Scaramucci Steps Down
Alas, the White House’s Director of Communications, Anthony Scaramucci, has left us far too soon. In the course of a mere ten days—a short trial by any measure, and one during which he was able to burst onto the scene like an excitable little explosive and just as quickly fizzle away—his political career witnessed its birth and death. In just over a week, the sun on his fame had for itself a heroic rise and a precipitous fall. Here was a man who had it all, so long as one deems superfluous all of those traits thought previously to be necessary of an admiration’s Director of Communications: refined professionalism, careful restraint, unostentatious appeal, courteousness, and calm temperament were not to be found in his endless bag of tricks. Quite to the contrary, Scaramucci was brash, confrontational, vituperative, and unrelenting. Perhaps, in this unprepossessing way, he mirrored the personality of the man for whom he worked. His job was to disseminate from the White House the president’s message and his voice. He was to be the intermediary between a curious public and a circuitous president. It was his job to navigate, and to hopefully sublimate, our tempestuous president’s thoughts and his words.
Instead, it was his inability to soften and to control his own thoughts and words that brought upon him this premature end. In public, this was made clear with his constant bloviations. In private, with his imprecations. A transcript of his conversation with the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza recently appeared. In it, Scaramucci fulminates, castigates, and thoroughly demeans those cabinet members with whom he didn’t quite see eye to eye. As expected, those members are many. He excoriated former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, mocked chief strategic advisor Stephen Miller, and accused in a memorable piece de resistance Steve Bannon of having pleasured himself at the country’s expense. The image of Bannon’s auto-fellatio, thankfully, is no more than the ugly insult of an angry man.
Why is it that Scaramucci said these things with such little circumspection? If nothing else, he is a proven and a deft media operator. He has for years appeared on programs for Fox News and PBS, always in the guise of a well-tailored, urbane, sharp-tongued critic. Some have jumped to the conclusion that he was in fact speaking with Lizza off-the-record, and that the journalist had breached his sacred, professional code. Lizza has contended, with little reason to disbelieve his claim, that he never explicitly offered their conversation to be kept off-the-record. On that point, it’s ingenuous to think that Scaramucci wouldn’t have the wherewithal, should he have been so inclined, to ask that their talk be kept private. He didn’t, and thus we must conclude that Scaramucci was in no way reluctant to spill forth the contents of his discontent and the invectives of his soul.
Chief of Staff John Kelly moved quickly to control the situation. Having only recently assumed his new position as Chief of Staff, to which he now sacrifices his previous comfortable obscurity and his unassailable bona fides as a military hero, the former Marine general made certain that Scaramucci wouldn’t have the chance to embarrass the administration again. Kelly forced out from the cabinet the ribald Scaramucci, making him the second of two Communications Directors to have been cut in less than six months. It’s an unprecedented pace. Should it continue, by the time 2020 comes around, the Trump Administration will have gone through no fewer than eight people to have held and then to have lost the job.
There must be in this position, in every position, some form of consistency. There must be a polished and competent staff upon whom the president can rely, and to whom the public can turn for facts. The truth is that President Trump is an old dog to whom civility and dexterity in dealing with the media is a new trick. It’s not that he can’t learn and, by learning, improve the way in which he deals with them, but simply that he won’t. More often than not, he stumbles through thoughtless positions and incautious decrees. A seasoned communications staff is the net that should catch, release, and direct him away from the pitfalls and the gaps into which he is magnetically prone to fall. His eloquence, if speaking off-the-cuff, is nearly always absent, while his etiquette is seldom found. A responsive, veracious, and well-lead communications team is the essential and urgent need of this administration.
Doubtless responsive, if not veracious, Kellyanne Conway could be a serviceable replacement for the ousted Scaramucci. Conway has been with the president, stumping for his agenda and covering for his flaws, ever since the latter’s aspirations for high office began being taken seriously. To this end, she’s performed marvelously, but insidiously. She’s prone to flirting with perfidy and dancing with lies when she tries to shine upon the president a more ennobling light. She was the one who first introduced into our Orwellian dictionary the term, “alternative facts”—a phrase as frightening and totalitarian as at first glance it seems. Could she ever, after having toyed with such a ridiculous and fallacious concept, be expected to tell the truth? I think not.
But then, that impresses upon this administration the burden of making a choice. It must choose between one of two options for a Communications Director: a vulgarian or a charlatan—a prognathous or a prestidigitator. If it opts for the former, we get the crude Scaramucci. If it chooses the latter, we get the mendacious Conway. Either way, the cabinet, the president, and America is worse off than it might otherwise be.