Richard Wolffe / The Guardian.
As the laughable ‘Made in America’ week closed, the White House staged a farce to rival any of Sean Spicer’s press briefings. This was nightmare political theater
ean “Spicey” Spicer, we knew ye all too well. Six months of shambolic press briefings, incoherent communications strategy and endless rumors of your demise. It was all too much for us, and ultimately for you too.
How satisfying it must have been to quit just as the asylum came under new management. How pleasurable for you to watch Anthony “the Mooch” Scaramucci take your podium as the new communications director and literally struggle to make the microphones work. That’s what we like to call a political metaphor.
To be fair for a brief second or two, the notion of Trump’s communications director is obviously a contradiction in terms. How can anyone direct the communications of a man who tweets at the TV? We all know, as you do, Sean, that serving as Trump’s press secretary is the Worst. Job. Ever.
Perhaps that’s why the Mooch fumbled his first announcement, about your successor. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, your principal deputy, is the winner of the poisoned chalice and the target of endless TV critiques from the reality TV star now serving as commander-in-chief.
Congrats, Sarah! And thanks for reminding us at the top of the briefing that Friday was the last day of “Made in America Week”. What a week it’s been for Trump’s American-made output.
The Mooch reminded us of his qualifications for the complex job of strategic communications by digging deep into his bag of man-of-the-people phrases to explain his mission. “There might be an arbitrage spread between how well we are doing and how well some of you guys think we’re doing,” he explained.
Perhaps in a few weeks the former financier could introduce the nation to “National Arbitrage Week”, when hard-working Americans could focus their energies on day-trading their 401(k)s. That way the arbitrage spread on the Mooch’s job prospects might narrow too.
In a fine display of message discipline, the newly crowned King of Comms spent his first few minutes shooting down all those nasty press reports about a feud with Reince Priebus, the rather sad and diminished White House chief of staff.
Reince is best friends with Spicey, and he nixed the Mooch from another job because of ethical concerns about his overseas investments. How quaint: ethical concerns in the Trump White House.
Both Priebus and the beleaguered nationalist Steve Bannon – formerly the puppet master inside the West Wing – are reported to have opposed the Mooch’s new job. Trump overruled them both to create a White House that has more byzantine power-struggles than Constantinople.
In his first turn at the podium, the Mooch dismissed this as so much fake news. Far from being rivals, he and Reince were brothers. And like all good middle-aged brothers, he said, “we rough each other up sometimes”. The Corleone brothers may have enjoyed a similar kind of relationship before it all went south.
Of course the real challenge in this White House lies not behind the press podium but about 60ft away, inside the Oval Office.
Donald J Trump believes he is the master of communications, as his thumbs dance delightfully across the Twitterverse. He judges his comms staff not on the basis of the usual metrics – poll numbers and press coverage, for instance. That’s far too conventional for the man who upended convention by winning the presidency after losing the popular vote by historic margins.
No, this chief executive casts his communications director on the basis of his TV appearances, giving no regard to his lack of experience in, you know, communications. The Mooch is one of Trump’s fiercest defenders on cable news: an essential qualification for a pro-Trump pundit and a questionable basis for corralling the sprawling communications of the executive branch.
Sadly Trump also cast the Mooch without checking his policy positions or previous statements on the same TV screen he watches all day. Because the president’s new pet student has tweeted in support of gun control. Of course, those old tweets mysteriously disappeared on Friday.
He also appeared on Fox Business News in 2015, deriding Trump as “an inherited-money dude from Queens County”. In less than glowing terms, he called Trump “anti-American” and predicted that he would fail to get elected.
“I’ll tell you who he’s going to be president of,” he began. “You can tell Donald I said this; the Queens County Bullies Association.”
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the new director of communications for the 45th president of the United States. He just forced out of office the White House press secretary who began his tenure by lying about the size of the inauguration crowds on the National Mall. He works for a man whose idea of message discipline is to limit himself to four tweets before breakfast.
At the very least, the Mooch gives us hope that the cast and crew of Saturday Night Live will have fresh material for their new season. He also assures us that there is life beyond public service for loyal soldiers like Spicey. “Just look at his great television ratings,” said the Mooch, predicting that he would now go on to make lots of money.
What a message. What a patriot.
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