Video: The former White House communications director tells The Washington Post’s Hannah Jewell how he thinks history will remember the Trump years — and why it’s okay to be an opportunist. (Dave Jorgenson/The Washington Post)
On Friday evening, during our joint appearance on HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher,” former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci said that he stood by President Trump despite his flaws — because Scaramucci loves his country. He also warned Democrats that his bosom buddy could win reelection in a 40-state landslide.
By Sunday afternoon, Scaramucci was calling for a new candidate to top the 2020 Republican ticket.
"Bullying is very anti-American," he told Bloomberg News. "People are embarrassed now."
So what happened in the intervening, oh, 36 hours?
Presumably, Scaramucci still loves his country. There was also no detectable change in Trump's "embarrassing" and "bullying" behavior. The racism, xenophobia, grifting, misogyny, narcissism, flattery of dictators, trade wars, or any of the other things endangering the lives and livelihoods of Americans: All that long pre-dated Friday's panel.
Most of it by several decades, in fact.
As I noted during our discussion with Maher, Trump’s documented bigotry goes back at least to the 1970s, when he got in trouble with the Nixon administration for refusing to rent to black tenants. Do you know how racist you need to be to be considered too racist by the Nixon administration?
Here's my theory of what broke the camel's back: Trump watched the show.
Trump tweeted that he tuned in "by accident." He must have seen Scaramucci defending his former boss not by denying Trump's racism but rather by deflecting the charge, pivoting to a talking point that Trump has "the toughest job in the world."
And then — as he does with everyone who exhibits even the gentlest, mildest dissent — Trump turned on Scaramucci in a series of mean tweets. As one op-ed columnist put it, completely unironically: "By trolling Anthony Scaramucci, Trump has crossed a line." Finally, someone speaks for all those single-issue Scaramucci voters out there.
It's tempting to see Scaramucci as a sort of cautionary tale, one that should be heeded by all Republicans still willing to debase themselves for Trump — whether for "love of country" or plain old tax cuts.
On the other hand, it’s frustrating that Scaramucci and other Trump surrogates haven’t yet learned this lesson from all the other cautionary prequels, including those starring Michael Cohen, Sean Spicer, Reince Priebus, Rex Tillerson, Jeff Sessions, Paul Ryan and other allies, aides and surrogates similarly, summarily humiliated.
For a guy who claims to care about infrastructure, Trump loves burning bridges.
And on some level, Scaramucci must have known this. Following Trump’s Twitter attack, Scaramucci tweeted a cheeky cartoon titled “Five Stages of White House Employment,” which depicts a smiling staffer entering with a red hat and exiting with a knife in his back. This New Yorker cartoon was originally published more than two years ago — when other loyal White House aides were being ousted over their objections to Trump’s decision to hire ... Scaramucci.
Trump himself has been unsubtle about what friends and supporters should expect from him, as illustrated by a story he sometimes reads at rallies to explain his worldview. This is a parable called "The Snake," which he claims is about immigrants (an improbable interpretation, given its authorship by a black former communist). It features a gullible woman who gives shelter to a snake and then is shocked when the snake bites her.
Its final line, which Trump recites with relish: "'Oh, shut up, silly woman!' said the reptile with a grin. 'You knew damn well I was a snake before you took me in.'"
There's one sense in which the story of Scaramucci and the Snake is a bit different from that of other viper victims, however.
Unlike some of Trump's disowned, fiercely loyal attack dogs — his former attorney Cohen, say, or former adviser Stephen K. Bannon — Scaramucci is charming, likable, a happy warrior. His shtick has been about making the optimistic case for Trump, urging the president to emphasize uplift of the Forgotten Man rather than fear and racism.
Winning though Scaramucci may be, this was always a difficult sell. The Forgotten Man, after all, never got his promised infrastructure package, or his "terrific" new health coverage, or his big raise. Instead, he still faces an opioid crisis. He worries whether there's a customer for his pork and soybeans. And he's ducking bullets from maniacs shooting up restaurants, schools, Walmarts. In other words: Despite Scaramucci's sunny spin, once you strip away the fear and the racism, there's not much left to Trumpism.
And so maybe this falling out — and the subsequent Scaramucci evolution — was inevitable. Welcome to the Resistance, Mooch. Better late than never.
Catherine Rampell’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @crampell.