Anthony Scaramucci represents what will hopefully be a reset of the Trump administration’s public image, as far as it can be reformed. Though the new White House Communications Director has no true experience as a political operative, he brings qualifications to the West Wing that mean he could eventually ascend from his current appointed position.
Scaramucci, who close friends often refer to as “Mooch,” is much more than Sean Spicer’s replacement. In fact, it was announced that Sarah Huckabee Sanders would take on that role, which she has proven more than capable of handling in since early May. Yet, it is expected that in times of consternation or enhanced media scrutiny, Scaramucci will be the representative called upon to articulate the Trump administration’s message as clearly as possible.
Scaramucci’s background is primarily in finance. He founded and co-managed a prominent investment fund called SkyBridge Capital and has described his time hustling in the business world, including the time he was hired, fired, and re-hired by Goldman Sachs within one year. Many believe that his extensive background navigating the highest rungs of the financial ladder will eventually, if not immediately, lead to a role as an economic advisor to Trump.
However, Scaramucci has also proven that he is more than adept in front of a camera. He served as a host during “Wall Street Week” on the Fox Business Channel, displaying his ability to express complex business concepts to the American public effectively. It has also been noted that Scaramucci’s role as pseudo-host during the SALT investment conference, which he launched while leading SkyBridge, is further evidence of his capability as a media director. Clearly, he is comfortable in front of large crowds, whether in-person or on-camera, something that Sean Spicer did not always appear to be.
The new WH Communications Director had established himself as a sort of self-appointed public defender of Trump against a continuing media onslaught. This has included numerous appearances on CNN, the most hostile of anti-Trump territories, where Scaramucci displayed his unique tact for agreeable dissent. This exchange with CNN’s Jake Tapper is likely a preview of how Scaramucci may typically handle a hostile media:
Anthony Scaramucci’s many voluntary, on-camera defenses of the President, who he has advised since early in the campaign’s evolution, hinted at his willingness-if not eagerness-to take on a greater role within the White House. Heading the team that will articulate the administration’s message while combatting the stream of leaks from intelligence agencies and other anonymous sources is the ideal role for Scaramucci, for now.
Yet, it is likely that many hard-right Trumpers are going to question Scaramucci’s motives, his authenticity as a Trump defender, even. This will stem from the reality that Scaramucci assisted in fundraising for the 2008 Obama campaign, and this critique is unfair. The Barack Obama of 2008 was not the Barack Obama of 2012, long exposed as a hard-left liberal. Scaramucci’s time assisting the 2008 campaign should be valuable in that he was a witness to that campaign’s deft use of on-camera messaging to the tune of two successful election cycles. It should also give Scaramucci some credibility with the left, though it likely will not.
Mooch has supported, both personally and financially, several conservative candidates over the years, including Mitt Romney in 2012 and Scott Walker at the onset of the 2016 cycle. And, some have speculated, his kindred professional ties with Trump as a fellow wealthy New York businessman may allow him more sway with the president than Spicer ever had. Some hope that Scaramucci’s post heading the administration’s communications activities, in combination with his status as Trump’s professional peer, could result in the drastic reduction of the President’s volume of tweets. Don’t hold your breath.
Other critics within the Republican party see Scaramucci’s business acumen as irrelevant. Further, they see the job of Communications Director as one not to be taken lightly, and they are concerned that Scaramucci’s lack of true experience will result in political folly:
“Sean Spicer is a veteran Republican communicator with deep experience in Congress and the executive branch," Michael Steel, former top communications aide to John Boehner, said. "Replacing him with an inexperienced staffer, even an effective cable television surrogate, will not make it easier to get big things done in Washington to help the American people."
An anonymous source who has reportedly ‘run communications for presidential campaigns,' posed his critique in the form of a reversed scenario:
"Imagine you're a manager at a huge hedge fund on Wall Street with billions of dollars under management," this operative said. "You're at the office one day and it's announced that a guy with no experience on Wall Street who has spent the last 15 years working on Capitol Hill or political campaigns is now in charge of investment strategy. What would you do?"
"If you're an investor, you'd pull your money out," the operative added. "If you work at that fund, you're probably looking to take your clients and your portfolio elsewhere to another shop."
Whether the difficulties of running a hedge fund and the White House’s Communications are equal or similar remains to be seen. Soon, Scaramucci will find out. However, this blanket scenario fails to account for the unique skillset of the manager being tasked with such a demand, in this instance Anthony Scaramucci.
While it is true that his relative lack of experience in government and the communications sector can be fairly seen as a disadvantage right now, his on-camera persona is a sign that managing a hedge-fund is not Scaramucci’s lone skill. He is more than good on camera, is well-versed in the issues he has chosen to address while on camera, commands a strong presence, and is direct while not coming off as erratic or hostile.
President Trump has proven that, for better or worse, his appointments do not fall in line with political tradition. If the appointments are graded by such criteria, he will consistently receive failing marks. However, Scaramucci may ultimately prove more valuable to the Trump administration than a traditional Communications Director could have. The administration is facing unprecedented media scrutiny, and it may prove true that Scaramucci is the unprecedented White House Director of Communications that the Trump administration needs.