I have refrained, until now, from commenting on what has become a spectacle on cable news, and more generally, of former Trump acolytes and attack dogs, namely Anthony Scaramucci and Joe Walsh, now turning on the president in harsh rhetoric that calls into question not only his fitness for office, but his general fitness of mind and morality.
The response from the press and the public has been what is to be expected. Both of these men make for good television, if by good television you mean bold statements uttered without irony. They can fill news cycles with no shortage of provocative source material and consequently hours of pundit pontificating. Meanwhile, many remember these men for the outrages they peddled over the years and thus react with understandable revulsion at what can easily be dismissed as naked self-interest.
I do not know what lies in these men’s hearts. And I don’t really care to judge their motives. The more important consideration is what do their roles in the drama of our times say about the larger political landscape. Are they just bit players to be ignored? After all, what they are saying has already been said by many. Or is there any reason to pay heed?
I would argue that what these men are saying is significant. And it doesn’t matter what drives them. If they are merely political opportunists, it only enhances the importance of their message. Because what their voices mean is that Donald Trump is losing the battle for the soul of this nation. That doesn’t mean he can’t win reelection. But it does mean that many who are reading the currents of history sense he occupies a place of weakness.
In a world where Donald Trump was winning, where his power was fearsome, where the future was bending to his will, I don’t think men like Walsh and Scaramucci would be betting their futures on calling him out. Look at how authoritarians throughout history have consolidated power and squelched dissent. President Trump is doing the opposite.
And in a world where criticism of Donald Trump was difficult to focus, amorphous, and without a strong foundation of truth, the lines of attack from these men would not land with such force and precision. They are further reinforcing many of the denunciations of President Trump that are defining his public image for tens of millions of Americans: his immorality, recklessness, corruption, narcissism, incompetence, and so on.
What newly minted antagonists like Scaramucci and Walsh are saying is that Donald Trump is deeply flawed and it’s not hard to point to countless reasons why.
Now, these men should not be allowed to crowd out other voices. They must answer for their previous statements. Their actions in the past and in the future should not be graded on a curve. But those who see themselves as the resistance, who are dismayed by what President Trump has done and fear deeply the damage yet to come, should be heartened by voices like Scaramucci and Walsh. They represent cracks in the foundational belief that this president will hold on to his base no matter what and that he is not bound by the realities of political physics. Perhaps these men have really had a change of heart and have, as they both have said, seen the damage of their past selves. But even if they are more like weathervanes spinning around their own axes of personal aggrandizement it still means the winds of fate for Donald Trump are shifting. And that is important.