All the “Godfather” jokes suddenly became reality.
But it’s Anthony Scaramucci who’s toast. John Kelly, President Trump’s freshly minted chief of staff, was waiting for him at the toll booth and Scaramucci is out as communications director.
Scaramucci was a walking, talking ethnic stereotype: that vain, uncouth, absurdly macho Guido from the New York metropolitan area that for many Italian-Americans represents a caricature they long to escape. During his short tenure, the mobster references piled up like heaping servings of Grandma’s pasta. Nothing, including his stint at Harvard Law, seemed able to stop “the Mooch” from being “the Mooch.” Nothing except Kelly, a retired four-star Marine general from Boston who Trump brought on to bring order to a chaotic White House.
Scaramucci’s vulgar rant to The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza launched columns and comedy routines about thugs and mobsters. Yet, like his hero Trump, Scaramucci relished almost any attention.
Scaramucci’s instant celebrity inspired humorous introspectives, like Jonathan Turley’s “A Scaramucci-watchers guide to Italian speech.” “Italians do speak to each other in ways that can shock people,” writes Turley. “When my Irish family says that you are dead to them, they mean it. They will see you at your funeral. When Italians say it, it could last until . . . dinner.” But Turley’s take also led one reader to bemoan “the time-worn stereotype that Italians are thuggish and coarse and feel comfortable with the language of the underworld.” After all, that grants comics like Stephen Colbert license to impersonate Scaramucci as an Italian gangster.
When it comes to making fun of other ethnic groups, politically correct limits usually apply. No such restrictions govern parodies about Italian-Americans. The tribe itself is torn by ambivalence over its portrayal. Many Italian Americans embrace “The Sopranos” as entertainment even as they bridle against smirking suggestions from outsiders that there’s a little Mafia in all of us.
Scaramucci played to the “Goodfellas” side. The son of a construction worker, he grew up on Long Island, went to Tufts, and then made it to Harvard and Wall Street. He should represent the quintessential American success story. Not forgetting where you came from can be admirable, just like challenging Harvard’s pretensions — which Scaramucci also did, at least according to one account of his time there. But wallowing in ethnic buffoonery after making gazillions as a hedge fund manager is an insult to his heritage. Scaramucci was a poster child for vile and self-promotional behavior that has nothing to do with ethnicity, and everything to do with his mentor, the president. The low-brow attacks on Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon, the flood of snarky, immature tweets, and self-aggrandizing photos posted from Air Force One follow a script written by Donald Trump, not Mario Puzo.
Then there’s the hypocrisy of Scaramucci’s Trump-like personal attacks on others, followed by his Trump-like ire at personal attacks aimed at him. Scaramucci’s wife recently filed for divorce while pregnant with the couple’s second child and gave birth to a son last Monday, while Scaramucci was on board Air Force One. In response to reports about the circumstances, Scaramucci tweeted, “Family does not need to be drawn into this. Soon we will learn who in the media has class and who doesn’t. No further comments on this.”
His reaction to the gossip was just another act in the long-running Scaramucci show. Over the course of his career, it yielded huge financial rewards.
He wanted something more. He wanted to be a player at the highest levels of government. He wanted access and power. And like so much else about the Trump administration, there was nothing remotely funny about that.
Joan Vennochi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @Joan_Vennochi.