Ksenija Pavlovic McAteer interviews Anthony Scaramucci on everything from Trump, Bannon, American press freedoms, the establishment infighting with the far-right to Obama’s policy with Iran. For the first time, Scaramucci talks about his foreign policy positions and whether he would consider a presidential run.
Anthony Scaramucci is a risk-taker by nature. But, when talking to a Washingtonian, he’s learned his lesson. State before you speak: “This is off the record.” He owes journalist Ryan Lizza for his education, whose story catalyzed his firing from the White House. Scaramucci’s time in Washington, though, was always going to be brief, given his volatile position in the White House order, stuck between the establishment and the far right.
I met with Mr. Scaramucci at the offices of his hedge fund, SkyBridge Capital, on Madison Avenue in New York City. Originally, we were to meet at the Core Club just around the corner, but, last minute, his VP called to swap locations. Washingtonians, I have learned, love plans set in stone. They like their schedules and their talking points.
For New Yorkers, everything is on the go. Here, politics are unscripted, and Scaramucci is a New Yorker through-and-through. Perhaps that’s the real reason he was fated to be fired, I think, as I step into his building.
The elevator doors open onto the fourth floor and I see a host of young professionals dressed in dark business attire, sitting in offices or busy in meetings and conference calls. I sit down on the receptionist’s sofa, preparing myself to question Scaramucci on a wide range of subjects, from his relationship with President Trump to the American presidency’s move far-right. His answers, I hope, will be illuminating and newsworthy. In less than a minute, Samantha, Mr. Scaramucci’s VP, shows up to take me to his office.
If you did not know who Anthony Scaramucci was, you would assume, stepping into it, that SkyBridge Capital was an advertising agency or the newsroom. His office has a creative feel, writer meets wonk, with its wall-to-wall stack of books, a dream for any prolific reader.
We sit down for the interview, and his team leaves the room. No press handlers. No PR. No guardians against a White House Correspondent, a person who the President of the United States calls the enemy of the people. Mooch can handle the press on his own. Will he give me his usual defense of Trump, a sound bite, or the straight truth?
Scaramucci works best in a long format, my intuition tells me. Developed through the myriad of one-on-one interviews I’ve conducted with celebrities and global leaders, it’s usually right, but, then again, all I’ve ever known of Anthony Scaramucci was his short, televised form. I serve the first question straight: what’s his reaction to Trump’s “Go back to your country” tweets?
“So, there is the expression in construction”, Scaramucci begins, “ If I have to take a very big rock and break it up, and you have a sledgehammer, you can hit the rock. Once it doesn't move, you hit the rock twice. It doesn't move. You hit the rock 50 times. And then, finally, on that last hit, the whole rock blows the pieces. So, the question is, is it the last hit? And that's what Trump is doing right now. He's hitting the rock in a way where, if he's not careful, he's going to break the rock. Because, at the end of the day, our country is still by nature an inclusive country, the country that generally wants the two parties to get along, and to come up with some positive policy solutions for the entire nation. And so, what's happening now is there’s such great polarity, and that, you know, is a mistake that he's making. He should be way more inclusive. And he should be less aggressive on the politics of polarity.”
Donald Trump’s “go back to your country” tweets were designed, in Scaramucci’s view, to pit people against each other. While most Republican lawmakers have avoided the r-word, Scaramucci is clear: “They're racist, honestly. They're divisive.”
“What Trump's figured out,” he continues, “is that the country's not ready for full-blown socialism. And so, if the Democrats pick somebody that's far left, he knows that it'll be an easy electoral victory for himself. And so, those tweets over the weekend are set up; he's a very good strategist. But the problem with what he's doing is he's hitting a rock. And, at some point, he may hit the rock in a way that he hasn't anticipated and the whole rock breaks apart.”
I ask whether America is the rock, whether it is the country, the whole country barely holding together, and he clarifies: “Not that it's hanging by a thread, but I think that, by large, America is an inclusive country of good guys. You know, like, in Hollywood, there are good guys, and there are bad guys. And so it's a country of good guys. And when I mean guys, it can be men and women, you know. It's good people versus bad people in the country, who do not, ultimately, want for the country to be this divided. The country does not like this high level of polarity and anger. The country doesn't like that.”
Scaramucci’s road to working at the White House was not a linear one. From Port Washington in New York to Tufts and Harvard and Goldman Sachs to Skybridge Capital and his SALT conference, it is unclear when his desire to take on a political role developed. Until Trump offered him a political position, Scarammuci was a traditional Republican Party fundraiser who used to give checks across party lines. Over the course of his career, he gave checks to people like Alfonse d'Amato, Chuck Schumer. He’s given a check to Hillary Clinton. “ I have given to both Republicans and Democrats, more on the side of practical business. But I was very apolitical at that point in my life. And again, you have to look at my entire life. You start at age 25, and you write your first presidential political check at age 44. That's 19 years after you graduate from law school. I bundled for President Obama and raised him money in 2008 because he was a friend from law school, you know, we had common acquaintances. And so I started raising money. When he, in my opinion, went too far to the left with some of the policies, I returned to my Republican roots, which are center-right, inclusive and libertarian on social issues.”
Scaramucci’s political stance on social issues marks a clear departure from the socially conservative bloc that composes a large part of Donald Trump’s base. “I'm pro-choice, and I'm pro-gay marriage. And I don't understand: the conservatives want a smaller government, for everywhere in your life, except your bedroom. They want a larger government. That doesn't make any sense to me.” In recent months, President Trump has been moving more and more to the right. “Have you ever tried to talk to him and warn him that he should not be going that way?” I ask.
“Anybody that's in the situation super close to the president knows that he is really not listening to anybody. President listens to one person, and that's the president. So, I'm surprised based on what I know of him as an individual. Okay. He's a very likable guy. I'm surprised that he's taking this tact. He doesn't need to take this tact. The policies have been very good. The economy's doing very well. A softer version of Donald Trump would easily win reelection. This harder version is going to set up a contest.”
Scaramucci tells me that while a lot of people generally like the direction Trump’s taking, which has coincided with economic growth and movement of the stock market, it is Trump’s communication style that people find objectionable. “What he's doing people generally like, but how he is doing it, the oppression of the press, the nastiness on Twitter… The style is what people are finding very objectionable. What he is doing people like, but how he's doing it, obviously, people don't like it,” he clarifies.
Recently, President Trump publicly rebuked Paul Ryan. Among the issues we discussed, it was this that raised the strongest response from Scaramucci.
“I think it's absolutely wrong. Paul Ryan helped him win the election. The apparatus and the fundraising Paul Ryan helped to create helped them win the election. Even if they had disagreements, and Paul Ryan may not have liked certain things, like the Access Hollywood tape, he was there for the President. And so, I would remind the president of the 11th commandment from Ron Reagan: Thou shall not say anything bad about a fellow Republican. I don't like it. Whatever you think of Paul Ryan's competency, aptitude, people can judge him for whatever he is: he's a good person. Ryan loves this country and is trying to do the right thing for the country.”
I ask Scaramucci how being a Republican has changed since 2016, and ask his opinion on the GOP’s potential future direction under Trump.
“You have to remember, leadership matters and the president controls the bully pulpit, so the Republicans are supporting him because they like the strength of the economy. They like, directionally, where he's going with the trade deals and they like, directionally, where he's going with economic growth and economic opportunity, but, but, again, the bellicosity of the rhetoric, the nastiness, I think is, is having an impact. It's coarsening society. And you don't, you don't want that. Because, you know, whatever you think of President Obama, he was a pretty refined guy. You may not have liked his policies. But what you'd like to do is, you'd like to marry good policies to somebody that can speak more presidential. The president would argue that if he spoke presidential, he would have never won the presidency. And he may be right about that, but he's won the presidency.“
Going back to the 2016 election campaign and reading through Scaramucci’s book, Trump, The Blue Collar President, I am reminded that Trump was not Scaramucci’s first choice. He was his third. Scaramucci explains, “ I was a traditional republican fundraiser. I had worked for Governor Romney. And then, I worked for Governor Walker on his reelection. Okay. And then I became tight with Governor Walker, and I was his campaign finance chair with Todd Ricketts. When President Trump, as I referenced in my book, “The Blue Collar President”, said to me that he was going to run for president, he invited me to breakfast. It was the day after the Apprentice ended.I laughed, and said, ‘You're not going to do it.’ But the minute he declares himself, he'll shoot right at the top of the polls, you know, go on and win the presidency. So, I said to him at that time that I was tied into Governor Walker and I also had an allegiance for Jeb Bush. And then, he said to me, “Well, after, you know, I knock these guys out, will you join me?” And I said, “Yes, I would.” But here's the point of that conversation. I was a traditional political fundraiser and a donor. So, when he won the election and he named me to the transition team, I still didn't have ambitions to go to Washington.”
When he had that fateful conversation, Scaramucci was 53 years old. He reminds the hedge fund in whose offices we’re sitting, he created from scratch in a room smaller than the single office we’re in right now. Today, he’s got 80 people in four offices and ten billion under management. “I believe this is my piece of art. This is my artwork. This is my life's creation.”
Scaramucci pre-Trump was able to work with everyone, across the sides of the aisle. “That's what the SALT conference is about, you know,'' he says about the SkyBridge Alternatives Conference (SALT), a global thought leadership forum.
“ Valerie Jarrett and Ambassador Susan Rice and James Carville: I bring everybody to these conferences. I am a ‘bring people together’ sort of a person. I don't like to divide, okay. The country is called the United States of America. United. It's not called the Divided States of America. And so, for me, I'm about trying to put people together."
Scaramucci explains that his Harvard Law School legal training allows him to synthesize opposing point of views. “John Kennedy said that he spent more time thinking about the views of the people that opposed him than his own views because, he said, it sharpened his mind and made him more adept at being able to combat them or, in some cases, embrace them, like the tax cut that he was offering in 1962. So, to me, it's not about the right and left. It's not about the politics of it. It's more about right and wrong. It's like, what are the right policies?”
In his latest book, Scaramucci notes that the late Senator John McCain understood Trump’s threat to the ruling class better than anyone. I ask him who, in his mind, is the ruling class?
“The ruling class is the political establishment of both parties. So, the republican ruling class and the democratic ruling class, the political establishment, has been more focused on staying in power and ruling and less focused on serving. And that's what caused the opportunity for President Trump to come in over the top and defeat all of them.”
I wanted Scaramucci’s insider take on the source of the White House infighting that resulted in massive leaks that marked the early years of the Trump administration. He blames the fight on the conflicting egos and ideologies of the establishment contra the far right. He, he says, didn’t realize the depth of this animosity when he came into the White House. Now, with hindsight, he has a clearer picture.
“Reince Priebus”, Scaramucci fires off immediately. “ He hated President Trump.”
—Why was he appointed, then?, I ask.
“Well, you'd have to ask those guys. I think he got appointed because, you know, this is Trump's management style. My opinion is that what Trump did at the beginning was saying, “Okay, I've now won the American government, I need to hire and put in position governmental people to help me run the American government.” The same way he's going to build a golf course. You know, he knows how to play golf.”
—But what happened to Trump’s ‘disruptive startup?’ When you create a startup, you don't hire corporate and government people to work in it.
“Ultimately, when you go back and look at the Trump presidency, and you say, ‘why was there a failure to staff?’ Because every agency and the white house itself is understaffed. It's because of Reince Priebus. What ultimately happened was Trump picked somebody that actually hated him and was an anti-Trumper to staff the White House. So what Priebus did was he flooded the White House with never-Trumpers. And so, the president caught wind of that and he slowed down the hiring.”
—Is Trump a people pleaser, if he is prone to hiring someone he knows he does not like him?
“You know, I think, I think he made that decision based on... not people-pleasing as much as it was, okay, I've got a hold of the government: I need to hire people. In other words, I need to hire swamp people to help me drain the swamp. And so, what Trump ended up doing was he hired swamp people that poured more sewage water into the swamp. So, I think, ultimately, anybody that studies this in 50 years from now will look back on the Priebus hiring and say that was the moment that really hurt the Trump presidency.”
According to Scaramucci’s account, Reince Priebus was the establishment. The far-right was Bannon. “So, what happened there was the far right, represented by Bannon, created an unholy alliance with Priebus. Politics makes strange bedfellows, and power corrupts. Bannon didn't want to get dislodged from power. And he knew Priebus was the Chief of Staff, and so, they joined themselves for self-preservation. But they both hated Trump.”
For evidence of Bannon’s hate for Trump, Scammucci draws my attention to The Devil’s Bargain, the Trump critical book by Joshua Green, for which Green interviewed Bannon at length.
“Because you wouldn't have the book, The Devil's Bargain, which was written by Steve Bannon. You wouldn't have the books from Michael Wolf. He wrote two books, one was called a Liar and Furious, and I know it is Fire and Fury, but I like calling it Liar and Furious. Liar, that's Micheal Wolf, and Furious, that’s Steve Bannon. The other book was called Siege. So, Steve is co-author of three books, The Devil's Bargain, Liar and Furious and the book called The Siege.”
—But what you are saying is that he basically colluded with the liberal writers?
“No, no. Bannon’s position on Trump was that he was an empty vessel. And he was the puppet master, and Trump was his hand puppet. Okay. And that was infuriating to people that were close to the president because we watched the president beat 17 establishment Republicans, and Bannon joined the race in mid-August to contest Hillary Clinton. But the President has already won the Republican nomination in July. So, it was like you're not the guy that's creating Trump. Trump created himself. So, this drove Bannon crazy because Bannon has narcissistic megalomania about himself.”
Scaramucci met Bannon for the first time at the July 2016 convention in Cleveland. He had known of Bannon before, but they had never crossed paths.
“I knew he worked at Goldman Sachs. I knew he was at Breitbart. And I knew Andrew Breitbart. And so, yes, of course, you know, if you're in Republican party politics or conservative politics, it would have been impossible not to know who Steve Bannon was, but I didn't know him personally. And then when he came, when he joined the campaign, I wrote him a 10 point memorandum of what my observations were at my time on the campaign to help him out as the CEO. He was receptive to that. Where my break from Bannon is that... his ideology is too far to the right. But also, he was obsessed with power. Okay, and so, you know, Steve was the kind of guy, remember, power corrupts. So, see what's got the guy he would take you out If it was going to preserve his power. You follow what I'm saying? So, I was offered and I accepted the PLO job, and him and Priebus got together to block me from that job. “
—But why? If you were a donor, a friend of the Republican Party, why would they plot against you?
“Why? You are a smart person. Do I represent the establishment? Do I represent the far right? Okay, ultimately, I’m my own person. I got my own business. I've created my own wealth.”
—Were they afraid of your influence over Trump?
“I think it wasn't that. I am not, I’m not that self-important to believe that. I think it was anybody from New York. It was Chris Christie. It was Rudy Giuliani. It was me. It was any person that Priebus and Bannon felt had a pre-existing relationship with Trump or a cultural tie. Meaning, I can talk to Trump in a certain way as a fellow New Yorker that they could not. Okay, I don't give a damn, attitude and personality is similar to the President.”
—But then you do not employ the same communication strategies as Trump does.
“I think his [ Trump's] strategies are too divisive, I think the President is going down a road that even if he wins, you see, I think that the President has to appeal to his better interest is better interest or to win without the division. He doesn't need to be this divisive to win. In other words, winning at all costs is not going to help him or serve history well.”
—I get your philosophy of not wanting to burn bridges in life, but why didn't you push against the act of your firing in front of John Kelly?
“John Kelly was named the White House Chief of Staff by President Trump. And if John Kelly, in my mind, as Chief of Staff, which I was a staff member of, he had the right to choose his own staff.”
—But the President called you to give you a job. So ultimately, it was him who offered you the job and not John Kelly
“I understand that, but then he was switching gears. He took Priebus out of the job. John Kelly had the right, as new management, to change his staff any way that he wanted. And by the way, I did something fireable. Let's not forget that. I trusted a reporter. I said something that I thought was off the record, that was inappropriate to say. The reporter publicized it. It embarrassed the president. Okay. And so, therefore, it was fireable.”
My job is to make the president look good. I was making the president look bad and him and John Kelly wanted to fire me. In John's defense, he offered me the opportunity to speak to the President. But the truth is, I said, ‘John, I don't need to go speak to the present. You don't want me here. I'm not going to be going to speak to the president and have the president overrule you. And then you and I in a fight all day inside the White House, that's not going to help the White House run.’“
— But at that time, you were not just, like, some retired officer or someone, you know, who works somewhere and can go back to his old job. You had a whole company that you had to leave and think about selling. You had lots at stake at that point. Did anyone consider that?
“That's one of the things about Washington. Well, I mean, listen, it's politics. You know, politics is a blood sport. But my attitude is there's no whining in sports and politics. my point is that I have no grudges. I got fired for a reason.”
—It is hard to believe that you got fired for using the curse words when the President is known for using foul language all the time.
“So, it’s a different standard. He's the president. I'm not. And I was his communications director. And I was supposed to be making him look good, not bad.”
In Goodbye Gordon Gekko, Scaramucci speaks about the cost of pursuing the American dream. There, he states that the American Dream is not a fairy tale, at least, not ‘for ever after.’ “By your definition”, I ask him, “are we now at this stage of ‘not ever after,’ in Trump's presidency?”
“I think we have to understand that for people like myself who grew up with economic opportunity and economic aspiration... So, even though my dad didn't make a lot of money, I felt I could, I could make it in America. And I could live the American dream. I knew that it would take a tremendous amount of hard work and personal sacrifice, but that I could get there. And I think what happened in our society is we went from an aspirational economy to a desperational one in 35 years. And I think it's a manifestation of globalism and some bad American policies. And so, so Trump represented a disruption to that.”
—You mean as an idea, as a promise?
“Yeah, as a promise, as a hack. Yeah. But a lot of things he's doing makes sense. But nationalism and the rhetoric of division do not make sense. It's not helpful to the country.”
As the election campaign 2020 unfolds, it is still unclear if someone in the Republican party is going to challenge Trump at the primaries.
“Well, he's got a 94% approval rating. So, it would, it would have to take somebody very disruptive and very high octane on the risk-taking side because no establishment politician who's a registered Republican would challenge him. So, you know, I mean, Governor Weld is challenging him, the governor from Massachusetts, but I don't think he's made much headway so far. But Trump will win reelection if the democrats put up a hard left person. The country is not ready for the hard left. It's not ready for the hard-right either. Honestly, the country wants something somewhere in the middle. It probably wants a center-right business leader who has centre left social progressive attitudes about life, is more way more inclusive.”
—Who would be an ideal president of the United States?
"I think that the country ideally, well, I think the country, Millennials, Generation Z, I think they're ready for a post partisan president. But a post partisan president would require the person not to care about real life. Because ultimately, you would have to do things that would sour a voting bloc that got you elected, you know, because at the end of the day, we're divided nation and we vote in blocks of special interest. But if you really want an ideal president, they have to step overall that they have to transcend all of that. And they have to say, Okay, look, we're going to do this because it's the right thing to do"
—What are your political ambitions? Would you consider a presidental run?
“Well, I'm accidentally in the situation. So, as I said to you, I have 30 years of my life where I was an American entrepreneur, and I got accidentally, get there saying. I don't know, my answer is, I'm not a politician. So, I'm never going to tell you that I'm not going to do something politically and then go and do something politically. I'm saying to you that it's an open question for me. I don't know what I'm going to do. But I still see myself as pretty young, and I got a great business. And so, we'll see what happens. But what I don't want to see is the society come completely off the rails. Certainly can't have that up.”
The President's relationship with the press has run off the rails. When Scaramucci came into the White House, there were no on-camera briefings. While we all know the press’s side of the blackout, the behind-the-scenes story has, perhaps unsurprisingly, been harder to capture.
“It started with Steve Bannon at CPAC in 2017. He said that the press was the opposition party. And it was the full-blown enemy of the people. And the President took that on as a flag. He was carrying the flag, “the press is the enemy of the people.” Because he felt that there was some dishonest reporting about him. And now, in fairness to the President, if you looked at those Harvard studies or other surveys, 91% of the media was against the president. So, there was some media bias. Moreover, supply evidence that the New York Times apologized President Trump after he won reelection, they said we look back and we observed our bias was too much we have too much of a negative bias towards him. So, the President is justified, but here's what the president needs to be magnanimous, you know.”
“The great Winston Churchill said that in victory, magnanimity. You know, President won, and so he needed to be more magnanimous. And so, to me, they were fueling each other. Bannon fueling Trump, Trump fueling Bannon and then both of them affecting Spicer. And so, Spicer, you know, on principle, the acolyte, said, ‘Okay, this is going to please the president, let me cut the live feed.’ And, by the way, let me tell you when I went to put the feed back on, Sarah said to me, ‘Well, what about the cross cameras?’ Sean never wanted the cross camera to be put back on. And I said, well, put the cross cameras so that the journalists can see themselves. I said, the journalists want their moms and dads to see them on TV too, by the way, so we're going to put the cross cameras on as well as the front cameras.
Sean Spicer was more interested in punishing the journalists and he thought that was going to please the president. But the President's not stupid, he realized things were not going well. Okay. Now, you could say his decision to put me in there was a bad decision or a good decision. I mean, time will tell but I was trying to do the right thing. Put the lights and cameras back on. The press is not the enemy to people. It's the Fourth Estate. It's there to serve as a check and balance on power. People in power need to be held accountable. So, therefore, the press has to be free and open.”
—How do you feel about the lack of any press briefings at the moment in the White House?
“I think it's a disaster. It's a disaster. Okay.”
—Is Stephanie Grisham going to change that?
“I don't know. You know, it's up to her and the president. But, I mean, the President's point of view is that he's doing these press sprays outside the helicopter in the back of the White House in the south portico. So, his attitude is, those are in lieu of being in the press room.”
These Marine One departure gaggles, I know from experience, are conducted in the deafening noise of the presidential helicopter’s prop. It’s a poor substitute for the briefing room, I tell Scaramucci.
“I do not think it's the same, and I would recommend that they go back to having press briefings now. Now, the press is probably right on this in the Trump administration, which is obviously different than an Obama administration. Do you need a daily press briefing? Okay. I would probably say no. Because the president is giving you way more access to himself that President Obama was. So, if you said to me, okay, you're getting all this access to President Trump with the sprays, could you do one, two, three press briefings a week? Yes. I don't think you need a daily press briefing in the Trump administration to be fair president. But I do think that you need several briefings a week, you know, one to three briefings a week, you know, four or five times a month. You have to have press briefings. They have to have a discourse with the president's office administrator.”
—You shot down the CNN story about your involvement in the Russian collusion. How exactly did you execute that?
“It was a false story. They were writing a false story about me. They were writing a story about me that was completely false. And so, there was one source. We’ll never know who that source was. And so, I went to the journalist, you have one source? Well, we have a very senior source. That's it. But it's totally not true. I said to the CNN guy, what you're writing is totally not true. I said, moreover, you're accusing me of committing a felony or treasonous act, or saying that I was involved in a Russian collusion story. And that I'm being investigated by the Treasury Department and the Senate. I'm not being investigated by either. And I've never been involved in anything related to Russia. So, you're writing a false story. This is someone putting that story in your minds to hurt my reputation. And I'm not the typical political operative; I'm, you have deep pockets. You put that story out; I'm gonna sue you. And I'm going to hire the best lawyers in the world. And by the way, I did go to Harvard Law School: I'll figure out a way to block your merger. You can't write a story like that. And if you look at the FCC license, one of the issues is that all these journalists have is an integrity issue. They have to write what they think, you can write a false story if you think it's true. You can't write a false story if you know it's false. You see what I'm saying? You can run the false story, Jeez, I got that wrong, let me issue a retraction. But I'm telling you right now before you publish that story, what you're writing is knowingly false. They published it. So I went to Sam Feist, and I went to Jeff Zucker. I said, ‘Guys, this is ridiculous. You can't accuse me of a felony.’ And they looked at the information, ‘Oh my god, this is totally false.’ And they took the story down But you see, Trump wanted me to sue them. He got mad at me that I didn't sue them. That's not my personality. I don't like lawsuits. Two things I’ve learned in law school, don't be a lawyer and avoid lawsuits. So, I said, no problem. You've taken the story down. You apologized to me. Your apology’s accepted by me. Let's move on.”
“Washington has an allergy to the truth,” Scaramucci tells me. “When they hear the truth, they break out into hives, they have an allergic reaction. I've gotten my 11 day Ph.D. now on Washington scum beggary. I thought that was going to happen, but I didn't understand the magnitude of it. I didn't understand the raw ruthlessness. The political ambition and the pursuit of power creates blind, moral ruthlessness. I got to actually see the Leviathan when I opened up the kimono. I could see the Leviathan and the ugliness of the Leviathan. So that's changed me as a person," he reveals, then pauses for a moment.
“So I was at dinner,'' he continues, “ I won't tell you the name of the dinner. Very famous Washington socialite, I'm sitting next to her. She says to me, ‘Oh, you know, you just didn't understand the rules of the game.; And I said, what are the rules of the game? Well, that reporter knew what you said it was going to score him points and, even, you technically didn't say off the record. And so he ran out and did that to you. And I said, ‘Wait a second, Howard Kurtz said to me he's been in Washington for years. He's never seen a reporter do that to a White House official.’ I said, ‘But let me say this to you, those rules of the game that you're describing and you’re cynically accepting, the American people hate.’”
Anthony Scaramucci: I got bad news for the establishment. Trump's opened up a portal into more disruptive activity. American people do not like Washington.And that's going to get reform from the outside. Unless there's a smart politician that decides to change their product line and try to reform it from the inside. Otherwise, it will be reformed from the outside.
Trump’s did not hire Anthony Scaramucci for the right role in the White House. Scaramucci was assigned Director for Public Liaison Office and, later on, Communications Director. Anthony Scarammuci should have been in Global Affairs. He has clearly defined views on America’s role on the global stage. I ask him about Iran and the potential for war there.
“I hate these wars. I don't want these wars. We have to spend this money internally in the United States and not waste this money externally. But from a public policy perspective, the United States is at its best when it's leading the world in technology and innovation and we have a very powerful military that's protecting the world. You know, at the end of the day, and I, and I would say this to the President, you got to be very, very cautious about armaments. When you're saying that you want NATO to go to 2%, that's fine. But you don't want to rearm Japan, you don't want to put nuclear missiles in South Korea. Because what our grandfathers understood and our grandmothers understood was that, like, if we believe in ourselves as being a benevolent democracy, we have the most powerful military. Okay, that will likely keep the peace around the world. Because at the end of the day, what Lincoln said about America's true, “last, best hope for mankind.” We're all from different cultures. We're all from different parts of the world. We're stimulating here in America off of our ideas, our ideals, and our principles.
From a foreign policy perspective, you want America engaged, and you want America to be a force for peace.
You racked up tremendous amounts of deficit spending, unnecessarily. You prosecuted wars in the Middle East that killed a million people. 70,000 servicemen and women have been injured. 7,000 have died. 22,000 are dying from post-traumatic stress. At the same time, your educational system is uneven. Your industrial policy is nowhere, and you have no infrastructure policy. So, for the United States, the establishment not understand why the American people are so sore. Wake up and look at the report card. You guys suck. Okay, and so, you know, for me, it's been a very interesting life experience. Because I lived the good part of the American dream. I got an open portal into the world of politics and I now understand why the American people really don't like [the establishment].”
—Is the American Dream still alive?
“The American dream has narrowed It's become harder. You have a very broken, uneven public K through 12 education system. So, it's harder for people to come from blue-collar areas like mine and go to Harvard and do these sorts of things. The American dream has been fractured, and it's been narrow, and it could be revitalized. You have to come up with policies that would fix it. The bad news for America is that there's no short fix. The good news for America: everything is fixable. But it takes, going to take 10, 20, 30 years to fix these problems. You're not going to fix our educational system in a soundbite on a cable news channel on an interview, or in a two-year election cycle, you're going to fix it over 10, 15 or 20 years. But you have to lay out the framework of very good policy that you would hope people would stay committed to in a bipartisan way. At the end of the day... The strategy of containment, it was enunciated by George Kennan in 1946. It was espoused by American governments left and right by in a bipartisan way, was very successful in bringing down the communist block and unraveling the former Soviet Union. Okay, but that was a bipartisan, 40-year commitment. From 1946 to 1989. We're going to stay on this thing. Okay. Now, there were mistakes or proxy wars like Vietnam, and there was a conflict in Korea that's still unresolved.”
Regarding the latest developments with North Korea, I ask Scaramucci if Trump really believes that North Korea is the friend of the United States.
“I don't think he believes that North Korea is a friend of the United States, but I think he believes that personal shuttle diplomacy can de-escalate the conflict, the potentiality of conflict. But I think he's also aware he's having tough trade negotiations with the Chinese and North Korea being a satellite of China. I think it's going to be very hard for him to get anything done with North Korea until the trade issues with the Chinese are resolved.”
On Iran, the unavoidable question, Scaramucci is nuanced regarding the Obama-era deal.
“Obama policy with Iran, in my opinion, was very well-intentioned. But in hindsight, the final analysis of that policy is that it was very flawed because he was trying to engage a bully. Okay, so, as an example, if you're working in a community as a community organizer and you have a bully on the block what you're trying to do with bullies, you engage the bully and you get the bully, right? You get the bully some level of authority, and you bring the bully into the team. Now, the bully, all of a sudden, has to act like a responsible person because it was very, very good idea. Okay. And he was shifting away from Kissinger, Nixon, putting the power with the Sunnis and suppressing the Shias. Okay, and so, and so, he thought, if he can rebalance that a little bit, it would lead to an evening of the situation. But what he totally missed in that analysis is the fervor of that theocracy and that they have become a state sponsor of terrorism and they supported Hezbollah and Hamas and they infiltrated Iraq and they destabilize the region more than they helped the region.”
As he has supported both Obama and Trump, I ask Scaramucci about what he thinks of Trump’s attempts to dismantle Obama's legacy.
“I think he's dismantled large elements of Obama's legacy. No question about that. But I mean, here's the thing. I think President Obama had some very good ideas about social progress. And very good ideas about inclusion. But I think he had bad ideas related to the economy. I'm just being honest with you. We could have unshackled the economy and created more growth five or six years ago, and that the President's moved to reduce the administrative state, reduce regulation, those moves have led to more positive,” he says.
My final question for Scaramucci is about the UK’s ambassador to the US, Kim Darroch, and the recent leak of his memos, critical of Trump. The question is about policy, but Scaramucci’s answer reveals something about his political philosophy.
“President should have let that go. But he can't let it go. He sees it as a sign of weakness if he budges on it. In the case of Ambassador Kim Darroch, who I knew personally very well. I thought that was a mistake. Yeah, Kim Darroch, whatever he personally thought of President Trump, he went out of his way to help the president get everything he wanted from those state visits in the United Kingdom, including meeting with the Queen and having dinner in Buckingham Palace. All of the things that the President wanted, Kim Darroch went out of his way to get. So, he was a consummate diplomat. He may not like the president personally. So what? Changes of view. Do not take it so personally. I don't take things personally. I don't care.”
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