The new Cheney?

Is Stephen K. Bannon this generation’s Dick Cheney, who served as vice president to President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2009? President Donald Trump chose Bannon to be his senior adviser and chief strategist. Both Cheney then and Bannon now serve as puppeteers who manipulate their intellectually challenged bosses and drive the country’s policies. So much power and influence in the hands of these two men. Is that what America wants? Let’s take a closer look.

Washington Post reporter Bart Gellman, in Angler, his book about the Cheney vice presidency, suggests that the war on terror offers us the clearest picture of Cheney’s power and influence: establishing Guantanamo, getting waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques authorized, and circumventing established laws on domestic surveillance. Gellman wrote: “So pervasive was Cheney’s control that when lawyers from the National Security Agency, which was conducting the domestic surveillance, went to the Justice Department to look at the legal opinion authorizing the warrantless surveillance, Cheney’s lawyer showed up and angrily told them they had no right to see it.

Cheney, like Bannon, had no use for the mainstream news media. He hated interviews and was given to one-word responses and awkward silences. His relationship with the press was friendlier in earlier times, but as Bush’s vice president, all that changed. Cheney believed his single role was to advise Bush, and that meant he would be less accessible to the press and thus to all of us.

Bannon, former executive director of Breitbart News, a right-wing opinion outlet known for its extreme conservative positions on nearly everything, sees an independent news media as the enemy of America, and has already established this enmity and national distrust of factual reporting as one of the Trump administration’s highest priorities. Already, he’s put actions behind his incendiary rhetoric by directing White House press secretary Sean Spicer to bar New York Times and several other news media reporters from his daily briefing.

“The media here is (sic) the opposition party,” Bannon said in an interview on Wednesday. “They don’t understand this country.”

Bannon delineates his priorities for the Trump administration into three columns: national security and sovereignty, economic nationalism, and deconstruction of the administrative state. The state, in his view, is not an instrument of the people but an adversary to be defeated. Economic nationalism favors national control, assumed to be at odds with the rest of the world. Tariffs, world trade, immigration all are enemies, “globalists.” Anything goes when protecting national security and the nation’s sovereignty. Build the wall.

Bannon bases his view of the world on his strong belief in American sovereignty. He has said that countries should protect their citizens by reducing all immigration and withdrawing from multinational agreements. He worries that the U.S. and what he calls the “Judeo-Christian West” are in a war against an Islamic ideology. This fight is so important, he says, it’s worth overlooking differences and rivalries with countries like Russia. Really?

Too much power and influence in these two men with extreme views clearly at odds with our values. Pray for our nation.

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