The news media are dismissing the new White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci much the same way they derided Donald Trump. “A P.T. Barnum in a Ferragamo tie” is how the New York Times referred to Scaramucci after his appointment on Friday. The Times ridiculed his initial appearance before reporters, accusing him of being “over the top” for professing his love of Donald Trump and his administration and for blowing a kiss to reporters as he left the lectern.
Reporters aren’t the only ones skeptical of Scaramucci and his lack of communications experience. Ben White of Politico reports that “White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and President Donald Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon confronted Anthony Scaramucci in the West Wing on Friday morning, threatening to block the financier’s appointment.” Scaramucci responded to their animosity by laughing it off. As Politico reported: “He knew something they didn’t: He already had the job.”
Donald Trump, an outsized personality if ever there was one, is drawn to Scaramucci, a boisterous defender of Trump on TV who has overcome initial resistance within the White House to get a top job that reports directly to the president. In January, Scaramucci had been in line for the job of White House liaison to the business community but was iced out over a controversy involving the Chinese financiers who bought his hedge fund so he could enter the administration. Now the man whom his former Wall Street colleagues call “The Mooch” has had the last laugh.
But fixing the White House’s communications shortcomings will be a taller order. On Fox News Sunday, Scaramucci pledged “to take drastic” action to stop White House aides from leaking to the news media: “If you’re going to keep leaking, I’m going to fire everybody.” Scaramucci has told associates that some people in the White House act as if they are in the movie Mean Girls, the 2004 comedy about high-school cliques that devise ingenious ways to undermine one another.
Scaramucci admits that the Trump White House has sometimes gone overboard in its hostility to the media: “I’m hoping to create an era of a new good feeling with the media. Give everybody a fresh start. Let’s see if we can reset this and create a more positive mojo among everybody.”
It will be interesting to see whether “The Mooch” can bring his Wall Street sensibility to government. His language is certainly not what reporters are used to. He lapsed into financial lingo at last Friday’s press conference when explaining the White House’s testy media relations: “To use a Wall Street expression, there might be an arbitrage spread between how well we are doing and how well some of you guys think we’re doing and we’re going to work hard to close that spread.”
Skeptics are right to question just how much Donald Trump can improve his image or the reporting on his administration. But Anthony Scaramucci’s business background may prove to be more of a bonus than a handicap. “In addition to being a finance guy, Anthony is also a marketing whiz in the hedge-fund world,” says Clara Del Villar, a former colleague of Scaramucci’s at the financial firm of Neuberger Berman. “He developed real expertise in an industry where you constantly have to perform and explain your motives to keep your extremely fickle, demanding clients.”
There’s no doubt that the job of explaining Donald Trump to the fickle media and the nation is a demanding one. But if anyone is willing to try something completely different in pursuit of that goal, it’s “The Mooch.”