Scaramucci is everything wrong with the Trump administration

What the Mooch reveals about the Donald

Anthony Scaramucci.
(Image credit: REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

If there were any doubt remaining that the Trump administration was a conventional Republican one that just happens to be run by foul-mouthed egomaniacal paranoiacs, the ascent of Anthony Scaramucci removes it.

A year ago on the campaign trail, Donald Trump was routinely denouncing Hillary Clinton for her ties to Wall Street, even echoing Bernie Sanders' demand that his opponent release the transcripts of her paid speeches to Goldman Sachs. "You know the middle class built this country, not the hedge fund guys, but I know people in hedge funds that pay almost nothing and it's ridiculous," he told an interviewer last August. "I would let people making hundreds of millions of dollars a year pay some tax, because right now they are paying very little tax and I think it's outrageous."

Trump was right. It is ridiculous. Why then would he hire Scaramaucci, a walking, talking caricature of a "hedge fund guy" as White House communications director, seemingly against the advice of everyone else in the administration? The fact that Sean Spicer not only opposed the appointment but resigned rather than serve under "The Mooch" only confirms my judgment that this much-maligned suburban dad — just imagine what he must wear on weekends — was the only humane and decent individual in the Trump White House. Even the similarly unemployed Reince Priebus is starting to look like a sympathetic figure.

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Scaramucci, a veteran of Goldman Sachs and the founder of SkyBridge Capital, talks like a man who has subsisted for decades on a strict media diet of David Mamet and the Matthew McConaughey scene in The Wolf of Wall Street. His interview — if that is the right word for the journalistic equivalent of primal scream therapy — with Ryan Lizza of The New Yorker reads like a deleted chapter from American Psycho. He is profane and vicious. The language of solidarity, of concern for the poor and the marginalized that his boss made use of so effectively last year, of anything, really, but raw aggression channeled through the amoral pursuit of wealth and power for its own sake seems foreign to him.

Never mind his character defects, though. It is not at all clear that Scaramucci is good at his job. Roughly a week into the position, so far from improving the perception of the Trump administration in the media, he has confirmed everyone's suspicions that the president and those closest to him are vain, insecure, paranoid, incompetent political neophytes. Being nasty in the pursuit of a good cause — or any cause — might be defended in certain quarters. But Scaramucci's priorities — and, we are led to think, President Trump's — are not health care or trade or jobs or the VA or foreign policy. They are policing leaks and burnishing his own image as a tough-talking finance bro. When he says that he wants to "f--king kill all the leakers … and to get the president's agenda on track so we can succeed for the American people," you have to ask yourself whether he has ever thought about what that agenda might be.

The idea that politics might have anything to do with governance, or that politicians could have any concrete goals apart from conducting exercises in point-scoring and executing ruthless takedowns of their rivals simply does not seem to have occurred to Scaramucci. He made this clear in an interview with New York magazine in January in which he described the election as a situation in which "the Game of Thrones and the Hunger Games screenwriters got together with the writers of House of Cards and they made a story." Someone who sees Washington entirely through the lens of television and young-adult fantasy novels might be very good at sounding like an asshole; he is probably going to be less good at helping an already beleaguered president with a reputation for vitriol, sloppiness, and petty squabbling turn the ship around.

If President Trump thinks the Mooch is the sort of man he can't do without, we shouldn't expect anything more from his administration than three more years of spittle-flecked rage delivered in the third person.

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Matthew Walther

Matthew Walther is a national correspondent at The Week. His work has also appeared in First Things, The Spectator of London, The Catholic Herald, National Review, and other publications. He is currently writing a biography of the Rev. Montague Summers. He is also a Robert Novak Journalism Fellow.