Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump and the Storming of the Presidency
by Joshua Green
Published by Penguin Press, £16.99
(Buy at Amazon)
Almost every major politician has had a key adviser credited with being the “power behind the throne”. For Margaret Thatcher, it was Bernard Ingham; for Tony Blair, Peter Mandelson; for George W Bush, Karl Rove. Joshua Green takes a look at Steve Bannon, the campaign manager and senior adviser behind Donald Trump’s throne. He makes the case that Bannon’s “transgressive instincts”, as Bret Stephens puts it in The New York Times, and “seeming incapacity for moral and intellectual embarrassment”, helped Trump defeat “the well-oiled if soulless machine that was Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign”.
Green “vividly pulls back the curtain on the symbiotic relationship between two of America’s most polarising figures”, says Lloyd Green in The Guardian. Overall, “Bannon emerges as an iconoclast and would-be revolutionary”, while Trump is portrayed as “the moneyed vandal from Queens who also expected to be seated at the best table at Manhattan’s toniest restaurants”.
Of the two, Bannon comes across as the more ideological. Indeed, “after Mitt Romney’s defeat in 2012, Trump attacked the Republican nominee for having been too harsh on immigrants”, says Edward Luce in the Financial Times. But having gorged himself on a diet of Breitbart News, the right-wing news site, Trump was soon “singing a different tune”. Bannon, on the other hand, “never wavered in his convictions”, which seem to be driven by “an apocalyptic foreboding about the fate of the West derived from almost two decades of manic reading”.
Green “allows Bannon to tell much of the story himself” by quoting from extensive interviews. Still, Green is unable to quite prove that Bannon’s insights were truly “the elixir for Trump’s victory”.