Charles M. Blow is The New York Times‘s visual Op-Ed columnist. His column appears on Saturday.
Mr. Blow joined The New York Times in 1994 as a graphics editor and quickly became the paper’s graphics director, a position he held for nine years. In that role, he led The Times to a best of show award from the Society of News Design for the Times‘s information graphics coverage of 9/11, the first time the award had been given for graphics coverage. He also led the paper to its first two best in show awards from the Malofiej International Infographics Summit for work that included coverage of the Iraq war. Mr. Blow went on to become the paper’s Design Director for News before leaving in 2006 to become the Art Director of National Geographic Magazine.
Donald Trump’s foul-mouthed, preening, narcissistic flack, Anthony Scaramucci, made a string of jaw-dropping statements last week - including accusing chief strategist Steve Bannon of using the president for rapacious self-aggrandizement, comparing this impulse in Bannon to autofellatio - but perhaps none were more telling and important than this statement on White House leaks Scaramucci made last week on CNN:
“There are people inside the administration that think it is their job to save America from this president.”
There are countless Americans - among them the nearly 74 million American voters who voted for someone other than Trump in November, and likely an increasing number of those who did vote for him - who have taken it as their mission to save America from Trump.
But the idea that, in addition to liberals, progressives, resisters, and, oh, I don’t know, anyone with an inkling of patriotism, this desire to protect the country may well exist among some rock-ribbed Republicans and may in fact extend all the way to the corridors of the White House offers some solace.
Acknowledging this is by no means an act of exaltation or absolution. Quite the contrary: It illustrates these Republicans’ absolute depravity and ideological ambition. They know well that this man is unfit and ruinous, and yet they remain his parasitic henchmen. They are willing to use Trump for gain, and leaks for leverage.
They may love the country, but not enough. They may be loyal to Trump, but not enough. They may relish their newfound power, but that power is also not enough.
This White House is now a jungle of wild accusations, out-of-control egos, lurking bigotry, and slithering strivers: The grass outside the Oval Office is full of snakes, and the person inside that office is no better, maybe even worse. Watching them turn on one another, devour one another, in what has become a grotesque, animalistic spectacle of dysfunctions, might for some bring a perverse pleasure because it exposes Trump and his supposed managerial acumen as an abject fraud.
I am not one of those people.
I take no joy in it; I am utterly embarrassed by it. But I also know that this war of West Wing rivals serves a beneficial purpose of distracting Trump from his disastrous agenda, undermining his efforts at obfuscation and outright lying, and casting sunlight on the scheming that Trump would like to keep hidden from the media truth-tellers he tries to defame and discredit.
These leakers - whether they are people who are angling to harm a White House adversary and thereby increase their positions on this totem of travesties, or actual moles animated by a sense of civic morality - have exposed this administration as a marauding band of incompetent, unprincipled, self-mutilating posers.
You can’t transform mountebanks into menschen. Character is like concrete: You can make an impression when it’s freshly poured, in its youth, one could say, but when it sets, it’s impervious to alteration. Trump has always been vile, dishonorable and dishonest. That hasn’t changed even when draped by the history, majesty and pageantry of the presidency.
The leakers continue to reveal this fact and Trump’s fraudulence, something that has sent mini-Trump Scaramucci into a fit of pique. This is why Scaramucci said in his profanity-laced interview with The New Yorker: “What I want to do is I want to fucking kill all the leakers and I want to get the president’s agenda on track so we can succeed for the American people.”
But there seemed to be one target in particular of Scaramucci’s bloodlust: Chief of Staff Reince Priebus.
In that same New Yorker interview, Scaramucci said of Priebus, “Reince is a fucking paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac.” The reporter, Ryan Lizza, also wrote that Scaramucci said that Priebus will “be asked to resign very shortly.”
On Thursday on CNN’s “New Day,” Scaramucci compared his relationship with Priebus to that of infamous biblical brothers: “Some brothers are like Cain and Abel. Other brothers can fight with each other and get along. I don’t know if this is repairable or not. That will be up to the president.”
For the record, in the religious text Cain lures Abel into a field and kills him.
On Friday, as Scaramucci had foretold, Priebus was driven out as chief of staff. The accursed Cain wins again.
It is clear that Scaramucci is trying to create a work environment of terror and timidity in which no one will talk to reporters without fear of extreme retribution. Whatever little trust had survived among the White House staff has been trampled by Scaramucci’s arrival.
He is Trump’s mercenary, looking to pile up bodies on the White House funeral pyre. For Scaramucci, this is all about access, power and, oh yes, money. The only thing Scaramucci seems to care more about than what he makes is how people look - he oddly keeps making hair and makeup jokes, and he once asked, inappropriately and apropos of nothing, a female interviewer from New York magazine, “How old are you?” He continued: “You look good. No lines on your face. What are you, a Sagittarius?”
No, Mooch, she’s a professional, and the sign is “stop.” This man is what we used to call a “Satan in a Sunday hat.”
<CHARLES M. BLOW