No soft landing for reviled ex-Trumpsters
What’s Anthony Scaramucci afraid of? His silly threat to sue the Tufts student newspaper if it didn’t retract critical articles doesn’t make much sense on its face: The former White House adviser has no legal case either the The Tufts Daily or the student who wrote the op-eds arguing that Scaramucci should be kicked off an advisory board at the Fletcher School. And with his threat, the Mooch must have known the articles would receive more attention than they ever would have if he’d just kept his yap shut.
Predictably — and properly — the school paper didn’t comply with Scaramucci’s demands, and the articles are still available on its website. The first, published Nov. 6, said Scaramucci was an “irresponsible, inconsistent, an unethical opportunist . . . who exuded the highest degree of disreputability.” The second continued the attack, and criticized what it characterized as Scaramucci’s “unethical behavior.” It cited his short and profane tenure at the White House, and also a media venture, the Scaramucci Post, that polled its Twitter followers about how many Jews died in the Holocaust (a historical fact, and not an opinion up for debate).
The effort by Tufts activists to remove Scaramucci from the Tufts advisory board fits into a larger pattern. To an unexpected degree, American institutions are shunning veterans of the Trump administration, who might have expected soft landings back into the private sector. Sean Spicer, the dishonest former White House press secretary, has tried and largely failed to be taken seriously again. Steven Mnuchin’s Yale class has virtually ostracized the Treasury secretary. It must be dawning on other White House aides by now that working for Donald Trump leaves a toxic stain that doesn’t wash away.
Board memberships, honorary positions, and the like might not seem like big deals — but the tenacity of Scaramucci’s pushback against his Tufts critics suggests otherwise. The stigma attached to people like Scaramucci and Spicer matters. The widespread revulsion against the Trump administration, and against those who choose to abet it, sends a message that their choices will catch up with them. Anyone considering a White House job has to consider the consequences — to their own reputation, if nothing else.
Tufts hasn’t booted Scaramucci, although the university did postpone an event featuring the Mooch that had been scheduled for Monday. But institutions that do honor Trump vets, like Harvard’s Institute of Politics, which gave an ill-advised fellowship to Spicer, have come under fire. To treat former Trump aides like any other retired political hands normalizes an administration that’s violated just about every available political norm.
It’s understandable that the consequences of working for Trump upset the Mooch, a longtime Tufts supporter. But people like Scaramucci, Spicer, Reince Priebus, and other Trump administration aides knew — or had no excuse not to know — they were signing up to work for a demogagogic, racist president. This is the path they’ve chosen. No number of threatening letters from lawyers is going to change that.