At Last, Trump Finds His Mini-Me
Perhaps never in American history has a lowly White House aide been so roundly and gleefully mocked in such short a time as Sean Spicer, President Trump's soon-to-be-former press secretary. Spicer's departure and the arrival of the new communication director, Anthony Scaramucci, show that this White House has really found its groove. Not in passing legislation (which hasn't happened yet) or in convincing Americans that the president is doing a bang-up job (his approval ratings are in the 30s), but in making Donald Trump's staff more fully Trumpian.
Ordinarily, the position of White House communication director is filled by someone with at least a decade of experience in press relations—after all, it's pretty much the most prestigious and challenging job in that field. Scaramucci, however, was picked using the method the president has used to fill many of the openings in his administration: He saw him on Fox News. Scaramucci's many TV appearances defending the president convinced his future boss that he was just the man to craft a communications strategy and manage the White House's relationship with reporters despite having no relevant experience whatsoever. In fact, according to one report, he's already being groomed to take over from Reince Priebus as chief of staff, an even more difficult job and one for which he'd be even less prepared.
And why not? In this White House, traditional qualifications are for suckers. Scaramucci is the perfect man for the job.
To understand why, let's return to the hapless Sean Spicer. There was always a tentativeness to Spicer when he was out repeating what Trump told him to say, as though he knew that you knew that he was lying, and that knowledge filled him with dread. The hint of anger in his voice that Melissa McCarthy satirized, so evident on that first day when he almost shouted "This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration—period—both in person and around the globe," came more than anything else from a place of desperation. Spicer's shame followed him everywhere, like Pigpen's cloud of dust.
Not so Anthony Scaramucci. Many reports have referred to him as "smooth-talking," but he's only smooth-talking in one particular sense. When you watch him on TV, he doesn't strike you as insightful or persuasive or eloquent; if you were on a jury and he was one of the attorneys, he wouldn't be able to dazzle you if the facts weren't on his client's side. But he has a talent that cable TV values, and therefore so does Trump: Scaramucci says everything with complete confidence, no matter how absurd it might be—no hint of hesitation, no evident concern that he'll be called out, no worry that he'll wind up looking foolish.
That's something he shares with his new boss, whose ability to lie boldly and shamelessly, even when he and his listener both know that he's lying, is truly a sight to behold.
Scaramucci also seems to share with Trump a particular outer-borough envy, one that is simultaneously contemptuous of the aristocratic elite and desperate to show that he's an elite, too. You may recall that at last year's Republican convention, numerous Trump family members and friends took to the podium to tell the tale of Donald's heroic journey all the way from Queens to Manhattan, against all odds and the advice of those who supposedly told him not to shoot so high. Yet Trump constantly mentions the fact that he went to the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, as though an admission to Wharton were an honor bestowed but once a generation on the most brilliant young person in all the land. "Very good genes, okay, very smart, the Wharton School of Finance, very good, very smart," he once said. "You know, if you're a conservative Republican, if I were a liberal, if, like, okay, if I ran as a liberal Democrat, they would say I'm one of the smartest people anywhere in the world."
Scaramucci hails from Long Island, and he too is eager to let you know that despite his unglamourous roots he has elite credentials. "I did go to Harvard Law School," he told John Dickerson on Face the Nation this Sunday when mentioning that he would be soon meeting with Trump's various lawyers. When CNN's Jake Tapper asked him if he would have taken the now-infamous meeting Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort did with a group of sketchy Russians, Scaramucci replied, "Since I went to Harvard Law School, I probably would have asked a few people" before taking the meeting. I was not aware that "Avoiding Collusion With Hostile Powers In Presidential Campaigns" was a course on offer at Harvard, but maybe it's something you pick up informally while you're there. Later, when Tapper asked whether the White House believes Trump has the power to pardon himself, Scaramucci said, "You know, I took constitutional law from [Harvard Law School professor] Larry Tribe. And if professor Tribe is listening, I know he doesn't like the president, but I did get an A-minus in your course."
But more than anything else, Scaramucci is eager to tell you just how spectacular a human being Donald Trump is. Here are some of the things he said as he made his inaugural rounds on the Sunday shows:
- "The reason why the American people love him and the reason why he became president is because he’s a, you know, wears heart on his sleeve type of person, very caring." (Fox)
- "I have found, in my life experience with President Trump, when he's out there himself and he's being his fresh, authentic self, it's very appealing to the people of the United States." (CNN)
- "He's one of the most effective communicators that's ever been born." (Fox)
- "I think he's a very good athletic coach, if you will." (CBS)
- "Actually, the president doesn't have thin skin. But what the president is, is a fighter." (CBS)
- "The president is an experienced businessperson. He is a very effective politician." (CNN)
- "This man, our president, he has phenomenal instincts." (CNN)
- "The president operates off the balls of his feet. He's an aggressive guy. It's the reason why he won the presidency. And so we're going to come up with a strategy that's going to knock people's socks off." (CBS)
- "Here's what I know about the president. You may not like it. He has got phenomenal instincts. You may not like it. He's got great judgment on people. You may not like it, but he is a phenomenal politician." (CNN)
- "He's probably the most effective legislative liaison person in the world." (CBS)
- "I love the guy. I spent the last 18 months supporting him unyieldingly because he's a great person and he's going to be a phenomenal—he is a phenomenal president, and he's going to be a better president." (Fox)
- "I love the president. I have gotten to know him unbelievably well over the last 18 months. He's a phenomenal fighter for the American people." (CNN)
- "He's going to win again. He's going to win again, Jake. He's going to win again." (CNN)
- "I don't know if he's going to get what he wants next week. But he's going to get what he wants eventually because this guy always gets what he wants, okay? What I know about President Trump is that the world—he's got very, very good karma. He's very, very good to the people that are super-close to him. Look at how great his kids turned out. You can't fake good kids. And the world turns back to President Trump. And so my prediction is he's going to get exactly what he wants." (CBS)
The only person who's that effusive in his praise of Donald Trump is Donald Trump.
Now picture the president, watching Scaramucci's performance on his DVR. "Is this guy terrific or what?" he says, a grin coming over his face. Not like that loser Spicer. Who cares whether he knows how to run a press operation, let alone what's in the health-care bill—Anthony Scaramucci is the perfect fit for the Trump White House.