We knew he wouldn't last. But Scaramucci is a perfect, and concentrated, example of everything that's wrong with the Trump administration.
The now-former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci handled the fallout from his inexplicable decision to call up a New Yorker writer and bitch about his colleagues with the impressive combination of wholesale self-absorption and elaborate, flailing victimhood that has become the signature affect of the Trump administration. Mere hours after a guy who refers to himself in the third person by his own nickname bestowed upon the American people the cruel gift of imagining noted racist marshmallow Steve Bannon engaged in self-fellation, everything was all the reporter’s fault.
“I made a mistake in trusting in a reporter,” tweeted (of course) Scaramucci, the man who was mere days into his real and actual job as the top human being tasked with crafting and executing the president’s communications strategy. Who among us has not committed such an easy gaffe? How could anyone, let alone the highest ranking press officer in the entire country, have known that a story was likely to result from his decision to telephone a journalist and, on the record, spill the most disgusting, Gossip Girl–iest beans about an administration known for almost nothing besides the dick-waving incompetence of men who publicly despise each other?
It was perfect, really. It’s too bad the guy’s gone. Because Scaramucci was, maybe more than Trump himself could ever fathom, the unbridled id of the white-hot trash fire currently occupying the White House. Trump lacks the capacity for self-reflection, which is part of what makes him such a nightmare for media professionals to manage. Scaramucci was just what Trump needed: not a professional, just a guy who was willing to hold up a mirror and a megaphone to Trump’s bullshit.
Trump’s been whining about his ill treatment at the hands of meanie journalists for years, never mind the fact that it’s the president himself who’s displayed the cruelest kinds of bullying behavior. (Trump is inconsistent on absolutely everything except for this: If he is accusing someone else of it, he’s engaged in it, himself.) Certainly he campaigned on hatred, xenophobia and misogyny; those were, and are, key elements of the MAGA con. But Trump’s fomentation of distrust for the media helped make it all such an easy sell. People love to believe that their bigotry is logical, and if we can blame the media for covering up the real evidence about, say, Mexican immigrants, then that’s all the justification we need for building that wall or that children’s detention center.
And so while, in another universe, it would be inconceivable for the White House communications director to blame a reporter for answering his own phone, what happened with Scaramucci is just the next logical step in the parade of Trumpian shenanigans. Donald Trump has spent years priming his fans to believe that reporters—TV reporters, magazine reporters, newspaper reporters, digital reporters, literally thousands of people between the ages of, say, 18 and 80—are a monolithic block of group-thinkers relentlessly dedicated to his downfall. But this is America, 2017: Reality in no way reflects Scaramucci’s version of events, and that simply did not prevent him from offering some of those alternative facts the Trump crew is known for.
I mean, can you imagine looking the American people in their Twitter-faces and telling them, point blank, that the man you telephoned to give an unsolicited interview to deceived you? I would die! I would absolutely, fully and entirely and without exception die of complete and total embarrassment on a scale never before witnessed by humanity before I told a lie of this magnitude. I would of course be mortified to be quoted in the New Yorker talking about my colleague sucking his own dick, but I would be way more mortified to be caught trying to convince anyone — myself, my cat, the shampoo bottles in the shower — that I didn’t mean to make the several affirmative, agent decisions I did in fact make that led to me hollering at a New Yorker reporter about what assholes my coworkers are. I know toddlers who whip up more plausible whoppers.
It’s a clown show! Scaramucci wasn’t really the White House communications director any more than Donald Trump is the president: That’s what made them such a great pair. They’re both playing themselves in the movies (in Trump’s case, maybe the reality television show) of their lives, movies where they get to play dress-up in the White House. That’s how these guys end up becoming such appallingly bad, unabashed liars. When Scaramucci says that he was deceived by a reporter, I reckon he believes it—because in the movie in his head, he was playing out some kinda Deep Throat fantasy. He was a half hour into a film that he thinks culminates in a dramatic chase scene through downtown Manhattan with his new buddy the journalist. And back in the West Wing, Donald Trump’s shocked to find out that being president involves more than sitting at a big-boy desk and having your photograph taken. They have to try to convince you that you can’t believe your lying eyes, that you’re being hoodwinked by nasty writers, because it’s the only way to keep up their own charade.
And look, there’s a lot of worthless pap out there in the world of political journalism. It is August 20-dang-17 and NBC is still wondering if Donald Trump is going to pull his post-Scaramucci head out of his rear and act like a grown-ass man, as if literally every available shred of evidence doesn’t show that the guy is a morally deficient scam artist who wanted to play White House for a little while. This week, the right-wing pub the Federalist published two hilariously contradictory Scaramucci think pieces within a matter of hours—one touting the guy’s skills and then, after Trump canned him, a walk-back.
Journalists may write some ridiculous takes, but we simply aren’t out to get Trump or Anthony Scaramucci—these guys can and do hang themselves with their odious behavior and outrageous prevarications. And a good journalist—say, maybe, somebody who picks up the phone and takes good notes when Anthony Scaramucci’s on the line—knows that. Journalists are out to keep our jobs, to keep our publications afloat, to break news, to make news, to write listicles, to excise the horror of today’s political reality from our addled brains, to come home at the end of the day and look at cat pictures and open a box of wine or a bottle of whiskey. It’s hard, of course, when day after ridiculous day brings more appalling behavior from men who are meant to be leading the free world, but just because we’re professionally obligated to cover the atrocious and unbelievable things Trump and his staff and friends and family members do, doesn’t mean we’re out to get him. We are not united in an insatiable desire to personally persecute Trump—he’s more than capable of taking on that task all by himself.
It’s not just about the stories. Journalism is also about who is telling them.
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