Former White House adviser Steve Bannon
widened his assault on the Republican establishment Friday night, saying
former GOP President George W. Bush had the most “destructive”
presidency in U.S. history.
Bannon's scathing comments at the annual California Republican Party
convention came about a week after Bush denounced bigotry in Trump-era
American politics and warned that the rise of isolationism and "nativism,"
which Bannon espouses, have clouded the nation's true identity.
"There has not been a more destructive presidency than George Bush's,"
He also said Bush has no idea whether "he is coming or going, just like
it was when he was president,” amid boos in the crowd at the mention of
Bannon made the remarks in a speech thick with attacks on the Washington
status quo, echoing his earlier calls for an "open revolt" against
establishment Republicans. He called the "permanent political class" one
of the great dangers faced by the country.
Bannon, a late-arrival to Trump’s presidential campaign who was ousted
last month from his White House post, got a standing ovation at the
conclusion of his speech in Anaheim.
Since leaving the White House as Trump’s top political adviser, Bannon
has returned to Breitbart News and embarked on an effort to unseat
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other congressional
Republicans whom he thinks have slowed or blocked Trump’s legislative
Bannon has for weeks basked in the victory of social conservative Roy
Moore over establishment candidate Sen. Luther Strange in Alabama’s GOP
And at a speech last weekend in Washington to social conservatives,
Bannon declared “war” on establishment candidates, particularly lose
seeking reelection next year.
A small group of protesters gathered outside the Southern California
hotel where Bannon spoke, chanting and waving signs including one with a
Nazi swastika. The protesters were kept behind steel barricades on a
plaza across an entrance road at the hotel, largely out of view of
people entering for the event. No arrests were reported.
Bannon also took aim at the Silicon Valley and its "lords of
technology," predicting that tech leaders and progressives in the state
would try to secede from the union in 10 to 15 years. He called the
threat to break up the nation a "living problem."
He also tried to cheer long-suffering California Republicans, in a state
that Trump lost by over 4 million votes and where Republicans have
become largely irrelevant in state politics. In Orange County, where the
convention was held, several Republican House members are trying to hold
onto their seats in districts carried by Hillary Clinton in the 2016
"You've got everything you need to win," he told them.
While Bannon is promoting a field of primary challengers to take on
incumbent Republicans, the GOP has been fading for years in California.
The state has become a kind of Republican mausoleum: GOP supporters can
relive the glory days by visiting the stately presidential libraries of
Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon, but today Democrats control every
statewide office and rule both chambers of the Legislature by commanding
Not all Republicans were glad to see Bannon. In a series of tweets last
week, former state Assembly Republican leader Chad Mayes said he was
shocked by the decision to have the conservative firebrand headline the
"It's a huge step backward and demonstrates that the party remains tone
deaf," Mayes tweeted
Political scientist Jack Pitney, who teaches at Claremont McKenna
College, said he doubted the speech would color the 2018 congressional
contests, which remain far off for most voters.
More broadly, he said Bannon's politics would hurt the GOP, including
among affluent, well-educated voters who play an important part in
"Inviting him was a moral and political blunder," Pitney said in an
The Associated Press contributed to this report.