listening in

I have watched Anthony Scaramucci – his ‘taking the stage’ turn last week when he was announced as the new White House communications director – and I have read him, the New Yorker’s recounting of the profane and strange conversation Scaramucci had with staff writer Ryan Lizza.

But on balance, it seems clear the best way to get Scaramucci is to listen to him.  He talked to CNN’s Chris Cuomo Thursday. It was a phone call to CNN, not an on-camera interview. And this is the part that caught my ear:

“As you know from the Italian expression, the fish stinks from the head down. What I can tell you two fish that don’t stink, okay, and that’s me and the President. I don’t like the activity that’s going on in the White House. I don’t like what they’re doing to my friend. I don’t like what they’re doing to the President of the United States or their fellow colleagues in the West Wing. If you want to talk about the Chief of Staff, we have had odds. We have had differences.”

Read that. Does it conjure up any sound in your head? I heard it and one word popped into mine: wiretap. It’s the way some men talk when they don’t know they’re being recorded, when their guard is as down as it ever gets, not that it’s ever completely down. Scaramucci’s conversation with Chris Cuomo is a haphazard jumble of truth, hard feelings and dissembling, topped with menace. There is a chilling intimacy to it, as if he could reach through the telephone line and grab you by the neck if he doesn’t like what he’s getting from you.

But this was no surreptitious recording; it was done in pubic with Scaramucci’s full knowledge and participation. That it still succeeds in sounding like something you hear when you put a glass against a neighbor’s wall is no small wonder.

It’s unfortunate no recording of the Lizza conversation has surfaced; it would make a fine doppleganger to the Cuomo interview. And I hope someone is carefully archiving this audio, along with some of the sound from President Trump’s public utterances. When a future student of American history studies the Trump administration, scratches her head in bewilderment and says out loud to no one in particular, “What were they talking about?” you could do worse that to play them 29:48 of Anthony Scaramucci on CNN, grievances and arguments included.






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