This morning, a double whammy of summer shakeups in the White House sucked all the air out of the news cycle. Out was long-suffering White House press secretary Sean Spicer. Out was a damning report that Attorney General Jeff Sessions had communicated about the campaign with Russians. In, at perhaps one of the most challenging possible moments in a presidency of challenging moments, was a brand new White House communications director by the name of Anthony Scaramucci.
Scaramucci would have his work cut out for him if he were a seasoned pro in the world of political communications. But he isn’t. He’s a hedge-fund-founder-turned-author-turned-part-time-pundit. He’s written some books, too, which I suppose is a form of communication. So are his milquetoast ejaculations like, “I’m a risk manager, but I’m also a risk taker” and “I’m not a sociologist, I’m not a political scientist, but I think I’m a fairly intuitive person.”
But Scaramucci’s readiness for the job doesn’t matter. Nobody’s readiness for any job matters to Donald Trump. This president doesn’t hire—he casts, like he’s building the roster of a Justice League-style movie franchise with hyper-masculine stereotypes that went out of fashion in the 1980s. This makes for entertaining television, but questionable governance.
The addition of Scaramucci was apparently no exception to Trump’s artifice-centric process. Scaramucci, Trump’s Aggressive Wall Street Man in the action figure collection of his inner circle, reads like a minor character in a screenplay written by a person who has never spoken with a banker. He is at once upbeat, angry, and meaningless, a mass of formless aggression and esoteric qualities like “winning.”
Scaramucci is also a climber and opportunist; as my colleagues have pointed out. Before he was a Trump guy, he was an Obama guy, and a Hillary guy. He is the guy of whoever has the most power. There’s no important person with whom Scaramucci will not agree to be photographed. But that’s exactly what Wall Street Guy would do.
Scaramucci is the latest in a series of Trumpland cartoons. We’ve got Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, in hot borscht right now over his interactions with Russians during the campaign, serving faithfully as the Southern Good Ol’ Boy.
Then there’s Dan Scavino, the president’s former caddy-turned-golf executive-turned-social media enabler, who has been cast as the Henchman. So has Trump’s personal bodyguard, the one who he still keeps around even though the Secret Service is supposed to be doing that job.
Trump’s also got a soft spot for the Mean Coach male archetype; that’s what Stephen K. Bannon is for, and that’s why he fawns so debasingly over notorious chair-thrower Bobby Knight.
He loves Strong Winning Jock Man, like Tom Brady. It’s shocking that Tom Brady hasn’t been given a job for which he possesses no qualifications, like Surgeon General.
The Cold And Distant Father Figure Who Is Very Busy At The Office, Rex Tillerson, was appointed Secretary of State without any diplomatic experience.
Jared Kushner is Trump’s best approximation of how the prized son of another monarchical real-estate royal family—a He-vanka, if you will—might look. Kushner, like Trump’s noisiest hires, has no experience in government beyond looking like the sort of guy who Donald Trump thinks might do a good job. But when you’re a man of branding, branding is all you know.
If any of these characters were written into a draft of a novel, a responsible editor would take them out, or at least tell the writer to tone it down a bit. But Trump traffics in cartoons and easy-to-follow narrative arcs. When all of the people involved in a scene are characters playing roles that have been played a million times, there’s no uncertainty; it’s easy. Rather than knowing people, Trump only has to manage by knowing characters and, based on that knowledge, predicting what their response to all situations would be. It’s an idiot’s way of maintaining control, and an idiot’s way of setting oneself up for disappointment.
Perhaps the day will come when Anthony Scaramucci, Business Guy, doesn’t do what Donald Trump thinks he ought to do. He will skip an air kiss aimed at the media, or fail to compare a financial regulation to the Dredd Scott decision. Maybe he’ll wear the wrong suit. He will pull a Jeff Sessions and betray his brand. And brand betrayal is a moral failing in Trumpworld.
And then, there will be another too on-the-nose male archetype will sweep through Donald’s cantaloupe cranium. White House Communications Director Clint Eastwood, anyone?