This is what Anthony Scaramucci really was this past week: After President Donald Trump, he was the most famous face — and voice — in Trump’s administration. Scaramucci was Trump’s chief coat carrier, his loudest and truest true believer. Mostly he became the administration’s town crier to its base, in a week when you have to say Scaramucci occasionally did his level best to put the base back in base.
In the process, he became so much more than Trump’s new communications director, just because that title doesn’t begin to tell the story. In all the important ways, he effectively became Vice President Scaramucci.
The man now known as “The Mooch” to headline writers everywhere didn’t come to this moment from any elected office. He came from Hedge Fund America, by way of Cable News America, as if becoming the new ambassador to Washington from SkyBridge Capital. And who isn’t a sucker for an inspiring political story like that?
Once, in one of the great movies of the 1930s, the story from politics that inspired the country was Frank Capra’s “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” Now it’s “Mr. Scaramucci Goes to Washington.”
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In that movie, Sen. Jefferson Smith is played by James Stewart, and one of his character’s many memorable lines is this one: “Liberty is too precious a thing to be buried in books . . . Men should hold it up in front of them every single day of their lives and say, ‘I’m free to think and to speak. My ancestors couldn’t. I can. And my children will.’ ”
Fittingly, the climax to “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” involves a filibuster, after this week when the current President was tweeting his disdain for filibuster rules in the U.S. Senate that don’t allow him to get what he wants when he wants it. In the movie’s iconic scene, one which did much to get Stewart an Oscar nomination, Smith finally stands up for himself and against the rampant corruption in the Senate — Capra’s film, often called his best, was clearly ahead of its time — and refuses to yield the floor.
Right before collapsing because of exhaustion, Jefferson Smith says, “I’m gonna stay right here and fight for this lost cause.”
Scaramucci, in a role he clearly believes he was born to play, also said that he was fighting for a cause this week: The agenda of President Trump. And when he gave his own version of a filibuster to Ryan Lizza of The New Yorker — if there’s life on Mars, they know about the interview by now — here are some of the things he said:
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“I’ll get to the person who leaked . . . to you. Reince Priebus — if you want to leak something — he’ll be asked to resign very shortly . . . Reince is a f—ing paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac.”
According to Lizza, Scaramucci then channeled Priebus, now gone as White House chief of staff, about Priebus’ alleged leak of the guest list for a White House dinner with Trump, one that included fired Fox News executive Bill Shine:
“ ‘Oh, Bill Shine is coming in. Let me leak the f—ing thing and see if I can c–k-block these people the way I c–k-blocked Scaramucci for six months.’ ”
Later, in his own filibuster, Scaramucci tells Lizza about what he sees as his new and wide-ranging powers.
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“I’ve called the FBI and the Department of Justice,” he told Lizza.
“Are you serious?” the reporter asked.
“The swamp will not defeat him,” he said, breaking into the third person. “They’re trying to resist me, but it’s not going to work. I’ve done nothing wrong on my financial disclosures, so they’re going to have to go f— themselves.”
Well, there’s your Capra moment right there.
In the movie, Jefferson Smith is defending his own honor against accusations of wrongdoing in a land deal back in his home state. Scaramucci is talking about something just as sacred to him: his money.
But this — him — is exactly where we are in the current political culture, and why Scaramucci’s performance this week was inevitable: Finally we had an angry white guy not just speaking to the angry white guys who did so much to help his boss get elected, but speaking like them. Perhaps the best part of it all, the topping on the sundae, was when he later blamed his outburst on Lizza, which means he blamed the media like an expletive-deleted champion.
The problem, he said, wasn’t his own judgment, and beliefs he clearly holds deeply. No, the problem, at least in Scaramucci’s mind, was him “trusting” a reporter. So not only is leaking viewed as some kind of crime now in Washington. So is a reporter accurately quoting a representative of the government in a conversation that was a lot of things, none of them off the record.
You know what Scaramucci really was this past week? He actually was perfect, a head-banging dream character for this time in politics. Long may Vice President Mooch reign, raining expletives as he goes. The only thing that’s amazing is that poor Priebus was able to “c—k-block” him for as long as he did.
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