Congressman Ben Cline sank to new depths last week when he appeared as a guest on “War Room,” the podcast of self-styled Leninist (“Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too.”) Steve Bannon. (Bannon’s interview with Cline starts at 26:57.)
Bannon, a former chief strategist to then-President Trump, was indicted in 2020 for collecting donations to build a U.S.-Mexico border wall and using some of the money to enrich himself. Trump pardoned him on his last day in office.
Bannon’s opens his podcast by ominously proclaiming: “Pray for our enemies. ‘Cause we’re going to go medieval on these people.”
I can’t help noticing that Bannon favors the word “enemies” rather than “opponents.” I’m not sure who Bannon’s enemies are, but I suspect they include me and tens of millions of other Americans. And “go medieval” doesn’t exactly suggest inviting people for a civil discussion of differences.
If Ben “Mr. Bipartisanship” Cline had any qualms about this, he didn’t raise them.
Bannon began the interview by claiming that President Biden’s assertion that some Republicans want to cut Social Security is a “bald-faced lie.” (It’s not.)
Cline replied: “We have to put out a balanced budget that preserves and protects Social Security and Medicare and does not go after those essential programs.”
Bannon then asked: “What are your constituents telling you after they heard the State of the Union?”
Cline said: “They’re furious and so am I.”
(Earlier this month Cline said we were furious that DirecTV was no longer streaming the rightwing Newsmax channel because of a dispute over carriage fees. Does he think we live in a permanent state of fury?)
He continued: “[Biden] baits us by saying, ‘Oh you all want to cut Social Security and Medicare.’ Well, of course we’re going to object in the middle of his speech…When somebody lies to your face, you’re gonna tell them they’re lying to their face. And that’s what we did during the State of the Union.”
If Biden was baiting Cline and his fellow Republicans, he succeeded quite well. He got them to agree that there would be no cuts to Social Security or Medicare. And Cline is the one who is lying about wanting to preserve and protect Social Security and Medicare. He is a member of the Republican Study Committee, which wants to slash Social Security and Medicare benefits for tens of millions of aging and retiring Americans.
Just this week, Cline told a meeting of constituents in Winchester that he thinks Social Security should be “means tested.” He said that “millionaires shouldn’t be getting Social Security.” Does that mean people who pay into Social Security all their working lives aren’t necessarily entitled to it? And how does Cline propose to determine who is a millionaire and who isn’t?
Bannon then switched the subject to Cline’s role on the House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Cline’s friend Jim Jordan, who is purporting to investigate the Biden administration’s “weaponization” of the Department of Justice and the intelligence agencies.
Cline explained: “When the DoJ and when our intelligence agencies don’t respond, that’s when they bring me in. I’m the chair of this little rump subcommittee called ‘Responsiveness and Accountability Oversight.’ And so they want me to haul these people up to the Hill, read them the riot act and try and convince them that cooperating with the Judiciary Committee is better than the alternative, which is being held in contempt… [Jordan] needs a bulldog at the subcommittee level to make their lives hell, quite frankly. And so he’s tasked me with that responsibility.”
I can’t wait to see how that plays out. But on the matter of non-cooperation with House committees: In October 2022, Steve Bannon was sentenced to four months in prison and a $6,500 fine after he was convicted for refusing to comply with a subpoena from the House of Representatives committee investigating the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. He is free pending appeal.
Mysteriously, that topic never came up during the interview.
Gene Zitver is the editor of ClineWatch.