Subtlety is not Steve Bannon's strong suit.
Case in point, the senior adviser to President Donald Trump, who rarely speaks publicly, decided this would be a good week to use a term known as an anti-Semitic dog whistle.
Just days ago, the administration was deflecting accusations of anti-Semitism that arose from Trump's strange unwillingness to condemn a string of bomb threats on Jewish community centers across the country and the desecration of a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis.
The president finally spoke about the issue Tuesday, under pressure from several Jewish organizations, and condemned the threats and other acts as "a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil."
But by Thursday, Bannon was smugly taunting the press at the Conservative Political Action Conference, saying: "They're corporatist, globalist media that are adamantly opposed to an economic nationalist agenda like Donald Trump has."
"Globalist media" is a loaded term that bubbled up out of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories of a media controlled by Jewish elites, a concept akin to "international bankers," cabals of wealthy Jews supposedly plotting to take over the world.
Bannon knows this, I have no doubt. He ran Breitbart, a website that caters to white nationalists, many of whom are overtly anti-Semitic.
So why toss out the globalist media canard just days after the executive director of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect condemned Trump and called the president's late statement about the Jewish center threats a "Band-Aid on the cancer of Antisemitism that has infected his own Administration."
I spoke with Anne Frank Center director Steven Goldstein following Bannon's comment Thursday.
"We are now seeing a pattern," he said. "And during the week in which the Trump administration has been under a microscope for anti-Semitism, this is how you refer to the press? In some of the most unfortunate anti-Semitic terms in history? That doesn't happen by accident."
I agree. Bannon's snarling "globalist media" comment struck me as a rebellious nod to the swath of Trump supporters who believe such nonsense.
Of course Bannon never used the words "Jew" or "Jewish" in his comments.
"Bannon is engaging in what I call plausible deniability anti-Semitism," Goldstein said. "He can turn around and say, 'Well, what are you talking about? I didn't attack Jews today, I attacked the media being linked to some corporate conspiracy.' By not mentioning Jews, he dares us to play rope-a-dope, to play a game of gotcha."
I don't believe Bannon thinks he's clever. He just doesn't care, and he's convinced Trump's victory and his own shocking elevation to the president's side justifies whatever conspiratorial language he wants to use.
It doesn't, of course, and Republicans allowing him to hold a position of such power should be ashamed.
But I'll say this to Bannon and anyone else in the administration who wants to act cute with the coded language of anti-Semites: Dog whistles are for cowards.
Tell us what you really believe. Please.
Because whether it's in your heart or just for show, it's still reprehensible.
You're fooling no one.
Listen to Rex Huppke and WGN radio host Amy Guth discuss presidential politics each week on the "Guth and Huppke on Politics" podcast at chicagotribune.com/guthhuppkepodcast.
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