Breaking the rhythm of the normally sleepy months of summer, lots of political change in Washington is suddenly in the air again. Sean Spicer resigned as White House press secretary almost a week ago in reaction to President Trump’s hiring of Antony Scaramucci as communications director.
Spicer seems like a personally solid guy. But, frankly, his first performance as press secretary, when he entered the White House briefing room like he was marching into battle then shot off, rat-tat-tat, a bunch of uncorroborated claims about the size of the inauguration in an as in-your-face manner as possible, cemented an unfortunate impression of him in the public mind. That was a performance doomed to be impossible to eradicate, the subject of a thousand spoofs, an enduring joke. So that nothing he did afterward was able to erase it fully. No wonder, as Politico reported in early April, he had 60 percent nationwide name recognition, “much higher than most other White House staffers and previous press secretaries.”
I think, at the time, Spicer was just nervous. But it was a complete misfire that further cemented progressive political anxiety about the belligerent new Trump administration. To my mind, that was unfortunate, as that was the inclination that needed to be reined in at that moment of peak anxiety. Indeed, it made me nostalgic for the relaxed, urbane and polished performance that Tony Snow used to give at every appearance during his all-too-short period as press secretary under President Bush, before his very untimely death from cancer.
Jake Novak, a senior columnist for CNBC.com, who disfavored Spicer as press secretary, is encouraged by the Scaramucci hire, writing that Scaramucci was “born to do this job” for the Trump administration.
“Long Island native Scaramucci emits the same kind of New York bravado the president has embodied for decades. This is the opposite of a forced marriage of opposites—it’s more like a match made in heaven.” And, he points out, “The media likes [Scaramucci].” That latter point is much in his favor, given the extent to which the media loathed Spicer both publicly and privately, who will be replaced by Deputy Press Secretary Sara Huckabee Sanders.
And there are new leaks from Washington “from a person familiar with the [Russia] probe,” according to Bloomberg.com, about Robert Mueller extending his investigation way beyond his mandate into President Trump’s business dealings with Russians from the years before he was president, including as far back as 2008. The problem with this kind of leak, as we learned earlier in the year when no less than James Comey was publicly testifying, is that often such leakers are less fully informed about the entire issue at hand than complete knowledge of the matter warrants. And their leaks are instead insinuations meant to shape a media narrative and delegitimize. They often stray from the full truth. So before reacting to this juicy tidbit, one way or another, I am going to wait to see what develops. So far, the Russia narrative has been being investigated for more than a year. And nothing much at all has arisen from it except a great deal of anxiety, fear mongering and conspiracy theorizing.
And finally, last week, we also learned the very sad news that Sen. John McCain just had an aggressive brain cancer tumor surgically removed and that he is suffering from glioblastoma. This is a more- aggressive form of cancer, unfortunately, than the melanoma former President Jimmy Carter was diagnosed with at 90 years old, which is currently in remission due to his treatment with a new drug called Keytruda. Right after the announcement, Meghan McCain, daughter of John McCain, published a very moving testament to her father about the way he is regarded in their family as their personal hero. Prayers for his health and recovery.
Mara Schiffren, a Campus Watch Fellow, is a writer and health coach who lives in North Salem.