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American Rasputin

Steve Bannon is still scheming. And he’s still a threat to democracy.

I sometimes look at the long ribbons of texts I’ve gotten from Steve Bannon and wonder whether they couldn’t tell the whole story all on their own.

There are certainly enough of them. He says he has five phones, two encrypted, and he’s forever pecking away, issuing pronunciamentos with incontinent abandon—after midnight; during commercial breaks for his show, War Room; sometimes while the broadcast is still live.

You can discern much of Bannon’s mad character and contradictions in these exchanges. The chaos and the focus, the pugnacity and the enthusiasm, the transparency and the industrial-grade bullshit. Also, the mania: logomania, arithmomania, monomania (he’d likely cop to all of these, especially that last one—he’s the first to say that one of the features of his show is “wash rinse repeat”). Garden-variety hypermania (with a generous assist from espressos). And last of all, perhaps above all else, straight-up megalomania, which even those who profess affection for the man can see, though it appears to be a problem only for those who believe, as I do, that he’s attempting to insert a lit bomb into the mouth of American democracy.

March 28, 9:49 a.m.

I’m taking out Murkowski today and forcing her to vote NO on judge Jackson

He’s talking about the Senate confirmation vote on Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court nomination, and uncertainty about whether Lisa Murkowski, the senior Republican senator from Alaska, will vote yes. I tell him I’ll be interested to see if Murkowski responds.

After today she’s a NO

Murkowski did not vote no. I sent him New York Times story on April 4 to tweak him. Wasn’t your show supposed to flip her? I asked.


Goalposts. They’re always movable.

This is a huge issue that I’m about to make toxic


And so it went that day: The work before us is to weaponize this vote. Twice he used this word, weaponize, in talking about his plan to flip Senate seats in Nevada and Arizona—adding, I can clearly see how to win.

There were times when my text interactions with Bannon felt like one prolonged Turing test. There were times when he almost resembled a regular human. He would talk about missing his father, who died in January at 100, and how strange it was to be in his childhood home alone. (Just sat in the family room for hours.) He would fret about his weight and express pleasure when a newspaper used a photo that did not, for once, make him look god-awful, like some deranged incel by way of Maurice Sendak.

I’m impressed by my photo!!

Innnnnnnnnnnnteresting, I wrote. Why?

By Jennifer Senior

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