Gen. Kelly dumps ‘the Mooch,’ but can he contain Trump’s chaos?

Top of the Ticket cartoon.
(David Horsey / Los Angeles Times)

Political cartoonists and late-night comedians are in mourning over the loss of Anthony Scaramucci as a subject for satire. “The Mooch,” as his pals call him, is like a character from “The Sopranos” — a classic New York City wise guy who is eager to get down and dirty when faced with an affront or an opportunity for personal gain, employing his own big mouth and a stream of profanities to ruin his rivals. In other words, the kind of man who makes President Trump feel right at home. The possibility that those two would be tweeting together from the White House seemed like a gift from a mad god with a cosmic sense of humor.

Their affinity is certainly the reason Trump brought Scaramucci on board as his communications director. Ironically, though, the Mooch’s first victory in a political knife fight became his downfall. He bullied and verbally abused the mild-mannered Reince Priebus right out of his job as White House chief of staff, but the new chief of staff, Gen. John F. Kelly — a man who appears to be the model of rectitude and integrity — immediately cut short Scaramucci’s brief strut through the White House. Kelly knows he will have a very tough time reining in the worst impulses of the president. The last thing he needed was a Trump “Mini-Me” causing a constant ruckus in the communications office.


And so, humorists are bereft. Imagine the cartoons that could have been done, the “Saturday Night Live” impersonations that would have become classics, the opening monologues that could have been built around the antics of the Mooch. Last week, CBS “Late Show” host Stephen Colbert did a long riff on Scaramucci that immediately went viral, a comedic turn which kept network censors busy because it borrowed heavily from Scaramucci’s exceedingly profane conversation with New Yorker columnist Ryan Lizza.

That was the conversation in which he blasted Priebus with F-bombs, while also suggesting that Trump senior advisor Stephen K. Bannon engages in a certain anatomically ambitious sex act with himself. Priebus was obviously a soft target — Trump was eager to see him depart — but attacking Bannon was a bad miscalculation. Reportedly, the alt-right guru Bannon joined in the push to get rid of Scaramucci.

The humorists’ loss is the country’s gain. As entertaining as it may have been, Scaramucci would have only encouraged Trump to be Trump — an undisciplined, boastful, ignorant, vindictive man-child who, in the words of conservative foreign policy expert Max Boot, “is not qualified intellectually, morally or ethically to be president.”

As long as we are stuck with Trump, it will be good to have a stable presence, Kelly, as a gatekeeper in the Oval Office. The question may be if Kelly will be willing and able to keep the job as the Trump presidency descends even deeper into a legal quagmire.

Besides the Scaramucci firing, the other big news on Monday was the Washington Post report that the president wrote his son’s misleading and mendacious first account of a meeting between Trump campaign officials and Russians with deep ties to Vladimir Putin’s government. Trump’s lawyers, of course, denigrated the story as “fake news,” which pretty much confirms that the Post’s journalists are on to something.

White House sources said Trump staffers tried to dissuade the president from spinning Donald Trump Jr.’s version of events, apparently aware that his concoction of fibs and evasions would bring their boss perilously close to committing obstruction of justice. Trump ignored them.


Will he be able to ignore Kelly if the new chief of staff objects to his lies? And, if he is ignored, how many lies will Kelly tolerate before his principles compel him to resign?

That is a dilemma that would never have troubled a wise guy like Scaramucci.

Follow me at @davidhorsey on Twitter