Anthony Scaramucci - aka "the Mooch" - gave us all quite the spectacle during his brief stint at the White House. He even made time for Brexit-fatigued Brits in a mesmerising BBC Newsnight interview showcasing the virtues of "frontstabbing" and cheeseburgers. A successful TV presenter and financier, award winning entrepreneur and Harvard Law graduate, his move to White House communications director seems to have been one job too far. "Removed" after just 10 days, the Mooch seemingly found himself at the crossroads of vanity and incompetence. But was he really just the comedy car-crash he is now being portrayed as?
It's not hard to make a case for the Mooch's "aggressive incompetence". We can start by looking at the things any communications professional should know. They should know when they are on or off the record. They should know not to use sensationalist, obscene language about their colleagues without expecting to be quoted. They should know not to make public accusations that imply a colleague has committed a crime (later retracted) without any basis. Anyone in PR should know this, indeed you could argue these are things a 12 year old should know. So the fact he, acting as the White House communications director, somehow didn't know these does suggest a spectacular failure. The explanation for the most eye-catching lapses - in a conversation with the New Yorker's Ryan Lizza - has been that Scaramucci lacked experience and then came "unglued" and "exploded" in an "unhinged" "rant". There is an alternative explanation, that he wanted to be quoted at length and verbatim and that the best way to guarantee a splash would be to threaten an experienced journalist, demand they reveal their sources and make a frankly ludicrous appeal when doing so, "I'm asking you as an American patriot to give me a sense of who leaked it".
Taken at face value, the Mooch-as-car-crash story writes itself. But then self-writing stories should be familiar territory with the Trump administration by now. They have perhaps been the main weapon in Trump's ongoing war against "mainstream media". Stories that write themselves make for easy copy and guaranteed clicks. They are quickly produced and quickly consumed and they also take up bandwidth. Eye-catching tweets and outlandish quotes have helped to control the news cycle. These stories have distracted the American public, and the world, from any number of scandals and failings; glossed over glaring gaps in logic and unfulfilled campaign promises. Like jangling car keys in front of a baby, the US President has perfected a tweet-powered rhetoric of distraction.
Whether he did so intentionally or not, the Mooch ended up serving this purpose. A flamboyant series of distractions and excesses, he was the tweet made flesh. Either side of a cataclysmic defeat on health care, the Mooch relentlessly sucked up attention, as well as unsettling those perceived to be disloyal in the Trump camp. Trump tweeted after Anthony Scaramucci's removal that it had been a great day at the White House and was mocked for being disingenuous, but perhaps he did mean just that.