Bannon to Koch Brothers: 'Shut up and get with the program'
Charles and David Koch have created a massive network of political organizations that donate hundreds of millions of dollars to Republican candidates and conservative causes. But they are currently unhappy with the White House and the Republican Party for abandoning what they see as core principles such as fiscal responsibility and free trade.
They made their displeasure known during a meeting in Colorado Springs with dozens of their organizations.
"The divisiveness of this White House is causing long-term damage," said Brian Hooks, one of Charles Koch's top deputies, during a briefing for reporters. "When in order to win on an issue someone else has to lose, it makes it very difficult to unite people and solve the problems in this country. You see that on trade: In order to get to a good place on trade, convince the American people that trade is bad."
A video produced by the Koch network focuses on the dangers of anti-free-trade sentiment across the country. In it, Charles Koch warns that the current "rise in protectionism" represents "a natural tendency, but it's a destructive one." A failure to embrace innovation has "doomed many," Koch warns, while images of shuttered Blockbuster video and Borders bookstores flash on the screen.
This sort of criticism didn't sit well with former White House strategist Steve Bannon, who decided to treat the billionaire donors, whose money will be the difference between victory and defeat for the GOP in November, like recalcitrant schoolboys:
"What they have to do is shut up and get with the program, OK?" Bannon said in an interview with POLITICO. "And here's the program: Ground game to support Trump's presidency and program, [and] victory on Nov. 6."
Telling someone who gives a couple of hundred million dollars to Republican candidates to "shut up" and abandon his principles to support candidates he disagrees with and causes not his own is not the way to win friends and influence people. The brothers have donated to Democrats in the past, and they have said they would donate to Democrats in the future who support their principles.
But Bannon wouldn't let the issue die:
He described the Koch political operation as ineffective, saying it had wasted untold dollars on losing past elections. And he argued that voters had rejected the free-trade approach the Kochs embrace in favor of Trump's brand of economic populism.
"We can have a theoretical discussion later, OK? This is why they don't know what it means to win, OK? We don't have time to have some theoretical discussion and to have their spokesman come out and say the president is divisive," Bannon said.
He said it was unacceptable "for them to come out and talk about divisiveness" given their long-running lack of support for Trump.
"They were the first people to put the knife in his back," he said.
A Koch network spokesman, James Davis, shrugged off the criticism.
"We are focused on uniting the country to help remove barriers that are preventing people from reaching the potential," he said. "Toward that end, we look forward to working with the President Trump, Congress and communities whenever possible to help people improve their lives."
The Koch network has pledged to spend $400 million ahead of the midterms.
To be clear, Bannon has supported candidates who not only failed to win, but were fatally flawed human beings, including the anti-Semite Paul Nehlen, who lost by 70 points to Speaker Paul Ryan in the primary and Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, who couldn't keep his hands off teenage girls, which cost him a race in the most Republican state of the union.
Bannon is the pipsqueak taking on an 800-lb gorilla. Is there any doubt who will win?