by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The latest issue of Bloomberg Businessweek devotes eight full pages to a cover story on Steve Bannon, the executive chairman of Breitbart News and a major player in conservative investigative journalism.
As befits someone with his peripatetic background, Bannon is a kind of Jekyll-and-Hyde figure in the complicated ecosystem of the right—he’s two things at once. And he’s devised a method to influence politics that marries the old-style attack journalism of Breitbart.com, which helped drive out Boehner, with a more sophisticated approach, conducted through the nonprofit Government Accountability Institute, that builds rigorous, fact-based indictments against major politicians, then partners with mainstream media outlets conservatives typically despise to disseminate those findings to the broadest audience. The biggest product of this system is the project Bannon was so excited about at CPAC: the bestselling investigative book, written by GAI’s president, Peter Schweizer, Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich. Published in May by HarperCollins, the book dominated the political landscape for weeks and probably did more to shape public perception of Hillary Clinton than any of the barbs from her Republican detractors.
Jeb Bush is about to come in for the same treatment. On Oct. 19, GAI will publish Schweizer’s e-book, Bush Bucks: How Public Service and Corporations Helped Make Jeb Rich, that examines how Bush enriched himself after leaving the Florida governor’s mansion in 2007. A copy obtained by Bloomberg Businessweek examines Bush’s Florida land deals, corporate board sinecures, and seven-figure salary with Lehman Brothers, whose 2008 bankruptcy touched off the financial crisis. “It’s not as cinematic as the Clintons, with their warlords and Russian gangsters and that whole cast of bad guys,” says Bannon. “Bush is more prosaic. It’s really just grimy, low-energy crony capitalism.”
While attacking the favored candidates in both parties at once may seem odd, Bannon says he’s motivated by the same populist disgust with Washington that’s animating candidates from Trump to Bernie Sanders. Like both, Bannon is having a bigger influence than anyone could have reasonably expected. But in the Year of the Outsider, it’s perhaps fitting that a figure like Bannon, whom nobody saw coming, would roil the national political debate.
Readers in this forum should recognize Peter Schweizer’s name. The “Locker Room” has made frequent allusions to his book, Throw Them All Out.