"I don't believe that. I'm not calling you a liar, but that didn't happen," says Bannon, told about the comment. It happened. I was sitting just two tables down from the shouter. "Did anyone say anything to him when he said it?" Bannon asks. I was too far away to see, I tell him. He later says that he is disappointed by that report. He says he doesn't feel that way about the president, who he says made the right decision on taking out Osama bin Laden.
Bannon keeps on insisting he made this film for me. And I keep asking him what his goal was. "I want to drive a stake into the heart of 'Caribou Barbie,'" he says. He wants to paint a picture of Palin as a frontier woman who, as he put it, "is Wal-Mart nation."
There's a lot of elite bashing in the film -- and also just in talking with Bannon. He rails against elites with the same regularity the rest of us check to make sure we haven't forgotten our cell phones (meaning: more than we want to admit to). Bannon worked at Goldman Sachs in the '80s. He has two homes in nice Los Angeles zip codes, and he's a Harvard Business School grad. "What's an elite?" I ask.
"An elite is someone who's for themselves and not for the country."
Are polluters elites? Companies that frack? Wal-Mart? "Under your definition aren't the Walton's elites?" I inquire.
"I don't know enough about the Walton's to say that," Bannon answers.
When pressed, he says that Mitt Romney, the current frontrunner in the GOP presidential primary, is an elite. Bannon served in the military, he tells me. I tell him I've always thought Romney's weakest point was his five able-bodied sons and not one of them signing up for service. He mentions former governor Tim Pawlenty and Newt Gingrich -- also elites, in his calculus. Bannon says he wants this film to show people that Palin is better than Romney. Yes, he doesn't even mention a general election. This film is to re-vamp her image in the eyes of Republicans, so they will leave the theater and have a newfound "begrudging admiration for her." It's not for the general population.
"So your film is a primer for her in the primary?" I ask.
Bannon knows how to answer this question. His cheerful face stretches into an ear-to-ear smile. "I'm a commercial filmmaker," he says.
"So she's going to run for president?"
Same smile. "I'm a commercial filmmaker."
The final 10 minutes of the film are spent comparing Sarah Palin to Ronald Reagan. People said that Reagan was too extreme, too conservative, and that he'd never be president -- and they were all wrong, according to The Undefeated. "Why do you think I did that?" Bannon asks.
For the power of the association, I tell him. So people will think the two politicians have similar qualities. He says the tea party movement is like the Reagan Revolution. I tell him I disagree. Palin is much more like Barry Goldwater, if anything. Goldwater supporters stormed the San Francisco Republican convention in '64, lots of them "never having been involved in politics before." Just like we hear about the tea party. There was also the belief among Goldwater supporters that if there was ever a true conservative, the large bloc of dormant true conservatives would turn out to vote for him. Goldwater's opponent, Lyndon Johnson, won in a historic landslide in the '64 election.