READ HIS MIND

Anthony Scaramucci’s Self-Help Books Are All Self and No Help

Trump’s foul-mouthed communications director wrote three books full of advice that he apparently can’t take himself. Maybe because it’s all junk.

Anthony Scaramucci has some colorful opinions about his co-workers. He called White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus a “paranoid schizophrenic.” “I’m not Steve Bannon,” the White House’s new communications director told The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza in an unhinged rant this week. “I’m not trying to suck my own cock.”

That’s some fancy swearing for a biker bar, much less the White House. But Anthony Scaramucci doesn’t follow any rules, not even the rules he wrote for success.

In addition to being the White House communications director, a hedge-fund manager, a conference-thrower, a Harvard Law graduate, a Fox Business talking head, a Goldman Sachs alum, and a fancy gesticulator, Scaramucci is the author of three self-help books. You might say he wears many hats, if the hats weren’t so guaranteed to mess up his architectural hair.

Scaramucci’s writings are the sort of tepid airport business reads that are so aggressively meaningless and derivative that they make the reader worse at writing, and possibly worse at thinking. They invoke the feeling of being in an apartment that has been occupied by the same tenant for a year but remains decorated only with a Scarface poster over a lumpy black futon. But a perusal of two of his three published works gives an amusing look into what sort of person Scaramucci would like people to think that he is.

The first of the Scaramucci library, Goodbye Gordon Gecko, was published in 2010. The second, The Little Book of Hedge Funds, was published in 2012. The third, Hopping Over the Rabbit Hole, was published in 2016. That title comes with fawning cover-jacket blurbs by Mark Cuban, Arianna Huffington, and David Petraeus.

For the purposes of self-excellence-massaging, I read the first and third, because I’d rather jump naked into the East River and float until the acid consumes my bones than read any more about hedge funds.

Scaramucci dispenses quite a few tidbits of obvious advice he’d be wise to follow, if only he’d read his own book.

“Greed—and the desire for money and power—causes good people to make a series of bad decisions until they are no longer considered good,” he writes in Gecko. He warns against engaging in what he calls the “7-10 split,” a discord-generating technique designed to turn people against each other through public shit-talking.

“It’s classic infighting and slighting,” he sagely explains. “It’s done to create discord and it’s done when people are trying to compete and think about things in a win-lose sort of way.”  

“Stop doing it,” he adds. “Do your best to avoid it. Don’t partake in it. Nothing poisons a group and sets people against each other more than the 7-10 verbal split.”

“Keep your negative emotions to yourself.”

“All great organizations and political systems need checks and balances,” he pontificates in Gecko. “Without them, complacency and groupthink sets in. Our Founding Fathers, specifically Hamilton, wrote about this in the Federalist Papers. Buy the Cliff[’s] Notes if necessary, but read about it.”

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Scaramucci, like half the idiots in Washington, is enamored with fame to a degree that’s debasing. Gecko opens with an anecdote about how Scaramucci met Oliver Stone twice, once in 1987, and once over lunch, during which they discussed the script for Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps, a movie in which Scaramucci will not hesitate to remind you he has a cameo. Oliver Stone is mentioned 12 times in Gecko.

In Rabbit Hole, Scaramucci describes the meeting differently.

“Oliver Stone called. He wanted to put me in his next movie, the long-awaited sequel to Wall Street. Through a mutual acquaintance, he asked if we could meet to talk about his next project. A week later, I was sitting in Stone’s New York office reviewing parts of the script with Josh Brolin and Shia LaBeouf. In return, I asked Stone if he would take a look at a book I was currently writing that combined the themes of maintaining your moral compass with achieving financial security and professional success. Not only did he read the manuscript, but he endorsed it and wrote the forward [sic].”

The current edition of that book, Goodbye Gordon Gecko, does not have a foreword at all, much less one by Oliver Stone.

Scaramucci also describes being invited to the premiere of Wall Street 2, and flying on the same plane as Michael Douglas. He gave a copy of his book to Douglas and then took a photo of Douglas when he was sleeping, which he sent to several of his friends.

Still, Scaramucci is turned off by successful people who are into themselves. In Gecko, he recounts visiting the office of “a prominent Wall Street leader” in 1999. The man’s office contained “the mother of all ego walls”: photos of the leader with every famous person he’d ever met.

“You could tell that he had strategically placed—no doubt after investing much time, thought, and contemplation—the magazine covers that over the years his visage had graced,” he wrote, adding: “The best picture with the best magazine title, with the best byline, was square in the middle of the wall.”

After the meeting, Scaramucci and the man’s business partner made fun of how small they imagined the mogul’s penis was. Of course, he adds, he’d never do business with anybody like that.

Like most business books, Scaramucci’s are not good. But The Mooch’s writings—assuming that if they were ghostwritten, they were at least proofread and approved by him—go beyond the banality of most business lit I’ve suffered through.

When I was fresh out of college, I dated a guy who thought he had a great sense of humor. What he really had was a Chappelle’s Show DVD box set, Family Guy on DVR, and a photographic memory. He didn’t have wit, he had quotes from Anchorman, and because his friends were all idiots, they would have entire conversations completely in Will Ferrell’s voice, and then they would laugh and laugh.

This, minus the laughter, are Scaramucci’s books. He is a guy who is acting like how he saw a guy act in a movie about a guy. He wanted to work on Wall Street after he saw Wall Street. As a child, he learned to dance because it looked cool on Saturday Night Fever. He wanted to be a lawyer because he grew up watching Perry Mason, and then as a young man read in a magazine that lawyers make a lot of money. His writes that his mother looked like the actress Natalie Wood and that his dad grew up in the town where they filmed The Office. The protagonist in The Bonfire of the Vanities represented the excess of the ’80s—did you know that?  

“Alex P. Keaton was just a character on the hit 1980s TV show Family Ties,” Scaramucci explains. Oh, word?

“We expect our marriages to be like sitcom TV, but far more Huxtable than Bundy,” he writes in Gecko.

“Barack Obama and Bob the Builder share the mantra of ‘Yes, we can,’” he observes.

“Watch Mad Men,” he suggests. “They figured it out and drank lunchtime martinis, too.”

“Or as Mel Gibson said when he portrayed William Wallace in Braveheart, ‘Every man dies; not every man really lives.’” Scaramucci wrote.

“Any person who has or has had a young child has probably heard the classic Barney lyric, ‘The more we get together, the happier we’ll be,’” he offers.

There weren’t a lot of books in The Mooch’s house growing up. He claims to be a big reader now, but, quite frankly, I do not believe him. Like his boss, Scaramucci betrays information he just learned by assuming that his audience did not previously know about it.

Who is the audience for these books? Cryogenically frozen businessmen from the 1950s who were thawed out in 2017 and had to be taught who Michael Jordan is (according to Scaramucci, Michael Jordan is “the Hall of Fame Chicago Bulls basketball player.” Thanks, Mooch). In Goodbye Gordon Gecko, he explains what happened in the 1960s, ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s in the most trite terms. The 1980s were the years of consumption and pasta al dente. I didn’t know that!

He takes an entire page to deconstruct the Wall Street tagline “greed is good.” You see, it’s actually bad. So the tagline plays with that. Did you know?

“You’ve all heard the story and read the history books,” The Mooch writes in a chapter on Teamwork. “In 1776, a group of aristocratic white men, mostly deists, got together to declare that ‘all men are created equal.” He then proceeds to explain that America has a Constitution.  

Scaramucci’s literary works read like voiceover script for a first-time screenplay. “Stuff happens. Never have truer words been spoken,” he writes, profoundly, in Gecko.

While I learned nothing personally enriching from Scaramucci’s memoirs of escalator wit (that’s l’esprit de l’escalier for the intellectually lazy), I did get a hunch. That hunch is that if a person wanted Anthony Scaramucci to do something, they should make a movie or TV show that makes it look cool, and Scaramucci will dutifully attempt to recreate the fiction in his own life.

Somebody should make a movie about a heroic White House communications director who convinces his boss to step down, just to see what would happen. All I ask of that screenwriter is to please keep the autofellatio references to a minimum. America has suffered enough.