After only 10 days in this position as White House communications director, Anthony “Mooch” Scaramucci got his walking papers this week.
Allegedly, the Mooch was released from his duties by incoming White House Chief of Staff General John Kelly. Kelly replaced Reince Priebus who was released – possibly due to conflicts with Scaramucci – last week.
Kelly supposedly wanted the Mooch out of the White House because Mooch does things like call reporters at the New Yorker and say things like “I’m not Steve Bannon. I’m not trying to suck my own cock.” And he says them all on the record!
Going off the record before your badmouth the people you work with is, like, Washington 101. Interns know enough to do that. And if you’re going to make cracks about who does or does not want their own penis in their own mouth? You should really announce that you’re on deep background.
So, yeah. The Mooch was impolitic in his language and his tactics. It surprises nobody that he had to go. We just didn’t think it would be this soon. I mean SNL is still on hiatus! Even Samantha Bee missed the boat one this – you cannot waterski behind a boat moving this fast, no mater how good the jokes are. You will get left behind.
But the colorful language and sloppy handling of protocols for talking to the press is really a sideshow here. That sort of thing is almost lovable in its buffoonery. No, the real issue here is that the Mooch was acting as a foot soldier in the on-going Trump administration war on the press.
See, the reason he picked up the phone to badger reporter Ryan Lizza, was because he wanted the name of a source for a particular quote that Lizza published. This is a big deal because journalists are entitled – nay, obligated – to protect their sources. And government officials have no place trying to strong-arm that information out of a reporter.
A free press, as enshrined in the First Amendment, must necessarily rely on a free flow of information. The only way the media can be assured of getting the information they need is if they can guarantee anonymity in the case of sources for whom sharing information could be dangerous. This concept is one that has long been respected as a journalist norm. Moreover, a majority of states have shield laws in place to protect journalists and their sources. The rights and responsibilities of journalists and the people who feed them information cannot be understated.
Just ask Woodward, Bernstein, and Deep Throat.
For Scaramucci to try and bully the name of a source out of a journalist is yet another reminder that the Trump White House does not respect the First Amendment rights of the press or the people who consume media reports. This White House wants to be able to work without media scrutiny, possibly because they know scrutiny would show them in the most unflattering of lights. They’d rather shut down our freedoms than shut down their own misbehavior. That is profoundly un-American and profoundly troubling.
As the Washington Post tells us, “Democracy dies in darkness”. Scaramucci was another guy trying to turn off the lights on journalists covering Trump. For that, he will not be missed.
P.S. I kind of assumed that the Mocch’s short tenure was one for the record books but it turns out Reagan had a German-born communications director who lasted less than a week. He was forced to resign when the public found out he’d been an actual Hitler Youth. Yeesh.