Critic's Notebook: Steve Bannon's Darth Vader Goes for Kumbaya Moment at CPAC

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Steve Bannon (left) and Reince Priebus

President Trump's chief strategist makes an appearance with chief of staff Reince Priebus at the conservative gathering to show that they get along just fine.

Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus, the Darth Vader and C-3PO of the Trump administration, made a joint appearance at CPAC on Thursday afternoon, and they wanted to make one thing very clear: They really, really like each other.

There have been numerous accounts of discord between the two men reported by the press — I mean, the enemy of the American people — but the president's chief strategist and chief of staff were so jovial and friendly during their conversation that moderator Matt Schlapp joked that they were having a “Kumbaya moment.”

Channeling Barbara Walters, Schlapp asked them what each liked best about the other. It felt less like a political discussion than an episode of The Newlywed Game.

Priebus, looking more animated than he’s seemed in months — speaking in front of an entirely friendly crowd has a way of doing that for you — went first. “He is very dogged in making sure that every day, the promises that President Trump has made are the promises we’re working on,” he gushed about Bannon. “He’s very loyal. He’s extremely consistent. I consider him a very dear friend and someone that I work with every second of the day.”

Bannon admitted that he “can run a little hot on occasions,” which is a bit of an understatement. “Scalding” would be more like it. He went on to say, “Reince is indefatigable … low-key and steady. His job is by far one of the toughest jobs I’ve ever seen in my life. He’s been unwavering since the very first moment I met him.” It’s a good thing that the event was being held at a resort and convention center, so the two men could get a room afterwards.

Bannon and Priebus were there to take a victory lap after Trump’s first month in office. Forget anything you’ve heard about an administration in disarray, about a presidency in chaos. They were here to tell us that everything’s going according to plan, thank you very much.

Asked about the most crucial elements of the last 30 days, the two men were quick to respond. Priebus started with the nomination of Neil Gorsuch, saying, “We’re talking about a change over 40 years in the law.” He went on to cite deregulation, especially the rule that for every new regulation, two must be eliminated, and immigration, or as he put it, “protecting the sovereignty of the United States.” “These are all things that 80 percent of American people agree with,” he added, having apparently absorbed Trump’s grasp of facts and figures.

Bannon chimed in, citing “national security and sovereignty”; “economic nationalism”; and the “deconstruction of the administrative state.” He seems still pissed off over the way that Germany got treated after World War I.

They both heaped lavish praise on their boss. “The truth of the matter is that President Trump brought together the party and the conservative movement,” Priebus crowed. “And if they’re together, they can’t be stopped.”

“What all of us were starving for was somebody real, somebody genuine,” he pointed out. “Somebody who was actually who he said he was.” (At least, depending on when and with whom Trump was speaking, he could have added.)

“If you want to see the Trump agenda, it’s very simple,” Bannon said. “It’s all in the speeches. He’s probably the greatest public speaker in those public arenas since William Jennings Bryan.” It was an odd comparison since Bryan ran for president three times and lost, and even had a hard time defending God in the Scopes Monkey Trial. He added that Trump was “maniacally focused” on putting his agenda forward, which is at least half right.

Of course, what the two men could really bond over was their shared disdain for the press, although Priebus expressed hope that “the media will catch up eventually.” Bannon, naturally, took a less conciliatory stance, saying that “the mainstream media is dead wrong.” He added that the relationship between Trump and the media, or as he put it, “the opposition party,” is “going to get worse,” which is certainly true if he has anything to say about it.

“They’re corporate, globalist media that is adamantly opposed to the economic nationalist agenda that Trump has,” Bannon thundered in his usual charming manner. “Trump is going to continue his agenda. If you think they’re going to give you your country back without a fight, you’re sadly mistaken.”

OK, Steve. Game on.

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