With his employment status in the Trump administration tenuous at best, White House chief strategist Steve Bannon cut loose in an interview with The American Prospect on Tuesday on North Korea, white nationalists, and trade with China, sometimes contradicting the president.
Bannon called editor Robert Kuttner apparently eager to get some things off his chest about the hot topics surrounding the administration. He appeared to contradict President Donald Trump on North Korea, downplaying the possibility of military force after Trump threatened the communist nation with "fire and fury."
“There’s no military solution [to North Korea’s nuclear threats], forget it," Bannon said. "Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that 10 million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us.”
Bannon's take on the North Korea situation is in direct conflict with Trump's insistence that further aggressive actions by North Korea would be met with military force by the United States.
"North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States," Trump said Aug. 8 during a meeting on opioids from his golf club in New Jersey. "They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen ... he has been very threatening beyond a normal state. They will be met with fire, fury and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before."
In the conversation, Bannon also emphasized the need to focus on winning the economic war against China and that the administration should not soften up on Chinese trade practices hoping for more assistance with North Korea.
“We’re at economic war with China,” Bannon said. “It’s in all their literature. They’re not shy about saying what they’re doing. One of us is going to be a hegemon in 25 or 30 years and it’s gonna be them if we go down this path. On Korea, they’re just tapping us along. It’s just a sideshow.”
Bannon detailed his intention to fire employees at the State Department, including Susan Thornton, the head of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, in order to advance his China policies.
When asked about the recent surge in white nationalist activism that culminated in the Charlottesville protests, Bannon dismissed the far-right activists as "clowns," "losers" and "fringe elements" while re-emphasizing his focus on economic nationalism. Bannon was the driving force behind Breitbart's strategy to stir up the far-right and use that base to help get Trump elected.
“The Democrats, the longer they talk about identity politics, I got ’em," Bannon said. "I want them to talk about racism every day. If the left is focused on race and identity, and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats.”
Bannon is reportedly facing an uncertain future in the White House, with Trump giving a tepid "we'll see" in response to questions about Bannon's job security earlier this week.