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The Mooch Is Throwing Punches at Trump

Can someone with a walk-on part in the play steal the scene from the lead actor? Anthony Scaramucci struts and frets his way into the spotlight to push Trump into the wings.
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Anthony Scaramucci in Davos, on 1/17/2017 © World Economic Forum / Greg Beadle

August 21, 2019 10:34 EDT

Anthony Scaramucci famously played a comic role in the first year of Donald Trump’s presidency in a scene that had him enter stage right and exit stage left in record time. There have been many actors for secondary roles in the White House who have done the same thing, but none could equal “the Mooch” in both the speed of the operation and the media appeal it produced. As a financier, entrepreneur and political consultant, Scaramucci was unknown to the public until that episode. When, in this month of August 2019, he returned to the public spotlight to denounce Trump’s racism while continuing to express his admiration for the president’s policies, the media again paid attention.  

Vanity Fair published an interview with the Mooch that is full of original insight into the Alfred Jarry-like creative scripting that has fascinated and enthralled the public and the media, always eager to laugh, cry or tremble in rage in anticipation of the next spectacular scene of the play known as “The Trump Presidency.”

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Scaramucci focuses on a simple theme — Trump is a racist — that has allowed him to step back into the spotlight by separating himself morally from the crowd of sycophants who, out of fear of losing their privileged link to power, have no scruples about following or at least publicly tolerating the ravings of the mad king. Power, after all, is a magnet that easily overcomes the timid force of principles. The only principle it can’t dominate or neutralize in today’s hyperreal society is the impulse to achieve and exploit celebrity.

And so Scaramucci offers some lucid analysis delivered from the point of someone who wants to show his respect for Trump’s political engagement while exercising his duty to restore sanity to better represent the same agenda. He continues to appreciate Trump’s strategy of addressing the concerns of the working class, with whom every self-respecting Wall Street hedge fund manager like Scaramucci or real estate mogul like Trump naturally empathizes.

Scaramucci cites the leverage Trump got out of the perception by the working class that “we hollowed out our manufacturing, and we allowed these asymmetric trade deals.” Then he adds: “Second thing that he recognized—you may disagree with me on this, but I believe this—is that we have to have a propitious balance between regulation and releasing the animal spirits of the system.”

Here is today’s 3D definition:

Animal spirits:

When applied to humans: Appetite for possession, greed, obsession with control. Rarely observed in animals.

Contextual Note

Unlike most Republicans, Scaramucci sees some merit in regulation. This reveals that the Mooch is promoting himself as an Aristotelian who wishes to offer his version of a golden mean that sits somewhere between regulatory laws and the pure expression of unbridled “animal spirit.” Republicans with a sense of political marketing rarely seek to be philosophical, preferring to appeal to instincts over logic and having more respect for the laws of the jungle than bureaucratic regulations. By citing “animal spirit” as the opposite of regulation, Scaramucci attempts to square the Republican circle. He projects an attitude of moderation while displaying his deference to the predatory instincts that capitalism rewards.

In short, Trump is doing all the right things. It’s just the personality that is flawed. “He has declining mental faculties; he’s becoming more petulant; he’s becoming more impetuous.” In other words, Trump has failed to understand the importance of the philosophical virtue of moderation. He’s a hedonist when he should project the image of an Epicurean (contrary to what many believe, the Greek philosopher Epicurus sought simplicity and tranquility and eschewed the indulgence in pleasure). You can be greedy, but be careful not to look greedy.

Historical Note

Scaramucci wants us to reflect on recent history and construct a vision for the future. Some may be wondering what his game is when he claims: “I submit to you that the nation, my party members, all have Trump fatigue syndrome, okay?” According to the Mooch, their loyalty is superficial. This historical moment demands a new approach. In Shakespearean terms, it’s Bolingbroke (Henry IV) challenging the irresponsible King Richard II or Enobarbus opposing Marc Antony.

The Mooch makes it clear that President Trump must be defeated, but he isn’t about to support a Democrat to achieve that end. So the question arises: Is he planning his own path to the presidency for 2020 or beyond? It might seem so when he says of Trump: “He has nobody that he’s going up against that can fight like him.” Politics is about fighting, not governing, and the Mooch, uniquely in the Republican Party, has positioned himself as a fighter. To prove how easy it would be to supplant Trump, he tells the members of his own party: “I want to show my fellow Republicans those are paper bullets coming out of that gun.”

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In his analysis of Trump’s character, Scaramucci lucidly observes: “He’s actually worse than a racist. He is so narcissistic, he doesn’t see people as people. He sees them as objects in his field of vision.” That’s an excellent characterization of how political narcissism works. It affects many politicians (one might think of Boris Johnson or Emmanuel Macron), but Trump is clearly the most extreme example. The narcissist is a unique subject in the world. Everything and everyone in the environment is an object, to be used for some serious or random purpose or possessed.

Scaramucci knows that it’s all about power, and so he has a plan that respects the addiction of today’s politicians to power for its own sake: “Everybody in the Republican Party knows it. They don’t want to lose their mantle of power and their mantle of leadership, so let’s primary the guy.”

The Mooch is an astute observer of the US political system. He knows it works like any media spectacle. As it’s currently designed, the presidential electoral process is a two-act play (something most dramatic authors avoid, preferring one, three or five-act plays for solid literary reasons). But the two-act formula turns out to be a perfectly suitable model for the hyperreal electoral show that Americans now expect to be entertained by every four years.

The first act is the primaries or the casting session. It’s high drama as the weak successively drop out, simply because they show themselves to be uncompelling entertainers (“America’s Got Political Talent”). The second act, as in Hollywood productions, is the shoot. In the case of politics, it’s more like a shootout or slugfest between the Democratic and Republican champions as they stand alone in the ring, face to face, to pummel their way to the presidency. We move from the logic of filmmaking in the primaries to that of a boxing match in the general election, where the final bell or the early knockout will indicate the winner, after which everyone can go home and wait for the next contest four years later.

That’s the advantage of a two-act drama: simplicity. The first sets the stage, the second determines the unambiguous outcome. In theater as well as the movies, there must be three or five acts to give depth and nuance to the drama. A good playwright spreads the emotion across multiple layers. Politics is a game of heads or tails.

At the very least, Anthony Scaramucci has stepped in as a fight promoter encouraging those — possibly himself included — to step up to the opportunity to challenge the champion. Does he have the political weight to change things in the Republican Party? At least he’s stirring up some suspense, which the media will enjoy and exploit.

[In the age of Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain, another American wit, the journalist Ambrose Bierce, produced a series of satirical definitions of commonly used terms, throwing light on their hidden meanings in real discourse. Bierce eventually collected and published them as a book, The Devil’s Dictionary, in 1911. We have shamelessly appropriated his title in the interest of continuing his wholesome pedagogical effort to enlighten generations of readers of the news.]

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

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