Robert Kuttner is a veteran left-wing reporter who writes for the left-leaning American Prospect; while he was on vacation, Steve Bannon's assistant tracked him down and asked him if he'd talk to Bannon.
Kuttner had never spoken to Bannon before and was surprised when Bannon proceeded to contradict Trump at length, condemn the GOP, call alt-right racists "a collection of clowns."
Kuttner was also surprised that Bannon didn't insist that the conversation be off-the-record, and so he has duly reported it.
Some other highlights: Bannon described his efforts to (in Kuttner's words), "neutralize his rivals at the Departments of Defense, State, and Treasury" and said that (in Bannon's words), "They're wetting themselves."
Bannon also contradicted Trump on North Korea: "There's no military solution [to North Korea's nuclear threats], forget it. Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that ten 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."
On racists: "Ethno-nationalism—it's losers. It's a fringe element."
Bannon hoped that the Democrats continued to make Republican racism a centerpiece of their pitch: "If the left is focused on race and identity, and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats."
The majority of his call, though, concerned his elaborate plans to foment trade-war with China in order to establish a "hegemony."
"To me," Bannon said, "the economic war with China is everything. And we have to be maniacally focused on that. If we continue to lose it, we're five years away, I think, ten years at the most, of hitting an inflection point from which we'll never be able to recover."
Bannon's plan of attack includes: a complaint under Section 301 of the 1974 Trade Act against Chinese coercion of technology transfers from American corporations doing business there, and follow-up complaints against steel and aluminum dumping. "We're going to run the tables on these guys. We've come to the conclusion that they're in an economic war and they're crushing us."
Steve Bannon, Unrepentant
[Robert Kuttner/American Prospect]
(Image: Don Irvine, CC-BY-SA)