Bannon’s mockery of Romney incites GOP war

Bannon condemned Mitt Romney at a Roy Moore rally, rankling GOP leaders

By Nicole Karlis

Published December 6, 2017 6:20PM (EST)

Steve Bannon; Roy Moore (AP/Brynn Anderson/Montage by Salon)
Steve Bannon; Roy Moore (AP/Brynn Anderson/Montage by Salon)

Former Breitbart News chief and fired Trump aide Steve Bannon took the stage in Alabama last night to rally voters to the cause of disgraced GOP senate candidate Roy Moore. Yet what could have been a straightforward stump speech for the Republican Senate candidate devolved into a grievance session for Bannon, who spent part of the speech condemning fellow Republican Mitt Romney’s — specifically regarding his (lack of) involvement in the Vietnam War.

Bannon, who is renowned as a bomb-thrower, has been known for strategizing how to remake the Republican Party in his own (or in Trump's) image, rankling the old-guard conservatives who don't subscribe to Trump's noxious blend of white identitarianism, xenophobia, and anti-immigrant nationalism. Does Bannon's speech signify another attempt by the Former White House adviser to wedge his way through the Republican darkness, and cause a war inside the red party?

Bannon started the conversation by applauding Moore, idolizing his “honor and integrity” for serving in the Vietnam War. That line of conversation quickly turned into Bannon condemning Mitt Romney for not serving in Vietnam. Bannon said Romney “hid behind his religion” while men served and died. The crowd applauded.

While this attack was unexpected within the context of a stump speech, it wasn’t a total surprise, given that Moore and Romney seem to dislike each other. On Monday, Romney took to Twitter to declare that Moore’s election to the U.S. Senate would be “a stain on the GOP and on the nation."

Moore, who is facing multiple allegations of sexual assault and child sexual abuse, is causing quite the stir within his party due to his unwillingness to step down from his campaign, despite the shocking allegations against him. Inviting Bannon to speak on his behalf furthered the sense of a split between the old-guard Republican party and the Bannon-Trump wing. While President Trump publicly endorsed Moore, many other Republicans have requested that he remove himself from the election.  Senator Jeff Flake, R.-Ariz., said that “for Republicans to support Roy Moore over Doug Jones is political tribalism at its worst... We shouldn’t succumb to it." He even publicly retweeted Romney in a sign of agreement on that point. 

So, why is Bannon suddenly bullying Mitt Romney? It has been speculated that Romney could run against Trump in 2020. Perhaps Bannon’s latest public attempt to bash Romney — without him being present to defend himself — is his way of planting the seed and staving off attacks from within the party on Team Trump and Team Moore.

Nicole Karlis

Nicole Karlis is a staff writer at Salon. Tweet her @nicolekarlis.

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Donald Trump Jeff Flake Mitt Romney Roy Moore Steve Bannon