In setting up his segment on Sunday night’s 60 Minutes, co-host Charlie Rose said that former Trump White House strategist and soulless black hole Steve Bannon “came ready to brawl.” If so, the self-proclaimed “street fighter” faced a weak opponent in Rose. He tried so pointlessly hard to understand Bannon’s contorted justifications for everything from President Trump’s response to the Charlottesville tragedy to Trump’s worst tweets that he was left sputtering — gasping for the polite, network-news, Sunday-night way of saying, “Are you effing serious?”
Bannon got away with his usual yammering mixture of rabid nationalism and racism dressed in the raiment of working-class fealty. But then, Bannon is a reprehensible human, which I knew going in, so I didn’t get too riled up watching most of the interview. The one moment I rose out of my chair in fury, though, was when Rose let Bannon get away with justifying his awful philosophy by quoting William Holden in one of the greatest movies ever made, Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch. In trying to excuse his own duplicitous, false blind loyalty to Donald Trump, Bannon misquoted (of course) the moment when William Holden’s Pike Bishop barks at Ben Johnson for wanting to rid the outlaw gang of the aging cowboy, played by Edmund O’Brien. Bannon bungled Holden’s lines, which are, “When you side with a man, you stay with him, and if you can’t do that you’re like some animal, you’re finished — we’re finished, all of us.”
Holden is speaking with a great sense of guilt and self-condemnation for past incidents in which he hadn’t done the right thing by various allies. Bannon, by contrast, used Pike’s furious anguish to justify Billy Bush and Trump’s lewd Access Hollywood comments. Bannon spoke entirely without any sense of guilt for what he has done to modern politics, or the country, in feeding his rancid ideas into the Trump campaign and presidency. If Pike Bishop were around today, he’d have made a much better figure for Bannon to face across a table than Charlie Rose. Pike Bishop would have slapped the flabby, stubbled jowls of Steve Bannon and told the self-styled “street fighter” to go back to his fake guns and his fake battles.
60 Minutes airs Sundays at 7 p.m. on CBS.