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Saturday, August 5, 2017

Mooch Mugged

Mooch Mugged

Taylor Lewis

Anthony Scaramucci's stint as White House Communications Director was as short as the former Wall Street executive's temper. In ten furious days, he went from Trumpian darling, with his sassy Italian tact and coruscating, greased-up hair, to White House persona non grata and media laughing stock.

His wave of fortune swelled and crashed in dramatic fashion, feeding the critics' narrative that Donald Trump's sole talent lies in putting on a good show.

The half-act play kicked off with the essential ingredient of any great tragedy: Palace intrigue. Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, the wedded advisers who have Trump's ear by virtue of one being his flesh and blood, reportedly brought Scaramucci in for the purposes of ousting Chief of Staff Reince Priebus.

Mission accomplished, and how. After a profanity-filled call to the The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza, and numerous insinuations that Priebus was the source of press leaks aimed at undermining Trump, enough was enough. Priebus resigned in private a day before the move went public.

As with any good twist, the hit job laid the seeds for its own destruction. The ignominy of having a bawdy trash-talker like Scaramucci report directly to the president, superseding his own gatekeeping authority, was too much for Reince. But, as Chesterton supposedly said, don't go knocking down fences until you realize why they were put there in the first place.

Priebus was quickly replaced by someone with a sterner constitution: retired general and former Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly. Reports indicate that Kelly will be taking a hardline approach to the president's access–that is, cutting it down substantially. No longer do trusted aides have immediate access to Trump's easily-distracted ear.

In a White House infamous for Survivor-style gamesmanship, the Kelly promotion brings much-needed professionalism to the Oval Office, adding a firm foundation to a wobbly structure. The neophyte nature of the Trump Administration has been reflected in the plethora of preventable leaks and lack of legislative achievements.

Nearly seven months into his presidency, Trump faces a choice: Either adjust course to the ways of Washington or languish in isolation.

The appointment of Kelly evinces a desire to change. For those disheartened watching Congress bungle surefire policy -- case in point, the failure to repeal Obamacare -- the personnel recalibration is welcome.

Unfortunately for Scaramucci, the turn toward propriety made his risqué manner verboten, as well as offering little room for incompetence. Scaramucci is a pitiable character; like Roderigo in Othello, he was a patsy used for his unbalanced personality. He was brought in to dispose of Priebus, then cast out like a dog.

His situation is all the more sympathetic because of the life Scaramucci left behind for his brief flirt with fame. What Scaramucci gave up for Trump is enough to make any man's heart slacken. To take a job in the White House, he had to sell his business, SkyBridge Capital. While accompanying the president to his Boy Scout Jamboree address, he missed the birth of his son. Shortly before taking the role of comms lead, his wife, Deidre Ball, filed for divorce, blaming his "naked ambition."

Unemployed, divorced, deprived of the most precious moment a father can experience, and stuck with a huge tax bill, the Long Island-born tough-talker has been quiet since his relief of duty. It's a shame; but, unlike love and war, nothing is fair in politics. The person you knife for will sometimes knife you.

I feel for Scaramucci, I really do. But the vulgar slip-ups were too much. The raging tempest of offbeat personalities that surrounds Trump is getting old. I doubt I'm the only American inured to and enervated by this administration's amateur antics.

Sure, it was great fun during the campaign, with the rollicking rallies, loose rhetoric, casual expletivesthreats of imprisonment, and endless frog memes. Had it not been for Trump's dim but blunt tone, he would have been another windbag in a suit, and gotten crushed by Hillary.

There is, however, a time for all-out war and a time for governing. What Timothy Noah calls "Permanent Washington" is clear: The Trump frat house will be ineffectual.

Scaramucci was classic Trump: brash, prideful, forward, and truculent. Like his boss, he was entertaining to watch on television, engaging in a playful repartee with cable news hacks. But the private outbursts he had with reporters were, to use an awful cliché, over the line.

You don't bad mouth your colleagues to opposition journalists and not specify it's off the record. And you certainly don't say you want to "f*cking kill all the leakers," understandable as the sentiment may be.

Those actions show weakness, which, in turn, emboldens the adversarial press. Leaders know when to pack away insecurities and get serious. As Peggy Noonan wrote in her recent column, men project strength by being self-controlled, cool under pressure, low-key, and determined.

To this point, has the White House struck you as being run by strong silent types?

Scaramucci was more of the same. Noonan writes, "he came across as just another drama queen for this warring, riven, incontinent" administration. This won't do any longer. The game has changed, time ticks away, and every day that passes without a major initiative gaining ground is just more fodder for the haters.

For that reason, the about-turn with Kelly calling the shots is most welcome. I hope the reign of The Mooch was the nadir of the Trump presidency. Sadly, I expect to be disappointed.

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