Can America survive this double-whammy?



by Selvam Canagaratna

"A good many men and women want to get possession of secrets just as spendthrifts want to get money – for circulation."

– George D. Prentice, Prenticeana, 1860.

It’s difficult to know where to start, except to say that, right now, chaos reigns supreme in the Trump White House. Adding to that chaos comes someone named Anthony Scaramucci, who promptly announces his determination to put a stop to all the White House ‘leaks’, just like that! How? Simple, he explains, he will fire all the leakers, that’s how!

That would really be cool, responded Thomas Knapp, Director of the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism, "if he really meant it and if the people he pink-slipped wouldn’t be replaced, but even draconian measures like mass firings won’t stop the leaks."

Knapp could’nt help but recall that, in Italian comic theatre, Scaramouche is a clown, the boastful poltroon whose antics frequently brought him to grief, and wondered aloud if the new White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci was somehow related to that tradition!

While on the subject of ‘leaks’, Knapp suggested Scaramucci needed to get wise to the reality, which is that a good many of White House ‘leaks’ "are approved of, and perhaps even originate with, people Scaramucci can’t fire. That includes one guy named Donald Trump, aka the Leaker-in-Chief, aka POTUS. Sometimes it makes sense to let a piece of information – for example, a trial balloon concerning a tentative policy shift – come out via leak instead of a formal public announcement so that it can be quietly quashed in the event of negative public response."

Scaramucci will fail in his boast, wrote Knapp, "and the White House will continue to leak like a sieve. He’ll either get used to it and turn his attention to other matters, or get fired over it, or both.

"That’s a good thing. It’s exactly what Scaramucci would want if he subscribed to the high school civics version of politics. Per that mythos, ‘the people’ are boss and Donald Trump and Anthony Scaramucci are mere hirelings. Any information they have, we’re entitled to, and leaks are as good a way to get it to us as any.

"Of course Scaramucci and other members of the political class don’t believe that for a minute. To them, ‘the people’ are so many piggy banks to be emptied and cows to be milked in pursuit of power.

"Fortunately for us, reality has come into alignment with the mythos. The age of government secrecy is over. If Scaramucci doesn’t believe me, he might want to ask Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, or Julian Assange."

Jim Kavanagh, Editor of The Polemicist, noted that politicians and commentators from both sides of the narrow aisle were all shocked and saddened at the ongoing insult to American ‘presidentialness’, adding: "In a series of blurts that I find particularly bizarre and telling, he repeatedly emphasized that French President Emmanuel Macron is a ‘strong’ guy who "loves holding my hand . . . people don’t realize he loves holding my hand . . .He’s a very good person. And a tough guy . . . but he does love holding my hand."

People who have dealt with Trump in New York City over the past decades have come to know his boundless self-obsession very well, noted Kavanagh. "Now that he’s entered the glass-walled penthouse of political power, his blatant, grabby, unreliability and untrustworthiness become a different kind of liability. Paranoia is part of the narcissism, and it’s contagious. Trump can neither trust nor be trusted, can neither give nor receive loyalty – only its simulacrum: shallow and fleeting obsequiousness.

"It’s wonderful to behold how this is playing out with Trump’s new Director of Communications, the too-perfectly-named Anthony Scaramucci. Nobody has taken the measure of Trump more accurately than Scaramucci – who, not so long ago, called Trump "anti-American," a "hack," an "unbridled demagogue," and an "inherited-money dude from Queens County," Scaramucci would know, since he is himself a low-road hedge-fund grifter and mini-Trump."

Andrew Levine, a CounterPunch magazine regular, recalled that in the good old days, "Trump, self-promoter extraordinaire, managed to make himself a fixture in the tabloid press and in the world of reality TV. What he was really good at, though, was using political juice to enrich himself. He was also good at deluding himself into thinking that his riches were the result of his business savvy and deal-making ‘artistry’."

Those deals resulted in the construction of architectural mediocrities in New York and elsewhere, casinos in Atlantic City (all since gone bankrupt), golf resorts in the four corners of the world, and the kinds of over-the-top consumer goods that appeal to people with more money than taste.

How then, asked Levine, did it happen that it fell to Donald Trump, of all people, to become the tribune of white, rural America, and of working class victims of the neoliberal turn? "There is no way to make sense of this aspect of Trump-era absurdity that credits Trump voters with rationally defensible beliefs.

"But even if Trump is somehow able to fool so many people all of the time, how possibly can his new communications czar, Anthony Scaramucci – known in the trade as the ‘Mooch’ – get away with it?"

Wrote Levine: "The line on Scaramucci, coming from pundits in the ‘Fake News’ world, is that he and Trump are cut from the same cloth; that they are both capitalist high-flyers who, before finding it expedient to join the GOP, knew how to get around on both sides of the road."

The ‘Mooch’, in Levine’s view, is a featherweight who rose to the top of the heap because the competition was pathetic. "Trump did too, but his rise required the skills of a mountebank as well. Scaramucci, it seems, has ethics issues to clear up before he can do much more than appear on television in Trump’s behalf, and even the legality of that is questionable. Perhaps this is why, for now, he took a job that seems like a step or two down for the high-flyer he is said to be. Perhaps he and Trump saw this as a way for him to get his foot through the door.

Added Levine: "Who is in and who is out depends, more than anything, on what happens to be flashing through the space between the Donald’s ears at any given moment. And that, more than anything, is a function of what Trump just happened to see on Fox News or learn about from even less edifying sources. Nobody can impose order on the booming buzzing confusion inside Trump’s head – not Scaramucci, not anybody.

"Scaramucci’s fate is the fate of almost everyone who serves under Trump – unless, of course, they are part of the Trump family circle, and are therefore, in the Donald’s mind, extensions of himself. With Spicer and the other hapless Trump explainers – the cartoonish Kellyanne Conway, comes immediately to mind, as does poor Sarah Huckabee Sanders – his communications team was onto something, even if they didn’t know it or get the joke themselves.

"Intending no disrespect to genuine clowns or to the illustrious tradition of the commedia dell’arte, there is no other way to say it: they were a clown show reporting on a clown. Now it will be the Mooch’s show to run.

"After all, like Scaramouche the Italian clown, Trump is a laughing stock, a low-life conniver, a coward and a braggart. Who better than a ruling class flack, bearing the great clown’s name, to explain to the world what Trump’s inane and often contradictory tweets are trying to say?"

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