Politics & Policy

‘The Mooch’ Could Be Exactly What We Need

White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci talks to the media (Reuters: Yuri Gripas)
Anthony Scaramucci’s skills, not his ideology, matter for the future of conservatism.

Following Anthony Scaramucci’s smooth debut on Friday as the new White House communications director, the media quickly pivoted from his current performance to his liberal past, scouring through his Twitter feed for damning comments. Conservatives from Rick Wilson to Dana Loesch expressed concern about 2012 tweets in which Scaramucci supported gun control, gay marriage, and collective action to combat climate change, and more recent tweets strongly condemning Trump’s decorum and focus on “the wall” began to circulate as well. Some slammed Scaramucci as a hypocrite, others as an opportunist. Both camps said his past disqualified him from serving in the Trump White House.

This logic is shortsighted. Scaramucci’s political evolution over the past half-decade is relatable, and the Right should not protest a hire who could fix the disastrous White House messaging that is obstructing the Republican agenda and tanking the conservative movement.

Born to a middle-class Italian family on Long Island, Scaramucci became Barack Obama’s Harvard Law School classmate, then an investment banker with Goldman Sachs, and finally a sometime Democratic donor who founded and ran SkyBridge Capital. All in all, Scaramucci had the makings of a generic limousine liberal — but in the wake of the Great Recession, he began to openly criticize President Obama’s treatment of Wall Street.

On the Corner earlier this week, Jay Nordlinger described his own political evolution, which began with foreign-policy and social conservatism, with “the economic domino” being “the last one to fall.” Scaramucci’s evolution, relatable to many fiscally minded Americans in coastal and urban areas, happened in reverse fashion. While publicly touting marriage equality and health-care reform, Scaramucci found Obama’s fiscal illiteracy and vision of a “state-controlled society” repugnant enough to befriend Mitt Romney, eventually serving as one of his eight national fundraising chairmen for the 2012 campaign.

If we are going to use Twitter as a metric for political ideology — though it is a faulty and careless one at best — then the next four years are telling. He shifted from tweeting about America needing fewer guns and more restrictions to condemning political correctness as Orwellian and quoting Ben Franklin’s and Ronald Reagan’s musings on liberty. In 2016, he backed Scott Walker and then Jeb Bush, all while criticizing Trump’s big-government rhetoric and vilification of finance.

Yet as the primaries drew to a close, Scaramucci had a change of heart, or of strategy, depending on how cynical your analysis is. Regardless, he decided to serve as a sycophant to the last man standing in the Republican field, and the rest is televised.

In terms of big-government regulations and hostility to finance, Trump is wildly exceeding conservative expectations. He has slashed over 800 Obama-era regulations, limited the regulatory powers of Dodd-Frank, and staffed his White House with numerous financiers. However, while he has been able to enact executive orders, Trump’s GOP has undergone a legislative crisis. Without the president sticking to clear, compelling messaging for the Senate health-care bill, its 17-percent-and-sinking approval rating has rendered it politically toxic for several Republicans whose votes are needed. While the bill may not be perfect, this conundrum is not a crisis of policy. It’s a crisis of politics.

With a Republican White House, Senate, and House, and a record number of judicial vacancies, the GOP has its best opportunity in a generation to shrink the government and give liberty and opportunity back to the people. But Trump’s unfocused, rage-fueled rhetoric, while arguably his greatest selling point to his base, is also his greatest weakness. Sure, slamming the media feels good when they act as the opposition rather than with objectivity, but it does not bring more voters around to embracing Republican policies. If he refuses to use his Twitter account to discuss substantive issues, Trump needs someone to sell his policies, and the GOP needs someone to speak to Trump on his level. As demonstrated by Scaramucci’s Trump-adulating yet polished and charming press conference, the Mooch might be that man.

Trump needs someone to sell his policies, and the GOP needs someone to speak to Trump on his level.

Even the most cynical reading of Scaramucci’s motives lends credence to this idea. Perhaps he is not a true Trump believer and sees the president’s appointments — no experience required — as a personal opportunity. It still does not change the fact that his role, more than that of anyone else in the White House, is to advance the president’s agenda rather than give any input of his own. Furthermore, just one weekend in, Scaramucci has demonstrated remarkable media fluency in interviews with outlets ranging from Breitbart to CNN, publicly vowing to “deescalate” media tensions, return press briefings to televisions, put the media back on the defensive, and allow the White House to reclaim a political narrative. In more normal times, an experienced Washington insider might have been a better pick for the job, but these times are far from normal. Scaramucci’s Wall Street charm and ability to keep Trump’s ear and, more importantly, his respect make him a unique candidate for the job.

Trump will likely never put down his phone, but the public has already become more desensitized to 5 a.m. tweet-storms. In a similar vein to Mike Pence’s stellar debate performance against Tim Kaine, perhaps Scaramucci can craft a winning political message so long as he keeps the boss happy with enough public declarations of fealty and love. Trump needs to bring public opinion on Republican policies back up, or at the very least not tank it with conflicting messaging or downright hostility.

It’s too early to tell, but maybe Scaramucci will help. The future of conservatism may depend on it.

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— Tiana Lowe is an editorial intern at National Review.

Tiana Lowe — Tiana Lowe is a senior pursuing her B.S. in economics and mathematics at the University of Southern California and a former editorial intern at National Review.

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