Getting the bund back together

A return visit to the White House

© 2017 Greg Skidmore, used under a Creative Commons license

[The Oval Office. White House Chief of Staff MICK MULVANEY is sitting in a chair as far as possible from former White House aide STEVE BANNON and celebrity Nazi RICHARD SPENCER, who are sitting on a couch. Everyone is looking at their phones.]

SPENCER: I can’t get a signal.

BANNON: You can’t get a signal because I locked you out.

SPENCER: What? You can’t do that!

BANNON: You’re on my Friends and Family, dummy. I have the parental controls on.

SPENCER: Why’d you do that?

BANNON: Because you’d take pictures and tell your idiot friends you’re in the White House. We can’t go public with this.

SPENCER: Now, sure. But comes Der Tag...

[SPENCER, having set his phone aside, hums “Deutschland Uber Alles,” pounding the rhythm on his thighs. MULVANEY regards him with disgust. TRUMP enters, all rise.]

TRUMP: So whatta we got here? Hey, Steve, good to see you. [Shakes his hand]

BANNON: An honor, sir, always.

TRUMP: [Regards SPENCER] Don’t think I caught your name.

BANNON: This is Richard Spencer, sir. He’s one of our good friends.

TRUMP: Oh, yeah?

[MULVANEY has moved close to the group.]

MULVANEY: Mr. Spencer is a Nazi.

[BANNON and SPENCER seem nonplussed.]

TRUMP: Oh, really, Mick? That true?

SPENCER: I’m not a Nazi, sir. Not at all.

MULVANEY: He was at Charlottesville, yelling “Jews will not replace us.”

SPENCER: With all due respect, that was “You will not replace us.”

TRUMP: Oh, Charlottesville. You guys gave me a lot of trouble.

SPENCER: [Aggro] All lies and propaganda, my leader! When the filthy rabble —

[BANNON puts his hand on SPENCER’s arm.]

BANNON: Richie’s views are controversial. I certainly don’t agree with all of them, but he makes some good points. [To MULVANEY] Mick, even you have to admit it was disgusting when Antifa punched Richie and posted video of it like they were proud.

TRUMP: Antifa, they’re bad news.

BANNON: Surely you agree, Mick.

[Pause.]

MULVANEY: [Coolly] I have business to attend to. Mr. President, I leave you to your guests.

[MULVANEY leaves. SPENCER looks as if he’s about to say something; BANNON kicks his shin. Pause.]

TRUMP: You fellas want a drink, something to eat?

BANNON: No, sir, we just want to propose an idea to you.

TRUMP: [Heading to his desk] Fire away. Nothing too complicated, though. I’m beat. They had me signing papers all morning, something to do with the Inside-Outside Bank, something else about the Bureau of Land, something about food stamps — we cut those, don’t worry.

[TRUMP is seated at his desk.]

I don’t like to talk about it much but you know how they drill me, Steve. Make me learn the names of things, and when I get them wrong they sigh and look at each other. I say hey, I’m the President, you’re just a bunch of assholes. Big shit I don’t know what the Inside Outside Bank is.

BANNON: We appreciate the sacrifices you make for us, sir.

TRUMP: So what’s the pitch?

BANNON: First, great job with Turning Point on Tuesday. You really got those kids excited.

TRUMP: Well, it’s easy with the kids. They’re raised on, what, MTV, Instagram. No attention span, like kittens, like those things you get from the comic books — sea monkeys. Which is perfect for me because, you know, with the Alzheimer’s it's hard, I can’t keep things straight —

BANNON: [To SPENCER but really to TRUMP] The President likes to joke about being old and senile, which is of course ridiculous.

SPENCER: I get it! A joke about the Untermenschen.

TRUMP: [Not paying attention] They gave me that story, how I shook a thousand hands at this Army cadet thing, more than Obama, and I fucked it all up, I sounded like I was retarded, but they ate it up. But I like talking to the young people, they’re the future.

BANNON: Which is perfect, sir, because I have another group that will make the kids love you even more. You remember that gladiator school I told you about? [Pause] That I was starting in Italy.

TRUMP: Oh yeah.

BANNON: We were training young men in the national populist tradition, like MAGA in Italy. And we had a lot of support because Salvini got the young people excited about the old ways — Italy for the Italians, getting rid of the gypsies, Mussolini, all that. But then we thought, if it’s doing this well, why are doing it in Italy? This is not our home. Why don’t we do it back in the homeland?

TRUMP: Oh, so you have the school here now.

BANNON: Yes, and it’s doing great — hundreds of thousands of young men have signed up. Nothing would please us more, sir, or be a greater honor than if you came to talk to them, sir, the way you talked to those kids at Turning Point.

TRUMP: These kids, they Nazis like your friend here?

[Pause.]

SPENCER: I told you —

TRUMP: I wasn’t talking to you.

[BANNON steps close to TRUMP’s desk.]

BANNON: The young people at Turning Point, sir, they’re full of energy. They cheer loudly. But let’s face it, they’re like the kids at CPAC. They’re College Republicans. They wear suits and apply for internships. They don’t believe in anything. Their greatest ambition is to be rich enough to buy an Ambassadorship and maybe get a schvartze thrown in jail. They love you because you’re the Republican President. If Nikki Haley were the Republican President, God help us, they would love her just as much. Maybe more. The young men I have are loyal to you. You are their God-Emperor. And they are warriors. They would fight for you, kill for you. Some of them already have.

[Pause.]

You put them in front of the public and people will see how serious we are.

TRUMP: So did you leave Italy because you wanted to, or because you got thrown out?

[Pause.]

Because I heard you got thrown out.

BANNON: We had some disagreements with the authorities.

TRUMP: It’s not like I — just a minute. [To SPENCER] Richie. [Points] Go out the door there and wait for your friend.

[SPENCER looks from TRUMP to BANNON, then clicks his heels and leaves by the indicated door.]

It’s not like I don’t understand, Steve. You got a thing and you want your powerful friend to help put it over. Everyone does that. Just don’t talk to me like I’m an asshole. You got me?

BANNON: Sir.

TRUMP: And listen, your friend here, has he got followers or is he just some schmuck?

BANNON: He has followers.

TRUMP: Well, maybe after the next election you can bring him back. But not before. Okay, see you, Steve.

[TRUMP starts playing with his phone. After a moment, BANNON leaves — walking backwards, as if leaving the presence of a king. After a pause MULVANEY enters.]

TRUMP: Whattaya know, Mick.

MULVANEY: Just a minute, sir.

[MULVANEY takes an aerosol can out of his pocket and sprays the air in the room.]

TRUMP: Look, it’s not Steve’s fault he’s got a condition.

MULVANEY: This isn’t about Steve, sir.

TRUMP: Oh. What, did Hitler put the Irish in camps, too?

[CURTAIN.]