of commercial relationships, capital markets and American security guarantees...we underwrite the entire thing. None of our allies kick into the till. And the Europeans are the worst. They can't sit there and tell me what a big threat Russia is when they can't kick in their 2%. Trump is a business guy he says it's got to be 2%, it's got to be now.
Or, put another way:
We're not an empire...we're looking for allies we're not looking for a protectorate.
If President Trump gravitates toward authoritarian leaders, it's only because he likes "big personalities".
"He likes strong personalities...they're strong leaders...I think he's attracted to Putin because they're strong leaders, they're nationalists. If you look at what he does, he leads from strength.
The whole narrative surrounding Russia has been overblown, Bannon argued. Russia isn't America's greatest geopolitical adversary, as the US media would have you believe. Compared with China, Russia is an "annoyance."
Russia is an annoyance. China is our great challenge. Russia's economy is the size of Texas or New York State? It's got lots of nuclear weapons...but in today's warfare...nuclear weapons are taking a less important role. Trump is trying to end the Cold War and the Korean War...and all he is getting is grief from the globalists.
And that's a huge problem, because not only are we adversaries with China, we are at war with China, Bannon said.
We're in a war with China. Ray Dalio tweeted the other day. There's three types of war: information war, economic war, and guns-up kinetic war. They've been at war with us for 25 years. Many people in this room have exacerbated the rise of China."
Pushing back against the notion that Trump lacks grand foreign policy vision, Trump, like Reagan, is trying to build a foreign policy behind American assertiveness and optimism. Furthermore, the notion that China has advantages over the US in a trade war is laughable; the US can - and will - win, Bannon said.
If they devalue their currency they're just going to flood more dollars out. That's what their own people think about their economy. We allowed them to take the South China Sea. Donald Trump is not going to back off this. Donald Trump is not going to blink. Victory is when they give us access to their markets.
This trade war is going to end in victory and what you're going to see is a reorientation of the entire supply chain out of China.
Bannon is optimistic about the Republicans chances in November. The problem with the Democrats, Bannon said, is they still haven't come to terms with why they lost to Trump: They abandoned the American worker.
The meddling was on the margin, and the Democrats need to accept this. The collusion - they haven't found one shred of evidence.
The Democrats have yet to embrace why they lost...[they] have wanted a do-over since 2:30 am on Nov. 9 - and they've lied and they've bitched and in November they'll get their do-over...but on November 6, the deplorables will be plenty jacked up.
But in November, voters will render their decision, and whatever they decide it'll be on Trump's platform of economic nationalism, which has boosted economic growth and created jobs.
"It's an up or down vote, the economy, the tax cuts the whole package. I think the Fed's going to say in the second quarter it's at 4%...because of economic nationalism."
Given its strong performance over the past week, bitcoin was a popular topic at "Delivering Alpha", and the Bannon interview was no exception. Asked if he still owns bitcoin, Bannon said he does.
"I like bitcoin. I own bitcoin...they are the future," Bannon said, referring to cryptocurrencies. He's reportedly working on launching an ICO of his own, what he's called the deplorables coin.
He also reiterated his view on family separation (that, in this instance at least, morality is the law, as Bannon once said.):
Just like with criminals, children need to be separated. Take the emotions out.
Asked about whether he might return to the administration some day, Bannon said he "hated every second" of being in the White House. However, he's still in close contact with the president and others in the administration.
However, after this interview, we wouldn't be surprised to see reports about Bannon potentially making a return to the West Wing, given that there's nothing like a strong cable news performance to win the president's favor.
Watch the full interview below:
Note that CNBC cut the live feed from the "Delivering Alpha" conference as Bannon was getting going, tying the opioid crisis to the globalists offshoring of jobs and China's economic war...
"Tariffs are not just about economics... its about identity, self worth, and people understanding they have jobs."
and bounced back to their studio guests from the establishment who immediately unleashed their talking points to tear down Bannon's awkward facts.