Mooch-tastic spin: Trump needed Scaramucci to get rid of Priebus
This makes total sense for a man who, er … promoted his reality-TV show by declaring “You’re fired!” into the camera. How does one spin the ten-day blunder of Anthony Scaramucci’s tenure as White House communications director? Axios’ Jonathan Swan dutifully reports the narrative from his sources inside the Trump administration, who argue that Trump can claim mission accomplished:
- An administration official compared Scaramucci to the “Mr. Wolf” of the administration, the character from Pulp Fiction who solves problems. The official noted that three other people are gone as a result of Scaramucci’s tenure: Reince Priebus, Sean Spicer and Michael Short.
- Jared and Ivanka brought in Scaramucci as an instrument of destruction against Reince Priebus, according to multiple sources. He was used as a tool to end Priebus’ tenure in the corner office. A source familiar with Jared and Ivanka’s thinking said they’re fully supportive of the general and will follow his lead. They were irritated by Scaramucci’s comments to The New Yorker, but from their perspective he served his primary purpose: destroying Reince.
Not to go the full Mooch, but this is unadulterated horse puckey. This explanation conveniently avoids one small detail, which is that Trump could have fired Reince Priebus any time he wanted. He didn’t need the Mooch to offer obscenity-filled interviews that publicly accused the previous chief of staff of schizophrenia and treason to get Priebus to offer his resignation. Why would the President of the United States need a Mini-Me to simply fire a subordinate? Isn’t he tough enough to say “You’re fired” to Reince Priebus without having to rely on his buddy to conduct the world’s strangest bout of passive-aggression? If the White House thinks this explanation validates Trump’s decision to appoint Scaramucci, they’re as nuts as Mooch accused Priebus of being.
So too is the notion that Scaramucci was some sort of organizational troubleshooter. For those who didn’t see Pulp Fiction, Winston Wolf (played by Harvey Keitel) fixed problems by focusing people on the crisis at hand, avoiding the creation of another crisis (ie, The Bonnie Problem), and seeking out the most efficient and discrete solution to the most acute issue. If Scaramucci played Winston Wolf, he would have had Jules Winnfield and Vincent Vega drive the blood-soaked car all over the valley with the radio blasting and Marvin’s brainless body strapped to the hood, while Mooch shouted out the window that it was all his idea. Scaramucci didn’t put out fires; he poured gasoline on them and ended up immolating himself in them.
It didn’t even succeed on the terms of the narrative. As a number of people have already pointed out, Sean Spicer technically has not left his job yet. Spicer offered to stick around through August to help out Scaramucci transition into his job, which was to officially start on August 15. No one’s sure now whether Spicer might stick around for a while longer, but we know for sure that he outlasted Mooch.
The better takeaway for the White House is that Trump has decided to impose discipline on the chaos. As I write in my column at The Week, Trump chose wisely with John Kelly. The question will be how long he sticks with that choice:
As it turns out, Trump chose wisely, although some wondered whether Kelly had. He left a stable position with clear lines of authority to take over chaos that Trump appeared to encourage. That didn’t look like a good fit for a grizzled Marine combat commander. Would Trump allow Kelly to impose some discipline and get the West Wing focused on policy and governance, or would Scaramucci’s personal access undermine Kelly’s authority?
It only took a few hours to find the answer to that question. It became clear almost immediately that Scaramucci’s was not a voluntary resignation, as Priebus and the White House had characterized last week’s personnel change. A White House press release noted that Scaramucci “felt it was best to give Chief of Staff John Kelly a clean slate and the ability to build his own team,” but other reporting made it more clear that the Mooch didn’t just decide to turn the job down. CNN’s White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny reported that Scaramucci was “essentially escorted off the White House property earlier this afternoon,” which indicates an abrupt termination rather than a freely offered resignation. …
The real question will be how long Trump sticks to that discipline. It’s the best potential for an effective administration, and to unify the White House to focus on the mission rather than personal survival. Chaos breeds inefficiencies and conflict, as any military commander could well attest. If Trump allows Kelly to do his job, it might be the most effective appointment he has made within the administration. If not, no one will have to tell John Kelly to leave — he’ll leave rather than enable failure.
Now for the real question: can Republicans on Capitol Hill find a John Kelly for themselves? At this point, I’d settle for a Winston Wolf.