It’s becoming a cliché but it bears repeating: in the Trump era, media and politics have merged like never before.
The Fox News channel serves as something like, in American baseball terms, a Triple-A farm team for the White House. Most recently called up to play for the Yankees is John Bolton, America’s new national security advisor. Other alumni that have gone in — and out — of the White House include Mercedes Schlapp, Tony Sayegh and Sebastian Gorka, the last of whom has, for now, found himself back at Fox.
Both Gorka and John Bolton have used the president’s media diet, heavy on the Wall Street Journal and Fox, to their advantage. Through regular appearances on the morning shows and prime-time, they pressed their ideas and boosted their candidacies for future work. It worked for Bolton, and kept Gorka with a job in the administration for a while last year until Chief of Staff John Kelly ousted him.
Enter Anthony Scaramucci, the snow-blind former administration official, fired by Kelly after phoning then-New Yorker writer Ryan Lizza and calling then-Chief of Staff Reince Priebus a “paranoiac” and euphemistically accusing then-Chief Strategist Steve Bannon of auto-erotic fellatio.
Scaramucci lasted 11 days in the Trump administration, though he never in fact officially started as White House communications director. In 2018 though, he is back on the Fox circuit, in earnest. He was even spotted lunching with Fox’s Kimberly Guilfoyle in the fall, who has long lobbied for and sought the White House press secretary job, to no avail — yet.
And now, in the biggest open secret in Washington, Chief of Staff John Kelly, the Mooch’s executioner, is out of favour with the president. A former senior White House official told me this is just the way the president likes it: ideally, the president wouldn’t even have a chief of staff.
Weakened, has Scaramucci been sent in by 45 to twist the knife vengefully on Kelly?
A March piece in CNN reported that Trump was complicit in Scaramucci’s attacks on the retired four-star general.
And on Monday, Scaramucci told the hosts of Fox & Friends, the morning show the president watches near-religiously: “My issue with John Kelly is not even related to him firing me, it’s the way he’s running the White House.”
A source familiar with the matter at Fox said that Scaramucci wants to be chief of staff himself.
But a more apt theory could exist: tarnished by the Lizza scandal, Scaramucci is the new Roger Stone, the president’s shadowy dirty trickster.
A swingers sex scandal in the 1990s forced Stone from the frontlines of Republican politics to its backchannels — he had to fully embrace the role of organising machinations the politician could not be associated with.
Stone confirmed as much in the excellent 2017 Netflix documentary, “Get Me Roger Stone”: the scandal “required that I become even more of an outlaw.”
So is Scaramucci the president’s new hatchet man? For his part, Stone himself doesn’t think so.
“Why do we need a new Roger Stone, when the old one is still around and making waves? Roger Stone’s political career has lasted through 10 Presidential campaigns – Scaramucci’s has lasted 10 days.” Stone told me Thursday night.