Watch Chris Cuomo and Anthony Scaramucci have the most New York argument ever
When CNN's Chris Cuomo dueled Wednesday with Anthony Scaramucci, the new White House communications chief, only the most naive might have expected cordiality, commonality and compromise.
Two supremely confident kids from New York City's outer boroughs — ah, just like Donald Trump, product of Queens — had at it during a morning show session that was terrific television, if not a riveting forum on public policy.
A primary subject was leaks and, early on, the rhetorical fencing was clear, as Cuomo broached the firing of a communications department employee and whether Trump had ordered it. But Scaramucci wouldn't answer that directly.
Scaramucci said he was merely trying to be subtle.
"Subtle as a heart attack," Cuomo snapped back.
This prompted the invocation of a long dead elected official, namely Ed Koch, the colorful former New York congressman-turned-mayor. At this moment you felt the two men (one in a New York studio, the other on the White House lawn) should have been airlifted to a tavern on the Lower East Side of Manhattan or perhaps the Canarsie section of Brooklyn.
Scaramucci recalled Koch saying something to the effect that he was going to give cancer, not get it.
Cuomo responded that Koch dealt face-to-face with people because he felt they "deserved the dignity of respect. This is not an Ed Koch model," he said, alluding to what he clearly believes is a certain spinelessness by President Trump in dealing with personnel matters.
Cuomo even alluded to his late father, former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, and how Koch would call him on the phone and say, "Mario, I've got a problem."
Scaramucci felt it relevant to note Trump's great financial success, claiming he made "$10 billion." Cuomo shot back that doing well and doing good are two different things.
There were more allusions to supposed great Kochean insights, with the conversation getting back to leaks and Scaramucci declining to say whether Trump ordered a dismissal. It brought this mini-classic back and forth:
"I'm not going to answer that question," said Scaramucci.
"What happened with being straight?" said Cuomo.
"I'm straightly.... straightly not answering your question," responded Scaramucci with a certain linguistic inventiveness (that might make some 6th grade English teachers from his Long Island upbringing gag).
"And you know what that suggests?" asked Cuomo rhetorically.
"What does that suggest?"
"It was him him who told you ..."
"I've already answered it," said Scaramucci. "You're just not a derivative thinker. I said, 'somebody above my rank.' Go read the press release."
"You're hurting my feelings, Anthony," said Cuomo in full mockery. "Is that your goal today?"
"You know what's funny with you?" said Scaramucci, also rather rhetorically. "When I tease you, you get real upset."
This continued for several minutes, touching upon Trump's view of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whether Trump was exactly the sort of elitist he pillories and if he'd sign the Russia sanctions bills that just passed Congress.
It ended on a vaguely diplomatic note, with Scraramucci saying all the right things (or most of the right things) about improving relations with the press. And the two men bidding each other farewell with the somewhat predictable mutual declaration of looking forward to speaking again.
You can probably bank on that prospect. There's just too much ego and big-city macho at play and the desire to emerge victorious in rhetorical battle.
As far as either convincing the other that he's totally wrong on anything Trump-related, well, fuhgeddaboudit.