Musings of “The Mooch”: Donald Trump, political polarisation and the future of American politics

Former White House Director of Communications Anthony Scaramucci addressed the Phil on Thursday.

Anthony Scaramucci was catapulted into both international fame and a media frenzy when he was fired after only eleven days (or, as he prefers to put it, 954,000 seconds) as President Donald Trump’s Director of Communications in July 2017. The brevity of his tenure, however, merely added to the theatrics of what was a quintessentially chaotic fortnight in the Trump White House.

On Thursday last, the University Philosophical Society (the Phil) welcomed “The Mooch” to the GMB and awarded him with the Gold Medal of Honorary Patronage. As would be expected from this pugnacious personality, the conversation with Scaramucci was wide-ranging and intriguing. He shared his valuable insights into what is a “weird period of time” in international politics.

Scaramucci opened with a short address to the audience during which he outlined the political dangers facing many countries at the moment, with “Western democracies under threat”. He attributed some of this threat to the “tremendous amount of robotic technology in social media that is geared towards dividing us” and pointed to Brexit, an “unnecessary divide”, as an example.

Scaramucci’s timely visit to Trinity came a day after Trump’s acquittal by the Republican-controlled Senate as part of the impeachment proceedings. He predicted that fifty years from now, there will be “head-scratching” at this decision not to remove him from office despite his actions that were “impeachable by any definition”. Elected politicians, like Donald Trump, are “supposed to be public servants, they’re not supposed to be rulers.”

The ex-press secretary was born into a blue-collar family and lived “the arc of the American Dream”, earning himself a degree from the prestigious Harvard Law School, where he and Barack Obama used to play weekly basketball as classmates. Shortly after graduating, he enjoyed a successful career in investment banking with Goldman Sachs, eventually co-founding two companies of his own.

His political career in the Trump administration was undoubtedly a “nightmare situation”. When asked how he justified working for a man who proved so polarising during the 2016 campaign, Scaramucci said that he and others saw the “reprehensible” behaviour and yet they “held their noses”. He and some of his colleagues suffered from “Trump employment syndrome”, but now accepts that his decision may have been “misguided”.

Having once had a direct line of communication to the leader of the free world, Scaramucci now believes that Trump “acts like an autocrat” and “pushes everybody to the borderline of their personal integrity”. He criticised the fact that once Trump was elected, “he went super hard into tribalism”. 

Speaking about the presidential election in 270 days, or “500 years in Trump world”, Scaramucci emphasised the necessity not to exclude those who voted for Trump in 2016 if Americans want to defeat the incumbent – “we better create an off-ramp for those people … get those people comfortable with the idea that they can admit that they made a mistake”.  He warned that if the election were to occur now, Trump, an “amazing showman” yet a “verbal car crash”, would win “pretty handily”.

The Democrats must not go for a staunchly left-wing candidate if they want to stop Trump winning “in a forty-state landslide”. He mentioned the moderate frontrunner Pete Buttigieg as a democratic candidate who could win the 2020 election.

Much like his former boss President Trump, the Mooch’s reputation precedes him as a combative New Yorker who can give as good as he gets, and this strong personality certainly entertained the GMB audience. The final question from the crowd asked whether America deserves Trump as a president should he be re-elected next November. After a short pause, Scaramucci answered “yes…in a democracy, you get the leader that you deserve”.