More than 800 people showed up Wednesday night to hear controversial former White House strategist and media executive Steve Bannon talk about how Donald Trump became president of the United States and Macomb County’s role in that effort.
Speaking before a sold-out crowd at the Macomb County Republican Party’s annual Unity Dinner at Andiamo Banquet Center, Bannon began by detailing behind-the-scenes happenings on election night 2016 when Trump won the presidency.
“We had the finest candidate to run for the presidency since Ronald Reagan, and just like Ronald Reagan, he understood at a very deep level the problems of this country,” Bannon said. “He understood Macomb County and certain areas of Michigan had gone from a global powerhouse in manufacturing to being hollowed out.”
Bannon said the playbook to the White House centered on comparing and contrasting Trump with Democratic nominee Hilary Clinton.
“Hilary Clinton stands for exactly the way things are,” he went on. “And folks understand this country was being destroyed economically, culturally and militarily. And things can’t go on that way.”
Wearing khakis, and a dark jacket and shirt, Bannon -- who stepped down in August as a chief strategist for Trump and returned to his far-right commentary website Breitbart -- looked very much at ease in a roomful of Macomb Republicans.
More points Bannon made in his talk:
• On Trump’s appeal -- “He talks to folks like an adult about the most important issues of the day because he’s not a politician.”
• On chants during the dinner of “lock her up” -- “I knew I’d come to a unity dinner and a Donald Trump rally would break out. We’re going to get to ‘build that wall’ in a minute
• Trump’s campaign team’s talking points -- “Stop mass illegal immigration and deal with legal immigration to get our sovereignty back. Bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States. And we have to bring an end to pointless foreign wars.”
• On Hilary Clinton’s failed campaign. “Her journey into identity politics doomed her and I thought doomed her from the very beginning.” On her failed strategy: “(Clinton’s team) aren’t going anywhere they should be and going everywhere they shouldn’t be.”
• On the mainstream media’s failure to detect Trump’s support. “Their models didn’t take into account the turnout for Donald Trump in places like Macomb County and Warren, Michigan. That’s why their models thought they were correct, but they were dead wrong.”
Before Bannon came out, state Rep. Pete Lucido -- who is known for being outspoken -- said he admired that same trait in Bannon.
“He’s a Macomb guy at heart,” Lucido said. “We need people to tell it like it is. I don’t think people should sugarcoat it. They should be straight to the point.”
Patricia Thomas of Waterford Township agreed.
“I love Mr. Bannon out of the White House so he can do what he’s now doing,” she said.
Earlier, a crowd of about 100 protestors gathered on the lawn of Andiamo to demonstrate against Bannon’s appearance. They carried signs with messages such as “No hate in our state.”
Others shouted slogans on a bullhorn: “Trump is a traitor, lock him up.”
“We are here to protest Steve Bannon and his hate speech,” said Bruce Fealk of Rochester Hills. “The Macomb County Republicans shouldn’t bring his racist, homophobic, misogynist viewpoints here. Gary Fougnie of Orion Township added; “I am pleased because whenever you see a large group, it makes a powerful statement. I don’t like what Steve Bannon stands for, which is divisiveness and fake news.”
On the other side of the lawn, a much smaller crowd was in favor of Bannon and Trump, setting up a large trailer display for Bikers For Trump.
“We are here to support Steve Bannon,” said Tim Smith. “We are not here to riot. We are here to be peaceful.”
Bannon, who stepped down in August as a chief strategist for President Donald Trump and returned to his far-right commentary website Breitbart,Those in the crowd at the GOP Unity Dinner included Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, Lt. Governor Brian Calley, Speaker of the House Tom Leonard, Republican Congressman Paul Mitchell, Macomb County Circuit judges Richard Caretti, Jennifer Faunce and Kathryn George, Oakland County Circuit Judge Fred Mester, Shelby Township Supervisor Richard Stathakis, Shelby Township Clerk Stan Grot, Warren City Council President Cecil St. Pierre, Councilman Scott Stevens, county Commissioner Leon Drolet and attorneys David Griem, Robert Kirk, Robert Huth and Raechel Badalementi.