“I’m here to serve the country.”
In the hate-filled, profane, self-important rant of White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci to the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza, there were many appalling statements, but that was the one that stopped me cold.
We all know people who serve their country. They do so by putting on a uniform and fighting overseas, or joining the Foreign Service and representing us in foreign lands. They mentor a young person who needs guidance or take a foster child into their home or help build a house for a family in need. They run for school board or for Congress.
Or, yes, they accept a president’s offer to work in the White House. If they do so, it is with a sense of respect and humility, an understanding that the opportunity is a privilege. I’ve known communications directors and speechwriters and chiefs of staff who have served presidents of both parties. I’ve agreed with them sometimes, and sometimes disagreed; liked and admired some more than others; some may even have thrown a curse word my way once in a while. But never have I known one who felt anything but a sense of wonder and gratitude for the chance to serve at the apex of our democratic government.
And now this: a communications director who, before even unpacking his bags, is disparaging the president’s chief of staff as a “f—ing paranoid schizophrenic” and the president’s chief strategist as a man who is just “trying to suck [his] own c—.” A staffer who professes loyalty to the president but demeans the presidency and everything it stands for. Who tweets one thing, then retracts it and lies about what he meant.
You might say, what do you expect? This is the kind of person who will be hired by a president who boasts about grabbing “p—-,” mocks a disabled journalist, hijacks a Boy Scout rally, publicly humiliates his own attorney general — and yet dares call himself “more presidential” than Ronald Reagan, Franklin Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson or George Washington. And you would be right. Donald Trump is our president.
We accept that, but we don’t have to accept Scaramucci’s definition of service to the country, nor Trump’s understanding of what it means to act presidential. Trump is entitled to live in the White House, but it is not his house. It belongs to all of us. His staffers may sully it, but they cannot destroy the values it embodies.