It’s been just one week since Anthony Scaramucci became the White House communications director, and the Trump show has already torn through three seasons of plot. It kicked off with the relaxation of the Russia debacle after Jared Kushner’s fairly believable statement. To get through the sophomore slump, Trump publicly humiliated Attorney General Jeff Sessions. And now the palace intrigue will return to the West Wing. No, not the boring West Wing that dramatized policy and lawmaking, but the actual office, which is somehow more dramatic.
The Mooch is cracking down. In a take-no-prisoners shakeup of the West Wing, he has broken out every trick in the book in order to turn a meandering mess into a soap opera. After stepping back for a few moments to let Trump torture Sessions, Scaramucci returned to take his natural place in the spotlight with a since-deleted tweet in which he claimed that a Politico report of his financial-disclosure forms was based upon a felonious leak. At the end of the tweet, Scaramucci ambiguously tagged White House chief of staff Reince Priebus. Ryan Lizza, a New Yorker reporter who had earlier tweeted a scoop that Trump would be dining with Scaramucci, Bill Shine, and court jester Sean Hannity, later tweeted that he could confirm that “Scaramucci wants the FBI to investigate Reince for leaking.” Scaramucci called in to CNN while Lizza was on air to clear up the mess.
“When I put out a tweet and I put Reince’s name in a tweet, they all make the assumption that it’s him because journalists know who the leakers are,” said Scaramucci. “So if Reince wants to explain he’s now a leaker, let him do that.”
But it wasn’t until Lizza’s 5 p.m. bombshell that Priebus’s Thursday became unbearable. In a piece titled “Anthony Scaramucci Called Me to Unload about White House Leakers, Reince Priebus, and Steve Bannon,” Lizza relayed the following:
Scaramucci was particularly incensed by a Politico report about his financial-disclosure form, which he viewed as an illegal act of retaliation by Priebus. The reporter said Thursday morning that the document was publicly available and she had obtained it from the Export-Import Bank. Scaramucci didn’t know this at the time, and he insisted to me that Priebus had leaked the document, and that the act was “a felony.”
“I’ve called the F.B.I. and the Department of Justice,” he told me.
“Are you serious?” I asked.
“The swamp will not defeat him,” he said, breaking into the third person. “They’re trying to resist me, but it’s not going to work. I’ve done nothing wrong on my financial disclosures, so they’re going to have to go f**k themselves.”
Scaramucci also told me that, unlike other senior officials, he had no interest in media attention. “I’m not Steve Bannon, I’m not trying to suck my own c**k,” he said, speaking of Trump’s chief strategist. “I’m not trying to build my own brand off the f**king strength of the President. I’m here to serve the country.” (Bannon declined to comment.)
If you think that Trump will be incensed by these distractions, then you clearly haven’t been keeping up with the Trumpians. This is a man whose idea of intimacy is Marla Maples boasting on the cover of the New York Post about his sexual prowess, and whose idea of leadership is a public execution (see: Lewandowski, Corey; the entire cast of the Apprentice). Trump grew weary of Sean Spicer’s attempt to stammer appropriate niceties to the Fake News MSM. Why please people when you can entertain them?
Much like his namesake, the scaramouch, the Mooch masquerades as a useful idiot and a sly schemer, performing both roles while never forgetting to enthrall the audience and, most important, the boss. Today, the spotlight is off the dumpster fire that is the Senate’s health-care negotiations, and instead the Beltway class is fanning itself over the impropriety of Scaramucci’s lewd humor and “front-stabbing.” And so, however this turns out, the Mooch wins. He has entertained, shamed his foe, and impressed the boss — just as Trump’s favorites did on The Apprentice. McKay Coppins at The Atlantic notes today that Trump favors surrounding himself with “mini-mes — hard-charging, bellicose big talkers who idolize their boss and labor to perfect their imitations of him.” One could take the point one step further. While Trump takes his steaks well-done with ketchup when not eating Big Macs and Filet-O-Fish, Scaramucci frequents Hunt & Fish Club for veal parmigiana, decked out in Loro Piana suits. In truth, he’s not really Trump in miniature. He’s a genuinely self-made Trump — a Freudian projection of the president’s deepest dreams.
Scaramucci masquerades as a useful idiot and a sly schemer.
Trump’s world is not one of incremental progress, careful management, and delicate bureaucracy, but of grandiose television, gladiatorial spectacles, and public shame. Outside of their help with temporary damage control, the president never really wanted a meek, tepidly masculine Spicer, an establishment Priebus, or even a clean-cut Ivanka to speak on his behalf. He wanted a star and a producer to orchestrate this week’s storyline, and in Scaramucci, he has found just that.