Disclosure: I’m a Mooch foe of long standing. He first tried to get me fired in January 2011, after I wrote this post, and he once told Kevin Roose that “Felix Salmon, he gets readership, but he’s universally hated. I think even his wife hates him.”
That said, as the Mooch himself admits, he wants every person on the planet to like him. Including me. So after shouting at me and telling me that I’m a disgrace to my profession and trying extremely hard to get me fired, he will happily extend an invitation to drink wine with him at his restaurant.
The point is that, just like Donald Trump, Anthony Scaramucci is a stranger to cognitive disconnect. He’s the opposite of an ideologue. His main professional skill is schmoozing, which is to say that he’s very good at telling a sequence of people, many of whom have completely opposing beliefs and opinions, that they’re all incredibly smart and insightful and correct.
Also like Donald Trump, Anthony Scaramucci is extremely impressed by the wealth of others. The richer you are, the more he’ll suck up to you, and not only because he wants to manage your money. He generally just loves surrounding himself with rich and powerful men, and persuading himself that he’s their friend. Trump is not dissimilar: his cabinet of billionaires, and the kitchen cabinet of other moguls he talks to frequently, shows that the best way to get Trump’s ear is to start with a ten-figure net worth. That, he respects.
Trump and Scaramucci have one other thing in common: they both love to hate journalists who say rude things about them. It looks very much as though Scaramucci got his new job by managing to get three CNN journalists fired: no one else in the White House has had nearly as much success in terms of landing a blow on the press. Angry Mooch is always off the record (although you can see a glimpse of it in that quote to Kevin Roose), but I can assure you that it’s a force to behold. Trump, a fighter, surely sees and admires that trait in his new hire.
Where Trump and the Mooch diverge is in the way that they present themselves. Scaramucci is loquacious, polysyllabic, and smooth to the point of oiliness; Trump is meandering, monosyllabic, repetitive, combative, and frequently downright incomprehensible. Scaramucci speaks the language of the cosmopolitan elite, including most of the White House press corps, and maybe that’s how he managed to get his new job. But Trump prides himself on not speaking that language, on his ability to disintermediate the press and to speak directly to the kind of people who showed up in their millions to Trump rallies in 2016.
If the White House wants to communicate directly to the electorate, then, in much the same way that candidate Trump did last year, then Scaramucci is a very, very odd choice for the role of communications director. He loves to present himself as a working-class goombah from Long Island, but men with his tailoring and his vocabulary are exactly what Trump voters were voting against.
Anthony Scaramucci isn’t the kind of guy who would refer to concentration camps as “holocaust centers”. But equally, he isn’t someone who has ever had to communicate anything to an audience where the majority of people didn’t go to college.
Where Scaramucci has strived his entire career to talk his way into groups of people who are richer and more powerful than he is, Trump’s greatest success was the way that he managed to demagogue his way into the hearts of people who were much poorer and less powerful than himself. That’s never been a Scaramucci skill, and I doubt it’s one he’s going to be able to learn.
The big risk with this appointment is that Scaramucci is going to lose sight of who his real audience is. He might be able to win over the Davos crowd. But America as a whole has a much more finely-honed bullshit detector.