By Shane McGinley
Ahead of his hosting of a major business event in the UAE, former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci explains why he has flipped from being a staunch Donald Trump supporter to a vocal opponent and why he believes his former boss is a real danger to modern democracy
"I tease people I got a Ph.D. in Washington scumbaggery in 11 days,” Anthony Scaramucci says, laughing.
He’s clearly learnt a lot from his stint swimming in the American political swamp. But, as the man who was infamously fired as President Donald Trump’s communications director following an expletive-laden chat with a New Yorker journalist, you’d assume the experience has left him a lot more guarded about what he should and shouldn’t say in press interviews.
You’d be wrong. During the course of our early morning phone chat ‘The Mooch’ – as he is nicknamed in the American press – is the same brash, straight-talking New Yorker with no filter he was when he was in the White House. He refers to Trump as “a full blown crazy person”, “unplugged”, “super dangerous”, “un-American” and “a criminal”. He draws parallels to a certain controversial Nazi German leader from the 1930s and compares the ongoing impeachment process to the Chernobyl nuclear power explosion which devastated the Ukraine in 1986.
“The guy’s nuts. If you watched the HBO series Chernobyl, this is Trumpnobyl. He’s melting down and some really bad things are going to start to happen and start unfolding,” Scaramucci believes.
He didn’t always have such an apocalyptic outlook. Even after he was fired in July 2017, Scaramucci wasn’t bitter at his former boss, referring to himself as FBL – ‘Fired But Loyal’ – and proclaiming to CNBC just five months ago that Trump would “get resoundingly re-elected” with a 40 state landslide.
So what happened?
“After I got fired I wanted to be a gentleman. I recognised that I made a mistake in the White House, and it was a fireable mistake, so I didn’t blame anybody but myself. I thought it was important to keep my loyalty to those important and to take a higher ground and not be upset about the firing.
“But you can’t separate women from children at the border, disavow the intelligence agencies, constantly call the press the enemy of the people,” he says.
The final straw for Scaramucci was when Trump attacked four Democratic Congresswomen on Twitter. “When he is saying ‘go back to the country that you came from’ that’s classically un-American language. That’s also classically American racist nativist language. You can’t do that in the Office of the President. So I said: ‘Look, I’m sorry. I want to be supportive of the president but my grandmother was told to go back to the country that she came from. I don’t think it’s an appropriate way to speak as the American leader’.”
“When he is saying ‘go back to the country that you came from’ that’s classically un-American language”
Of course, Trump was not one to take criticism lying down and a Twitter feud quickly erupted between the two former allies, with the president deciding to get personal and reference Scaramucci’s impending divorce, which enraged The Mooch’s Italian-American sensibilities. “He rebuked me and went after me on Twitter. But, you know, you understand once he went after my wife, that’s off the line of the spectrum. You want to attack me, I’m a public figure, no problem, but don’t go after my wife.”
Scaramucci and his wife resolved their differences and called off their divorce proceedings but his feelings about Trump have only hardened. “I think it’s important to understand that he represents a danger to global society and to the United States… In representative democracies one of the things that could really hurt a democracy is demagoguery [Political activity that seeks support by appealing to the prejudices of ordinary people rather than by using rational argument].
“Listen, I am not comparing them, but on January 30th 1933 Adolf Hitler was elected Chancellor of Germany,” Scaramucci says, emphasising the word elected. “Let’s not forget that, it wasn’t like he seized power in 33. He didn’t take on autocratic control until four or five years later. So, again, I’m not comparing it to them, and this is a different and arguably stronger system than Germany had gone on after the First World War, but you can’t really survive demagoguery for a long period of time in representative democracies, and he represents that.”
While Scaramucci now draws parallels to Hitler, when he was part of Trump’s transition team after he won the election, he was comparing him to an American hero. “I thought when I supported him that, even though I wasn’t blind to some of the personality issues, I didn’t think he was going to directionally go this way. In fact, we had many conversations during the transition that he’s going to be - quote-unquote – more presidential than Abraham Lincoln.
“We used to joke about that. So now we’re here three years into this thing and he’s a lawless guy, operating the US policy as a personal, almost a personal financial transaction for him.”
Scaramucci isn’t just voicing soundbites, he is putting his considerable financial expertise behind raising funds to try and derail Trump’s 2020 re-election chances. “I’ve raised some money and I’ll make an announcement… The reason why I have waited is I wanted to see what happens with the impeachment process.
“I think it’s important to understand that he represents a danger to global society and to the United States”
“He’ll be the third American president impeached. You know he’ll literally, he’s going to get impeached in the house… And so, I mean, that’s a pretty devastating thing, even if you want to say that it’s 100 percent partisan. You’re impeaching the President of the United States, that’s pretty devastating. I mean you’ve got, you know, despite what he’s saying, you’ve got real credible evidence that this guy is a criminal,” he says over the impeachment process currently underway as a result of Trump’s bid to convince Ukraine to launch an investigation into his Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden.
When it comes to the impeachment process, Scaramucci believes the US is so divided politically that even if it is passed by the House of Representatives, it will not get past the Republican-controlled Senate. “I think people are locked into their views. I think that the Republicans decided that they’re going to just allow this level of lawless behaviour… So, you know, that’s a danger as well because now you’ve disrupted that system that’s worked for 243 years.”
Should the impeachment process fail and Trump is re-elected in November 2020, Scaramucci believes the president will see this as a message to be even worse during his second term in the Oval Office.
“If he survives it, and they can’t put up a credible candidate to beat him, you know what, we’re going to go through a very tough period of time. That’s four years where he doesn’t get to stand for re-election. Look at his behaviour prior to this campaign… Imagine this guy unplugged, in a situation where he doesn’t have the campaign any more, it’s super dangerous.
“He’s too big a threat to the system and if he doesn’t lose we are going to be girded up now for a very reckless guy going from 2021 to 2025. It is going to be a reckless moment in America... Vladimir Putin will be super happy, but most of us who are rationalists, who understand global politics are not gonna be super happy about it.”
Scaramucci believes that the emphasis will be on the Democrats to put forward a candidate who can match Trump all the way through the gruelling campaign and there is one current candidate Scaramucci believes will be a disaster: “If they are stupid enough to give Elizabeth Warren the nomination, and he somehow survives his health issues and the current debacle that he’s facing… he will beat her. The American people are not ready for socialism, they don’t want that kind of stuff. Also, just this wealth tax nonsense has never worked anywhere. So, I don’t know how she thinks, all of a sudden, it’s going to work here.”
Instead, he believes someone from the business community, like Michael Bloomberg, would be a much better fit and could be strong enough to sway voters away from Trump.
“I mean you don’t need a big groundswell. You need five percent of the people to move and it’s over. So, you know, whether it’s Bloomberg, or people like him… I’m not an elected official but I like being involved in the political process. So, I mean, if we can move three to five percent of the voters he’ll lose.”
“The American people are not ready for socialism, they don’t want that kind of stuff”
The reason Scaramucci believes there is room to manoeuvre is because the positive economic indicators the US is currently enjoying - with unemployment hitting a 50-year low and GDP growth at 1.9 percent in Q3, slightly ahead of the 1.6 percent economists predicted – should be boosting Trump’s approval rate, but he is currently averaging around 42 percent.
“If you had a normal person, somebody who didn’t have his narcissistic personality disorder – you know you’re going to have a narcissist by virtue of the fact that the presidency almost requires that, it’s almost like a job requirement – but I’m talking about a full blown crazy person.
“But, if you had a regular person and you look at this economic data and he had some ability to calm down the intra-party divide, the divisional politics, he’d have had a 60 percent approval,” Scaramucci believes.
But, he warns, never underestimate Donald Trump’s ability to turn things around, fight through the impeachment process, rally up energy for the campaign trail and storm back into the White House for a second term.
“I think there is, no question, I would say yes to that… The one thing that F. Scott Fitzgerald got wrong about America, he said that there were no second acts in America. He got that wrong, there is always a second chance. He could turn it around, I mean he would have to do things that are antithetical to his personality. He’d have to go out there and say ‘Hey I got a couple things wrong. I apologise for these three or four things gone wrong, I’ve learned from them, this is what I’m going to do with my next term’.”
Regardless of what the outcome for Trump is, Scaramucci is focused on his first big event in the Middle East. While he has travelled to the region about 15 times in 15 years, he is excited to partner up with Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) for the SALT Abu Dhabi forum at the Emirates Palace from December 9-11.
“We’ve done the congress 10 times in North America, three times in Asia – twice in Singapore and once in Tokyo. Since I came back to the firm after my expulsion from the White House, I really wanted to add more international context to these events and so I invited a delegation of people from the UAE to our conference in Las Vegas to see if they liked it.
“And then I said ‘if you guys would like to team up’ because I have a pretty good idea of what ADGM is trying to do up in Abu Dhabi. And I said ‘you guys want to come, we could team up together. I could bring a whole host of people’.”
These days he is back firmly in the business world and doing the media circuit due to his short-lived White House notoriety. But does he miss the fast-paced intrigue of the political system?
“I don’t regret the experience because it’s made me wiser, it was a lot of humbling activity that took place in the aftermath of my firing, I learned a lot about the system. I learned a lot about what I don’t know about the system.
“I also learned how little you know. You can’t understand that system from reading a book, or being in the business world. You have to be in the political world to really understand that.”
Scaramucci has certainly had a colourful ride during his time as part of the Trump circus and, as ever, he is direct and honest about whether what he now predicts will transpire. “I might be wrong, let’s see what happens. But I’m a money manager, so I get paid to be wrong a lot.”
“I’ve been in 89 countries, Dubai and Abu Dhabi to me are two of arguably the most modern, if not the most modern cities of the world. They sprung up from the desert in a pristine sort of way.”
“I would say there is a five to six percent group of people that are world travellers who attend things like the World Economic Forum… The remaining group of people are - not being offensive to anybody or condescending at all, it is just classically American, which is, you know, don’t do a lot of travel and are reasonably insulated from global travel and probably are getting their impressions of what goes on in the Middle East from places like CNN or Fox News. And I think you and I both know that that’s not really what goes on.”
“I think there’s an anchor in our society, and perhaps in Ireland and in the United Kingdom, of haves and have nots. I think that’s a big issue. You know, if you have haves and have nots and you have a classic income divide, you create a lot of
anger and he sees an avatar
for their anger.”
“Whatever Obama’s faults were he never [attacked the press]. Was he miffed at Fox News a tonne of times? Sure, but he didn’t create this cascade of negative information. You know, and frankly, disinformation.”
“Remember if [Trump is] impeached he has to be removed from office by the Senate. The removal process would have to happen in the Senate. If that happens, then you’d have Mike Pence, but I think he’d be a severely wounded lame duck.”
“Yeah. You see, the US is a patriarchal society and my prediction is that we will eventually have a woman president but I think it would be more likely coming from the right. It would be very akin to what happened when Margaret Thatcher became the first woman prime minister [of the UK] but it came from the right. It is going to be very hard for a left leaning woman to win one of these things. But that’s just again my opinion.”
*The money manager will be bringing his financial investment forum SALT to Abu Dhabi this month, appearing at the Emirates Palace from December 9-11. The event will be in collaboration with Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) and speakers will include UAE Minister of State Ahmed Ali Al Sayegh, CEO of ADNOC Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber and Group CEO of Mubadala Investment Company, Khaldoon Khalifa Al Mubarak.For all the latest Politics news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.