Donald Trump dismissed his crude jokes about assaulting women as “locker room talk.” His new Communications Director, Anthony Scaramucci, explained that his obscene tirade about his colleagues in the White House was just “colorful language.” They want us to think it’s just boys being boys, a couple of bros who are unused to the subtler cadences of diplomacy and express themselves with passion that demonstrates authenticity and a connection to ordinary people. They want us to believe this is evidence of strength.
Baloney. (See? It is possible to find a word that perfectly expresses refutation of the assertion and disdain for those who assert it without a single explicative.)
Indeed, this posturing is the exact opposite of toughness and honesty. This is how a man pretends to be tough although he explained that avoiding sexually transmitted diseases was ”my Vietnam” after he got four deferments for bone spurs in his heel. This is a simulation of toughness from armchair quarterbacks who want you to think they know more about catching a football than the quarterback does. This is what they call in Texas “all hat and no cattle,” or what my mother used to call “all bark and no bite.” It reveals a President who is weak, terrified, and panicking. This is a man who once tried to trademark the sentence, “You’re fired” but is now so afraid to say it that he resorts to ugly tweets about his Attorney General, hoping to shame him into quitting.
Adding Anthony Scaramucci as the new Communications Director means that the White House is now essentially: “Jersey Shore: Washington.” “Mooch” likes to mention that he graduated from Harvard Law School to show that he’s smart almost as much as he reminds us of his Long Island background to show that he’s a regular bro, with the “colorful” vocabulary to prove it. And so he has been called “a human pinkie ring” and a “human tanning bed.”
These actually play into his presentation of himself as a straight-talking bro. But the most important issue is not the lack of imagination or decorum of his language. It is his terrible judgment in using that language to insult and harass his colleagues. Even a bro should understand that anyone in the White House will be subject to constant scrutiny by the press. And any Communications Director should know that if you place a call to a reporter and do not preface your remarks with an “off the record” it will all be recorded and printed, as happened with Scaramucci’s macho posturing rant to Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker. Scaramucci demonstrated his unfitness for the job as a matter of character, judgment, and understanding within hours of being named.
It has been disheartening to see people like Rience Priebus and Sean Spicer abandon reputations as careful, credible, and knowledgeable to join Team Trump, only to be continually sidelined, confined, and undermined. It is even more disheartening to see the few people in the administration with a past record of dignity and integrity pushed out for a loudmouth mini-me who thinks America is just another hedge fund or real estate deal, to be managed with threats and boasts. We are now in a bro-tocracy, and here are its hallmarks:
Insisting on a distorted notion of “loyalty” that only works one way, to the leader, never from the leader. A confident, capable leader welcomes questions and criticism. In his neglected gem pre-”West Wing” series, “Sports Night,” Aaron Sorkin had a boss say, “It’s taken me a lot of years, but I’ve come around to this: If you’re dumb, surround yourself with smart people. And if you’re smart, surround yourself with smart people who disagree with you.” The corollary is the Emperor’s New Clothes — weak leaders surround themselves with people who tell them how beautiful their invisible clothes are, and how big their inaugural crowds were, and how they really won the popular vote.
Bragging: constantly reminding everyone of how important/powerful/intelligent/strong you are. It is hard to understand how anyone could think that this could persuade anyone. And yet, bros not only tell you with words how great they are; they insist on ridiculously superficial external indicators like glittery and expensive toys and glittery and expensive wives.
Contempt for integrity, thinking anyone can and should be bought or threatened into obedience. Financial journalist Heidi N. Moore wrote in the Washington Post about Wall Street subjects and sources who treat the press as just another victim to be bullied. She points out that thuggish techniques are not as damaging in the world of finance as they are in government. “Politics is communal and built on co-dependency. Finance is different. It is individualist and zero-sum.” President Trump has shown us that he still does not understand the essential checks and balances foundation of our democracy, treating Congress and the Senate as underperforming operating divisions in a conglomerate.
Rules are for chumps. When Jared Kushner tried to establish a “back channel” with Russia, he wasn’t trying to be James Bond. That is just the way people in his world do business. They establish their willingness to cooperate with small gestures like giving out their private cell phone numbers so that they can be brutally tough or break their promises where it really counts. Remember in the Presidential debate when President Trump strangely told his opponent he would call her Secretary Clinton and he said, “Is that OK? Good. I want you to be very happy. It’s very important to me?” I believe for a moment he almost forgot where he was and just went on automatic pilot, falling into his business negotiating pattern of trying to make it seem that he cares about making the person on the other side of the table feel that it’s a partnership. President Trump’s constant, mind-boggling violation of the written and unwritten standards for ethical conduct show that he believes the rules do not apply to him. He promised rallies full of cheering voters in MAGA hats that he would drain the swamp. He has replaced it with a toxic waste dump.
Homework is for chumps, too. President Trump apparently does not know the difference between life insurance (the kind in FOX commercials), and health insurance. His number one priority has been repeal and replace of Obamacare, and yet he does not seem to understand the most fundamental concepts of how it works or how it can be improved. He also seemed “especially confused” by the core elements of the Trumpcare proposal he was trying to get passed and did not know that it was based on a massive tax cut for billionaires. There is no evidence that he knows or cares what is in the bill, only that he wants something passed so he can call it a “win.”
Expertise is for nerds. Why should bros have to consult with nerds in lab coats? Like perpetual middle school alpha males telling their advisors they won’t need math because there are calculators, they do not seem to recognize that calculators are invented by people who do math and medicine is invented by people who do science, both disciplines (not a word bros like to hear) that are based on empirical proof. Bros know that if you do not like reality, you can just call it fake news or replace a Nobel Prize-winning scientist in a job that oversees the handling of nuclear materials with a man who flunked chemistry. What could go wrong?
Blame everyone else It’s never the bro’s fault. Whatever it is, it’s always someone else, like the administrative assistant who prematurely filed Jared Kushner’s disclosure forms before he remembered to add meetings with Russians and millions of dollars in financial holdings, even though those very forms insist that they be reviewed and certified by the individual 28 times. His father-in-law has blamed just about everyone for his failures, most preposterously the Senate Democrats for holding up nominees he has not yet named. (Note: even if they were named and the papers submitted, the Democrats could not hold them up because the Republicans have the majority. You may have read about it in the papers.) He blamed President Obama, who warned him about Mike Flynn, for not warning him about Mike Flynn. Pretty soon, even his most die-hard defenders will become impatient with his inability to accept any responsibility for his broken promises and failures of judgment and character.
Call it a win. When all else fails, a bro will just insist that this was how he wanted it to happen. Maybe our best hope is that one morning President Trump will just tell us he won and go back home, where he can bro out as much as he likes.
Originally published at www.huffingtonpost.com on July 31, 2017.