Magazine | May 1, 2017, Issue

NSA Surveillance Intercept

Steve Bannon participates in a Hudson Institute conference in Washington, U.S., October 23, 2017. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

EYES ONLY — NO UNMASKED IDs

Begin Extract:

[Static. Ringing.]

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE 1: Hello?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE 2: Mr. Bannon? It’s Jared. How are you, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE 1: Doing okay, kid. Yourself?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE 2: Fine, thanks. Say, sir, Mr. Trump has been pretty clear about you and me sitting down to hash things out, and if you’re game, I sure am! My guess is, you and I have a case of good old-fashioned miscommunication-itis! So, here’s how I see it: Later today after I have my Mandarin lesson and right before my stretching class, you and I meet for an IPA and work this all out. What say you, Mr. Bannon?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE 1: Not following you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE 2: Aw, gee, I thought you might still be sore about some of those nutty things they’ve been saying in the papers about yours truly. Mr. Bannon, I’m totally serious — I never said anything like that stuff. You’re the tops in my book, sir, and that’s why I’d love to sit down with you over a cold libation and get all of this hashed out and stowed away. Up for it, sir? I sure as shootin’ am!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE 1: You don’t sound Jewish.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE 2: Hahahaha! You sound like some of the fellas back in Kirkland House at Harvard!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE 1: I’m not kidding. You really don’t. What’s with the prep-school accent?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE 2: Gee, sorry, Mr. Bannon! I sincerely didn’t mean to make you cross! It’s just the way I talk, sir. Anyhoo, about getting together to talk over the obvious tension that you and I –

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE 1: Are you homosexual?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE 2: No, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE 1: You sound homosexual.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE 2: That’s probably Harvard. But if I may –

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE 1: So you want to get together and have a beer and sort this out, huh?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE 2: I was hoping to, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE 1: Yeah, well, why not do it now? On the phone. While we can.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE 2: Okay, Mr. Bannon, you know I did take some conflict-resolution courses when I was in business school at NYU, so let’s start by using a technique I learned called “Here’s what I like about you,” where each of us starts by saying something we like about the other person. Who wants to go first?

[Elapsed time: three minutes]

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE 2: Okay, I guess I’ll go first. What I like about Steve Bannon. I like his terrific hair. I like his casual and unstructured wardrobe. I like his ruddy and mottled complexion. I like the way he sometimes seems like he’s about to fall asleep. I like the way he always asks if I’m Jewish when I’m pretty sure he knows that I’m Jewish. I like his one hundred million page views per month. There. Now you go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE 1: This is stupid.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE 2: And I like the way he speaks from the heart! Okay, sorry, snuck one in there!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE 1: You want me to tell you what I like about you? I like your one billion dollars. I like your . . . one billion dollars.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE 2: You said that one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE 1: Yeah, I know. Think I’m gonna stick to that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE 2: Okay! I think we’ve made some progress! Now I’d like to go to the next step and ask you to identify things that may upset you or confuse you about me and my work here in the White House. I learned this technique during Diversity Week at Harvard. Please begin every sentence with the phrase, “I wish I knew . . .” in order to keep it all friendly and supportive. I’ll start: I wish I knew why Mr. Bannon was so angry at me all the time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE 1: Should I answer that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE 2: No, just say one of your own.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE 1: I wish I knew why I was doing this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE 2: I wish I knew why Mr. Bannon keeps forgetting I’m the son-in-law.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE 1: I wish I knew why this stupid kid thinks he knows anything about politics.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE 2: I wish I knew why Mr. Bannon keeps forgetting I’m the son-in-law.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE 1: I wish I knew why this kid acts like he’s unfireable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE 2: I wish I knew why Mr. Bannon keeps forgetting I’m the son-in-law.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE 1: You keep saying that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE 2: Yep.

End Extract

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