Ever since Donald Trump announced that his former campaign CEO, Steve Bannon, will be his senior adviser in the White House, Democrats in both chambers have made their position loud and clear. They want the Breitbart News boss and alt-right eminence grise gone, and they want him gone yesterday. Well, on Wednesday morning, the House Democrats threw down their strongest challenge yet. They gave Trump an ultimatum–if Bannon is on the White House payroll, he can forget about forming any kind of working relationship with them.
Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio represents the Youngstown area, one of many Rust Belt regions where Trump did far better than anyone expected. But that hasn’t dissuaded him from being one of the blue team’s sharpest critics of Bannon. He cemented that reputation on Wednesday’s edition of CNN’s “New Day,” when he told the nation–and Trump–that Bannon’s presence will be a major stumbling block if Trump has any designs of reaching across the aisle. Watch here.
— New Day (@NewDay) November 16, 2016
Ryan was one of 169 House Democrats who signed a letter calling for Trump to scrub his plans to name Bannon to his administration. Anchor Poppy Harlow thought that this letter was a wasted effort, and wondered if Ryan and other Democrats thought it was “incumbent on you guys” to work with Bannon.
Ryan disposed of that notion in a firm manner. He said that it was going to be “very, very hard” for his colleagues to work with Bannon, given how he has given succor to white supremacists and other hate groups. For that reason, he said, he believed that “there’s going to be a lot of Democrats who aren’t going to want to be in meetings or aren’t going to want to work with Trump if that guy is in the room.”
Just as Ryan was about to launch into an attack on Bannon’s shameful legacy, Harlow cut him off. In a shameful attempt at false equivalency, she wondered if this was any different from Mitch McConnell’s 2008 vow to make President Obama a one-term wonder. She thought that at some point, the Democrats were going to have to “meet in the middle” with Trump over how to tackle the issues of the day.
Ryan’s response was almost saintlike, considering the Fox News-esque hackery he’d just heard. He thought it would be “very, very helpful” if Trump didn’t have someone in his administration who is in bed with hate groups. When Harlow claimed that Bannon would say those headlines didn’t represent him, Ryan reminded her that Bannon still has to own the fact he promoted them.
“Well, if the standard’s that low these days, Poppy, then we have a real problem, because I know your network doesn’t promote things like that. A lot of newspapers, a lot of websites don’t promote that kind of rhetoric or give a platform. And now that platform is in the White House, the people’s house. And that to me is unacceptable.”
He then added that, on paper, there is some potential for common ground with Trump–like getting “dark money” out of campaigns and rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure. However, he warned Trump that if he has any designs on pushing a hard-right agenda, “we’re going to fight him every step of the way.”
This was actually the second time in less than 24 hours that Ryan laid into Bannon. On Tuesday, word got out that he was mulling a challenge to Nancy Pelosi as House Minority Leader. He told CNN’s Jake Tapper that while Democrats are trying to figure out how best to win back the trust of Democrats–especially in the Rust Belt–who turned to Trump, they agree on one thing–Bannon is unacceptable. Watch here.
Ryan told Tapper that it was “appalling” and “disgusting” that anyone with Bannon’s history could even potentially “make his way into the White House.” He said that we should not forget that “we are a nation that welcomes everybody,” and said it would be “very, very difficult” to work with Trump if Bannon remained his top adviser.
This is exactly the kind of stand the Democrats need to take against Trump–especially if Bannon is on the payroll. Even if Ryan doesn’t end up as House Minority Leader, there needs to be an investigation if he isn’t part of the leadership in some capacity.
(featured image courtesy Tim Evanson, available under a Creative Commons BY-SA license)