Breaking Down That Time Anthony Scaramucci Said Steve Bannon Sucks His Own Cock

In what has already been surpassed as the biggest political story of the last 24 hours, The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza reported that newly-appointed White House communications director Anthony “the Mooch” Scaramucci called him up and unleashed a profanity-laden tirade in which he vowed to fire and/or kill everyone behind the White House’s continued news leaks. I have quickly been made to regret not writing about this last night, when it was still the number one news item, but frankly, it’s so amazing that I have to write about it. Let’s go through it, line by line. 

On Wednesday night, I received a phone call from Anthony Scaramucci, the new White House communications director. He wasn’t happy. Earlier in the night, I’d tweeted, citing a “senior White House official,” that Scaramucci was having dinner at the White House with President Trump, the First Lady, Sean Hannity, and the former Fox News executive Bill Shine. It was an interesting group, and raised some questions. Was Trump getting strategic advice from Hannity? Was he considering hiring Shine? But Scaramucci had his own question—for me.

“Who leaked that to you?” he asked.

Okay. Pretty reasonable start. New comms director hears about something that wasn’t expected to reach the public eye. Leaving aside the question about how he expected word of a current Fox News star and former Fox News executive dining with the president to not be leaked. I mean, wouldn’t be surprised if Hannity tweeted about it before the end of the night. Anyways, nothing crazy ye—HOLY SHIT

I said I couldn’t give him that information. He responded by threatening to fire the entire White House communications staff. “What I’m going to do is, I will eliminate everyone in the comms team and we’ll start over,” he said. I laughed, not sure if he really believed that such a threat would convince a journalist to reveal a source. He continued to press me and complain about the staff he’s inherited in his new job. “I ask these guys not to leak anything and they can’t help themselves,” he said. “You’re an American citizen, this is a major catastrophe for the American country. So I’m asking you as an American patriot to give me a sense of who leaked it.”

There’s a lot to unpack here:

  • Scaramucci’s immediate response to this leak is to axe the entire communications staff. For a singular incident, this feels like quite the overreaction. Of course, it comes off the back of many other leaks, all of which were substantially more damaging than this one… unless this meeting was particularly nefarious.
  • However, this was the first leak the Mooch has encountered since his appointment. More likely this was simply him putting his foot down.
  • Still, firing your entire staff? That’s a pretty bonkers power play. Other essays have already touched on the entitlement and toxic masculinity embodied in this article, and I’ll get more into those—and this point—later. For now, suffice it to say that this is the play of someone seeking to enforce alpha status by any means necessary.
  • Scaramucci’s attempts to make Lizza reveal his source are telling. His first thought is to threaten to fire the whole communications staff, as if doing so will shift the blame for costing dozens of people their jobs onto Lizza—or as if he thinks the impulse to preserve a job by any means necessary overrides any and all other duties and responsibilities. Is this inculcated into the DNA of the Trump presidency? After all, the Donald has talked a big game about saving American jobs (remember the Carrier deal?) Perhaps, too, the flipside of that coin is that, by investing American jobs with mythic importance, cutting them becomes more of a power play.
  • His second thought is to appeal to Lizza’s patriotism, painting the leak as “a catastrophe for the country” (and unless another shoe is about to drop about what REALLY went on in that meeting, it’s not like this leak deserves that billing). It’s like he believes patriotism is best expressed as undying and unquestioning loyalty and obedience to the institutions of a country and their caretakers. No wonder Trump likes him.
  • By the way, speaking of the Carrier deal, it hasn’t really worked out—a bunch of the jobs that were ostensibly going to be saved are in the process of being laid off, and much of the money the company received in the arrangement is going towards automation that will further cut jobs in the future.

Let’s move on. The next two paragraphs are background detail. The most notable thing they mention is that White House chief of staff Reince Priebus vehemently opposed Scaramucci’s appointment and in fact had blocked it for the last six months. Scaramucci, in turn, blames recent negative press coverage on Priebus’ meddling.

Finally, we have the Mooch’s words again, though they reiterate what I’ve written above:

“Is it an assistant to the President?” he asked. I again told him I couldn’t say. “O.K., I’m going to fire every one of them, and then you haven’t protected anybody, so the entire place will be fired over the next two weeks.”

I asked him why it was so important for the dinner to be kept a secret. Surely, I said, it would become public at some point. “I’ve asked people not to leak things for a period of time and give me a honeymoon period,” he said. “They won’t do it.”

There’s a naïveté about that second paragraph, like the man just doesn’t understand what he’s gotten into, or how journalism works, or how much power he actually has. It sure sounds to me like the “senior White House official” Lizza cited earlier was not somebody in the communications staff—after all, we’ve seen cases where it was pretty obvious someone like Priebus or Steve Bannon was doing the leaks. Sweet-talking the communications staff, as he did here, or threatening them, as he did earlier on, won’t do much if the leaks aren’t coming from the communications staff.

Regardless, the Mooch seems to know that this leak could be beyond his purview:

He was getting more and more worked up, and he eventually convinced himself that Priebus was my source.

And yet, his response is to fire his own staff, apparently still trying to strong-arm Lizza into giving up his source.

“They’ll all be fired by me,” he said. “I fired one guy the other day. I have three to four people I’ll fire tomorrow. I’ll get to the person who leaked that to you. Reince Priebus—if you want to leak something—he’ll be asked to resign very shortly.”

Well, that last part is true. Trump announced Priebus’ replacement literally eleven minutes ago, at the time I am writing this sentence:

Fuck, now I need to really get to work on finishing Priebus Lost, my Paradise Lost retelling, starring Reince as the scheming yet incompetent Satan who leads the Republican Party down the road to temporary victory and yet personal ruin.

The issue, he said, was that he believed Priebus had been worried about the dinner because he hadn’t been invited. “Reince is a fucking paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac,” Scaramucci said. He channelled Priebus as he spoke: “ ‘Oh, Bill Shine is coming in. Let me leak the fucking thing and see if I can cock-block these people the way I cock-blocked Scaramucci for six months.’ ” (Priebus did not respond to a request for comment.)

Scaramucci comes across as the sort of sex-obsessed, cocaine-addled, chest-thumping rich asshole we associate with films like The Wolf of Wall Street. He constantly looks to assert his dominance on whatever situation appears before him, projects his fixations onto the world around him by imbuing nonsexual situations with sexually charged terminology, and willingly goes by the hilariously brotastic appellation “the Mooch”. Jeet Heer has more:

Heer expands upon this argument in this piece for The New Republic, pointing out that Trump, being himself what Heer calls a “New York douchebag”—nepotistic, wealth-obsessed, self-absorbed and hypersensitive—has sought out the company and counsel of other New York douchebags; Scaramucci is certainly one, which may earn him more leeway in Trump’s eyes. “If Scaramucci does get booted out of the White House,” Heer adds, “it won’t be for making crude comments about his coworkers. It’ll be for getting more press than the president.”

Of course, Scaramucci’s already got that covered.

Anyways, we learn that the Mooch thinks Priebus also leaked a story about his financial-disclosure form, and under the mistaken impression that such an act was a felony (in actuality, the document in question was publicly available), we get this gem:

“I’ve called the F.B.I. and the Department of Justice,” he told me.

“Are you serious?” I asked.

“The swamp will not defeat him,” he said, breaking into the third person. “They’re trying to resist me, but it’s not going to work. I’ve done nothing wrong on my financial disclosures, so they’re going to have to go fuck themselves.”

Everything about this reinforces what I said about him being a Wolf of Wall Street character. The unwavering certainty in his own theory. The total disregard for the possibility that there might be facts that disprove that theory. Describing himself in the third person and then immediately switching back to first person. The cheap, constant, sexually-charged insults.

Anyways, now we get to the best bit.

Scaramucci also told me that, unlike other senior officials, he had no interest in media attention. “I’m not Steve Bannon, I’m not trying to suck my own cock,” he said, speaking of Trump’s chief strategist. “I’m not trying to build my own brand off the fucking strength of the President. I’m here to serve the country.” (Bannon declined to comment.)

“The men of the White House are obsessed with penises. Engrossed with wangs. Bedeviled with cocks. Bewitched with dicks,” writes Damon Young for Very Smart Brothas. Unfortunately, he doesn’t offer a more compelling theory for why this might be than “maybe they’re obsessed with dicks because they’re dicks themselves”—that is, sentient penises. While it’s said only partially in jest, I don’t find it satisfying (not in that way, though I guess also in that way).

I’d like to offer my own theory. The sex-obsessed men of the White House are divided into two camps. In one camp is Trump, Scaramucci, possibly Kushner, probably some others who aren’t as public about it. These are the libertine, daddy’s-money, playboy types. They use, or used, their wealth and privilege to have lots of sex with lots of prestigious, good-looking, high-profile women. In spending much of their adult lives lusting after young, hot women (who wants to take bets as to when Kushner will leave Ivanka for someone younger?), they have developed a worldview and vocabulary along the same lines. Trump says on the Pussygate tape that he “doesn’t even wait” to start kissing beautiful women; he agreed to father Barron on the condition that Melania would work to get her pre-baby body back. Scaramucci equates Priebus’ obstruction of his appointment to being cock-blocked; his talk of Bannon’s autofellatio could be seen as impugning the man’s ability to get laid. It’s clear that these men, however much they enjoy sex itself, also seek the status conferred by having sex with prominent, attractive women. That explains why they denigrate men who do not have that status, and why they use sexual terms to describe non-sexual power dynamics.

RECORD SCRATCH: Another piece of breaking news, once again coming literally while I was writing this: Anthony Scaramucci’s wife has filed for divorce. She is apparently “fed up with his ruthless quest to get close to President Trump”. Also, this was the Mooch’s second marriage. His naked lust for power

The other camp is the Bannon, Stephen Miller, possibly Priebus camp. This camp is much more tightly tied to the alt-right and its view of masculinity. These people are not as successful in the world of love, whether it’s because they’re not wealthy, they’re unattractive, or they’re just plain repugnant. Miller is the most obvious example, apparently channelling his own inability to get laid in school into resentment of the promiscuity of others and perhaps ultimately into a repugnant white nationalist worldview. Perhaps his current urge for authoritarianism and dominance comes out of those past failures. Bannon, on the other hand, has been a very wealthy man since at last the mid-90s, but by the sound of it, his utterly awful personality killed his marriages. Men like this, I think, resent the men in the first camp—they want to be them (thus the obsession among the alt-right with pick-up artistry and the like), but they cannot.

Thus the tension: the wealthy libertine side uses sex to elevate their status and denigrate others’; the alt-right side both resents and covets the libertines’ reality. The libertines elevate themselves above the alt-righters by pointing out their inability to get laid (thus the Mooch on Bannon’s autofellatio); the alt-righters respond by (baselessly) denigrating their sexual tastes as unnatural or distasteful (ergo Bannon’s favorite insult, “cuck”). Despite these differences, they share a mutual motivator: sex. No wonder the whole White House is always thinking about schlongs.

That was all mostly speculation, so feel free to disregard it and check out the clowning the “I’m not trying to suck my own cock” line produced:

Moving on, we have another paragraph about how Scaramucci thinks Priebus is after him. Then this:

I got the sense that Scaramucci’s campaign against leakers flows from his intense loyalty to Trump. Unlike other Trump advisers, I’ve never heard him say a bad word about the President. “What I want to do is I want to fucking kill all the leakers and I want to get the President’s agenda on track so we can succeed for the American people,” he told me.

Regardless of which side of the dick debate they fall on, everybody in the White House is obsessed with some variant of this sort of dominance politics, whether it’s a larger-scale authoritarianism or, in this case, the small victory of removing dissenters and their damaging influence. That Scaramucci is apparently willing to go to any means whatsoever is pretty par for the course, honestly.

He cryptically suggested that he had more information about White House aides. “O.K., the Mooch showed up a week ago,” he said. “This is going to get cleaned up very shortly, O.K.? Because I nailed these guys. I’ve got digital fingerprints on everything they’ve done through the F.B.I. and the fucking Department of Justice.”

“What?” I interjected.

“Well, the felony, they’re gonna get prosecuted, probably, for the felony.” He added, “The lie detector starts—” but then he changed the subject and returned to what he thought was the illegal leak of his financial-disclosure forms.

There’s your proof that he calls himself “the Mooch”. Other than that, most of what’s here I’ve covered in prior sections (see “him being a Wolf of Wall Street character”). One more thing to add, though. For all his ludicrously profane ranting in this conversation, Scaramucci used to be a much more… reserved speaker, as these old tweets, dug up by twitter user @boring_as_heck, demonstrate:

The final paragraphs deal with the Mooch claiming that Priebus leaked information about him and then changing his story. Parallels to his boss’s erratic thinking and penchant for twisting the truth aside (after describing how he kept changing his story on Priebus, the piece closes with the Mooch’s words, ““Let me tell you something about myself. I am a straight shooter.”), this story has long since peaked. Not much can compare to a man who calls himself the Mooch and accuses one of his compatriots of autofellatio.

Let me close, then, with a brief look at another piece of analysis—an awful piece of analysis—that emerged from this story. Chris Cillizza, apolitical politics analyst extraordinaire, ranked the top 12 quotes from the New Yorker piece. I don’t hate the man as much as some do, but my God, his writing here is some milquetoast garbage. He’s listing a series of utterly bonkers, hideously profane quotes, and adding in PG-rated jibes about as cutting as wet cardboard. On the “they’re going to have to go fuck themselves” quote, he writes this:

Not sure they’re going to “have to” do that. I mean, it’s certainly an option. But far from a necessity.

What really takes the cake, though, is how he addresses his top-ranked quote, which encompasses everything from “Reince is a fucking paranoid schizophrenic” to “I cock-blocked Scaramucci for six months”:

There’s so much here. The bashing of Priebus’ state of mind. The imitating of Priebus. The words themselves. This is a hall-of-fame-type quote. And Scaramucci wasn’t even supposed to start as communications director until August 15!

No substance here. Just the merest brush of the fingertips into an ocean of possibilities—an ocean he acknowledges in the first four words of his answer. But no. He sees no need to go beyond the surface level. Whatever meaning might be found there is left as an exercise for the reader.

The man is employed by CNN. Presumably he makes comfortably into the six figures. Clearly our entire system—our economic, political, social, intellectual system—is nothing more than the toxic, viral growth of some alien parasite, hardened over time into hideous calcified structures that we recognize as our institutions only because we have no point of comparison.

Set the world on fire. Burn it all to the ground.

Title image: Oglaf, “Hot Broiler”

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