• Daniel Ethan Finneran

Spicer Is Out: Scaramucci Steals The Scene

July 2017

I don’t want to attribute to my manner of thinking any sort of political prescience. I wouldn’t be so bold. I’m neither particularly clever nor instinctively well-versed when it comes to anticipating the goings-on in our government's affairs. From the view outside, though, you, me, and all of us have our best guesses and our humble calculations. But, forever hidden from us are the internal machinations, the levers being pulled, and the gears greased. In the dark, we await whatever fallout comes our way. Never have I felt this more than now as we watch and react to Donald Trump’s presidency. We do so with a collective effort—futile though it may be—to, as I said, peer into an impetuous mind and glance at an infighting staff to be able to briefly see the coming controversy, pre-empt the imminent tempest, and absorb the short-fuses and the bombshells.

All that being said, of little surprise to us is White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s recent ouster. The writing has been, for quite some time, etched in indelible ink upon his wall. In the pre-noon hours on Friday morning, President Trump announced that Spicer would be relieved of his position and that Anthony Scaramucci, a man, heretofore, only loosely affiliated with the administration, would be taking the helm as the White House Communications Director. The announcement, not the decision, is said to have caught more than a few in the West Wing by surprise. It appears to be the case that, although Spicer’s leaving was inevitable, and that Scaramucci’s ascendance was forthcoming, top aides and officials weren’t kept abreast of when or how the announcement would be made. Spontaneity, they as well as we are learning, is the most enervating spice of life—one the President garnishes with a heavy hand.

Scaramucci’s arrival to the White House was in no way contingent upon Spicer’s resignation. Should Spicer have refused to go, very likely, Scaramucci would’ve fired him outright. This proved unnecessary, though, as Spicer—acting either out of deference to the President or docility to his fate—agreed to walk. In so doing, he gave to Scaramucci a “clean slate”—or, at least, as clean as slates can be. Mostly as a product of Spicer’s own doing, the Trump administration’s press office has been tarnished, perhaps irreparably so. The scars, for the most part, have been self-inflicted; they’ve come by way of confabulations, gaffes, equivocations, and lies. From shocking mistakes (such as his obstinate response to questions about the president’s inauguration crowd size, or his spurious claim that Hitler didn’t use chemical weapons) to minor snafus, the evidence of his inability added up. Spicer, simply put, was in too many ways ill-suited for the job.

As always is the case, the arrival of Scaramucci wasn’t without strife. Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and Chief Advisor Steve Bannon opposed his addition to the team. So too did John Kelly and H.R. McMaster. In favor of Scaramucci’s accession to the role were Ivanka Trump, husband Jared Kushner, and Hope Hicks. It’s between these two factions, those of the tested, stalwart Republican type, like Priebus, Bannon, and Kelly, and the youthful, verdant familial type, like Trump, Kushner, and Hicks. It’s telling to see, of the two parties, which is the more influential when it comes to steering the president’s thought and directing his final decisions. For the moment, filial piety and a commitment to one’s own seems to be the guiding light and that which most informs Trump’s ideas.

But how is it that Scaramucci has caused such antipathy from the likes of Bannon, Priebus, and Kelly? To know, I suppose it’s not completely irrelevant to begin with his ostentatious nickname—self-proclaimed, so far as I know: he responds to his given name and “the Mooch”. The moneyed-moniker does have a certain appeal. He earned it, as he earned his millions, as the quintessential portrait of the modern American millionaire. He was raised a humble boy in his middle-class milieu before attending Tufts university. There, seeking an escape forevermore from economic worry, he studied money. His degree in economics in hand, he travelled south, just barely, to Harvard’s School of Law. There, as before at Tufts, he flourished and added to his mantle a most prestigious degree and embarked upon a most propitious future. The smell of the coin and sight of that fertile color green beckoned and he left Cambridge for Manhattan, Newbury Street for Wall Street. He worked first for Goldman Sachs (as so many, if not nearly every member of Trump’s administration has), before jumping to Lehman Brothers and then the famed firm, Neuberger Berman. Thence, smitten with his success in the financial sector but wanting the excitement of an independent life, he ventured out on his own and started a fund called SkyBridge Capital.

SkyBridge proved successful, as—heretofore—every one of his ventures did, but he did most of his work in obscurity. Doubtless a man of his stature, acumen, charisma, and appeal needed a broader market and in seeking a medium upon which he might splash his talents, he found himself appearing regularly on PBS and Fox News. There, he was able to polish whatever coarse edges there were on his already accomplished persona. The way in which he spoke—with all of its rapidity, prolixity, pugnacity, and deft—was perfectly tailored to a strong media presence. Add to that an attractive countenance, a meticulous coif, and an easy smile, he entailed in his swagger many of those superficial things Spicer lacked, but that the president loves.

Just as many of President Trump’s chief cabinet members were former Goldman Sachs employees (among them, Steve Mnuchin, Gary Cohn, Steve Bannon, and Dina Powell), so too were many of them Democrats. Scaramucci stands astride both circles. He was, as recently as 2012, a munificent donor to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. He supported them and other Democrats for quite some time before turning to the GOP. Thence, it was only through a long process of elimination that he came to support Donald Trump. In the earliest stages of the 2016 Republican campaign, Scaramucci championed Scott Walker, before later supporting Jeb Bush, only later to favor Ted Cruz, and then finally contenting his exasperation with Donald Trump.

On this point, much has been made of Scaramucci’s old (and since deleted) tweets. Not surprisingly, then, given his erstwhile and long-standing affiliation with the Democratic Party, his earlier tweets tend to lean left. Not one to be coy about his political opinions and predilections, Scaramucci called for many public reforms near and dear to a Democrat’s bleeding heart. He called with urgency for this nation to have a serious discussion on the topic of climate change, he railed against its injurious effects, he voiced his support for stricter gun control laws, and lambasted the feasibility of the Trump border wall. Nothing if not a globalist and a man open to inclusion, he advocated stronger protections for gay marriage, easier access for abortions, the admittance of more Muslims, and the benefit of multilateral, international trade.

We should prepare ourselves, then, for this interesting, invigorating character appearing on the scene. While he alone might not be able to return credibility to the White House’s damaged press department, he might just bring back to it a sense of respectability and urbanity that, in every other word and appearance of Sean Spicer, was lost.

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