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Among other things, Steve Bannon appears to be a fan of Hilary Mantel.

Mandel Ngan/Getty

(The other things are white nationalism and frog memes.)

Proving that 2016 can get worse, Michael Wolff has written a fawning profile of Steve Bannon for The Hollywood Reporter, in which Bannon is given ample space to defend his ideology (surprise, he says it’s not racist) and dance on the graves of the “establishment” the former Goldman Sachs adviser and Hollywood dealmaker despises. He also says a lot of interesting and telling things about Trump’s governing agenda: 

“Like [Andrew] Jackson’s populism, we’re going to build an entirely new political movement,” he says. “It’s everything related to jobs. The conservatives are going to go crazy. I’m the guy pushing a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan. With negative interest rates throughout the world, it’s the greatest opportunity to rebuild everything. Ship yards, iron works, get them all jacked up. We’re just going to throw it up against the wall and see if it sticks. It will be as exciting as the 1930s, greater than the Reagan revolution — conservatives, plus populists, in an economic nationalist movement.”

There is a lot going on here, including the invocation of several periods of history that are not remembered particularly fondly by many in this country: the Andrew Jackson era (which, by the way, ended after his successor was defeated after one term), the 1930s, and the Reagan Revolution. And the infrastructure plan Bannon brags about here would benefit the very “globalist” neoliberal businesspeople that he claims to hate. But most of Bannon’s comments to Wolff are marked by this curious mix of arrogance and ignorance. Here’s the money quote: 

“Darkness is good,” says Bannon, who amid the suits surrounding him at Trump Tower, looks like a graduate student in his T-shirt, open button-down and tatty blue blazer — albeit a 62-year-old graduate student. “Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That’s power. It only helps us when they—” I believe by “they” he means liberals and the media, already promoting calls for his ouster “—get it wrong. When they’re blind to who we are and what we’re doing.”

Like Dick Cheney and Donald Trump before him, Bannon is leaning into being a heel. He’s also revealing his essence, which is that power—not giving voice to the voiceless middle, his preferred platitude—is what animates him. But neither Vader nor Cheney nor Satan seems to be Bannon’s real model. “‘I am,’ he says, with relish, ‘Thomas Cromwell in the court of the Tudors.’” 

Someone’s been reading Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall books! Well, Mantel hasn’t finished her trilogy yet, but here’s a spoiler: Cromwell gets executed for treason.