If the Trump administration has taught the nation anything, it’s that all appointees’ names should be written down in pencil. Within hours of taking the oath of office Monday, the new White House chief of staff, and former general, John Kelly ousted Anthony Scaramucci, who had won a surprise appointment as communications director just 10 short days ago.
As soon as Scaramucci, whose background is in hedge funds and not political communications, appeared at the White House bazaar, you knew an explosion was imminent.
With apologies to John Reed, it was 10 days that shook the West Wing.
Let’s recap. At the end of May, Mike Dubke, a Republican strategist who never fit in with the amateurs in the West Wing, resigned. The post sat vacant until 10 days ago, when Trump appointed Scaramucci, a decision so poor that the oft-lampooned Sean Spicer immediately resigned as press secretary.
Then came the Senate’s failure to repeal Obamacare, apparently without much in the way of wrangling by the White House communications director (that would be Scaramucci).
The next day, Scaramucci set the timer for the end of his own run in the White House after ringing up a New Yorker magazine writer demanding to know the source of a leak (good luck with that) and proceeded to attack his new colleagues in scandalous language that led to unusual discussions about the flexibility of the male human body.
Beyond turning an uncomfortable focus on Scaramucci, the interview suddenly made the fight over “repeal and replace” a sideshow to Scaramucci’s drama. And remember, in a P.T. Barnum White House, there can only be one ringmaster in the spotlight.
Scaramucci also said in the interview that Reince Priebus, Trump’s “paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac” chief of staff, will “be asked to resign very shortly.” Priebus was gone the next day. The same day, the New York Post reported that Scaramucci’s wife had filed for divorce over his political ambitions. And note that Scaramucci had already sold his hedge fund-related company, Skybridge Capital, to a Chinese firm (a sale now under regulatory review).
It was not a good day for “The Mooch.”
Trump announced as he fired Priebus that Kelly, the secretary for Homeland Security, would become chief of staff effective Monday. Kelly’s voice taking the oath of office was still echoing in the White House this morning when Scaramucci got the boot, ending a bizarre cycle of comings and goings that, once again, delays White House efforts to put together any sort of agenda and confirms that the nation elected a man as president who has no idea how to do the job.
It’s tempting, of course, to see Kelly’s rise and Scaramucci’s deserved ouster as an early signal that there might now be a professional, and forceful, adult in a powerful seat in the White House, finally lending an air of coherence to the ingrained dysfunction.
That would be welcome, but the man at the big desk in the Oval Office is still Trump, so Kelly would be smart not to make any long-term plans. Trump’s near-and-dear – his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner – still have the president’s ear in a way that Kelly likely will not have, though how much they have influenced what little policy has emanated from the White House is hard to measure.
In the end, Scaramucci’s rise and fall may hold no other lesson than that Trump’s radar for picking the best and brightest has serious glitches, and that the president – who demands so much loyalty from others – has zero loyalty to his allies.
And that the drama will go on. But is it farce or tragedy?
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