On his sixth day as the White House communications director, Anthony Scaramucci had a rather interesting series of experiences.
He falsely accused the White House chief of staff of a “felony,” insisting that Reince Priebus had leaked a public document that, by definition, cannot be leaked. Scaramucci then claimed he’d improperly spoken with the Justice DepartmentYesterday afternoon, the White House communications director then got to read the comments he made to the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza – which were, shall we say, colorful.
On Wednesday night, I received a phone call from Anthony Scaramucci, the new White House communications director. He wasn’t happy. Earlier in the night, I’d tweeted, citing a “senior White House official,” that Scaramucci was having dinner at the White House with President Trump, the First Lady, Sean Hannity, and the former Fox News executive Bill Shine. It was an interesting group, and raised some questions. Was Trump getting strategic advice from Hannity? Was he considering hiring Shine? But Scaramucci had his own question – for me.
“Who leaked that to you?” he asked. I said I couldn’t give him that information.
It went downhill from there. Scaramucci said, for example, “Reince is a f***ing paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac.” He added, “I’m not Steve Bannon, I’m not trying to suck my own c**k.”
Scaramucci went on to say, “What I want to do is I want to f***ing kill all the leakers.”
I think it’s probably fair to say Americans have never before read an interview like this with a senior White House official. Indeed, in any previous administration, if an official were to make on-the-record comments like these to a reporter, that official would no longer be working in the White House.
In Donald Trump’s White House, however, Scaramucci is likely to get a promotion.
I’ve seen some suggestions that Scaramucci may not have understood that when he called the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza and started fulminating, those were on-the-record comments that would be published for anyone to see. Perhaps Scaramucci, unfamiliar with politics and media interactions, thought he was having a private chat.
Which brings us back to the fact that he’s the White House communications director.
But as we discussed yesterday, what’s important about stories like these isn’t just the drama surrounding inter-personal relationships in the West Wing. It also matters, as Rachel noted on last night’s show, that Donald Trump has created this toxic environment, which in turn has created enormous volatility in key posts.
Rachel added that the White House “seems to be in meltdown mode in terms of its senior staff,” in large part because of the culture Trump has established “and his behavioral expectations for the people who work around him.”
The New York Times raised a related point: “The clash between Mr. Scaramucci and Mr. Priebus offers a case study in how the Trump White House operates, a conflict divorced from facts, untethered from the basics of how government works, enabled by the lack of any organizational structure and driven by ambition, fear, animosity and envy.”
The spectacle of feuds is obviously interesting, but it’s not what’s important. Rather, what matters is the unsettling repeated confirmation that the White House is being run by clownish amateurs who don’t seem to realize they’re in over their heads, led by an incompetent president who’s a bit too comfortable in the noxious culture he’s created.
It is not a recipe for governing success.