President Trump communicated one message loud and clear Monday: If your surname isn’t “Trump,” you’d better watch out.
In a week, he’s canned Press Secretary Sean Spicer, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and, now, new Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci.
“The Mooch is toast,” said Shepard Smith, the Fox News afternoon host whose candor through the early Trump administration is consistently at odds with much of the cheerleading around him at Fox.
None of it was a surprise. Spicer stumbled early and was quickly caricatured on “Saturday Night Live.” Priebus was deemed “weak” by his boss, a fatal failing. And Scaramucci self-imploded within days of his appointment in a profane interview with The New Yorker.
As far as what it means to reporters at the White House, well, it’s another bonanza, albeit wearying, from Trump, the helter-skelter, seat-of-the-pants news machine.
There was actually speculating that maybe Spicer returns (though technically Scaramucci wasn’t to formally assume his position until Aug. 15).
The early analysis was of a similar, unavoidable thrust: John Kelly, the new chief of staff and a tough military guy, wanted Scaramucci out as part of bring some order to the West Wing.
Even before Monday’s announcement, the likelihood was implicit in the portrayals of Kelly, such as that found in The Atlantic.
“John Kelly, retired Marine four-star and new White House chief of staff, has been throughout his career everything Trump is not: He has endured more than Trump could imagine, and has displayed virtues that Trump may not understand and certainly has not exhibited, among them candor, courage and discipline.”
“Which is why some observers have welcomed Kelly’s hiring as evidence that perhaps the president is learning, that maybe now we will have a disciplined White House that will focus on the business of public policy. Maybe the early morning tweets will diminish or even stop.”
Thus, Scaramucci, the garrulous and opinionated New Yorker, would appear to be everything Kelly is not. And he’s got the professional pedigree and the self-confidence to make certain demands up front of Trump.
One insistence might have been Scaramucci’s exit from the communications role. As The New York Times’ trio of Maggie Haberman, Michael Shear and Glenn Thrush underscored:
“The decision to remove Mr. Scaramucci, who had boasted about reporting directly to the president, not the chief of staff, John F. Kelly, came at Mr. Kelly’s request, the people said. Mr. Kelly made clear to members of the White House staff at a meeting Monday morning that he is in charge.”
For sure, Kelly believes that being in charge means being able to control messaging. It may well be naive for an obvious reason: Trump is in charge of his own messaging, which he is willing to communicate on virtually any platform, at any time, day or night.
Trump and Kelly will probably duel on the freestyling that help to vault Trump into the White House. It remains the source of admiration by his base.
It’s a minority of Americans but, polling suggests, that group’s affinity for him has not markedly diminished.
Scaramucci and Trump are birds of a feather. Trump and Kelly are a marriage of opposites. As Smith and colleague Bret Baier wondered, will Trump allow Kelly to exert institutional discipline and to shape a real strategic focus?
Said Jean Card, a Republican strategist and writer who’s worked as a speechwriter and communications official for several Republican cabinet secretaries:
“It’s a good decision. Scaramucci was wrong for the role. But chaos is chaos, and lots of hiring and firings are unsettling. May Kelly be successful in bringing order.”