Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon railed against a number of Washington’s power players during a Sunday night interview on “60 Minutes.”
But the self-described political “street fighter” reserved his deepest scorn for the national security figures in the George W. Bush administration, who he says led the U.S. astray in the Iraq war and allowed China to get away with wholesale theft of American technology.
“I hold these people in contempt,” he told Charlie Rose. “Total and complete contempt.”
Bannon, who has returned to his former position at the helm of Breitbart News, singled out prominent Bush administration veterans, sarcastically calling them “geniuses” who ended up being wrong about America’s crucial foreign policy challenges. When Rose asked Bannon about criticism many former Republican foreign policy gurus have directed at President Donald Trump, his response was unequivocal:
“This is once again where the narrative is dead wrong,” he said, referring to Bush advisers who said Trump was unfit to assume the duties of commander-in-chief.
“The geniuses the Bush administration that let China into the WTO [World Trade Organization], the geniuses in the Bush administration that said ‘Hey, they’re gonna be a liberal democracy, they’re gonna be free market capitalism, okay?’ The same geniuses that got us into Iraq. That’s the geniuses in the Bush administration.”
At first reluctant to identify anyone by name, Bannon unloaded on who’s who of Republican national security leaders when pressed by Rose.
“Condi [Condoleeza] Rice, George W. Bush, his entire national security apparatus,” he began.
An incredulous Rose interrupted with some more examples: “Brent Scowcroft, Colin Powell, Dick Cheney?”
“Yes, absolutely,” Bannon shot back. “All of it. All of it.”
To drive home the point that his disdain was bipartisan, Bannon then lumped in the foreign policy teams working for former Presidents Clinton and Obama.
“By the way, the Obama crowd, almost the same. The Clinton crowd, almost the same,” he said. “It’s three administrations.”
Of all of Trump’s policy positions during the campaign, his rejection of interventionist foreign policy was perhaps the greatest departure from Republican Party orthodoxy. He repeatedly criticized the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and even used Hillary Clinton’s support of the war to paint her as a hawk who would involve the U.S. in unnecessary wars.
Since taking office, Trump has become more conventional in his willingness to use military force, striking Syria in response to a chemical weapons attack on civilians and committing additional troops to the war in Afghanistan.
Bannon, who favored a withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan while serving in the White House, did not bring up Trump’s shift toward Washington’s foreign policy establishment during the “60 Minutes” interview. Instead, he reserved his contempt for the Republican foreign policy community.
“They’re idiots, and they question a good man like Donald Trump?” Bannon said.
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