Time for another episode of T.H.R.E.A.T (Trump Human Rights Erosion And Termination) Watch.
Anthony Scaramucci, one time Trump sycophant who lost his White House Communications Director job after 11 days because he was trying to out-Trump Trump, is not someone I normally take seriously. He's self-important, pompous, preening and generally obnoxious. But given the toxic political environment we live in, anyone who plays the role of canary in the coal mine is worth paying attention to.
Scaramucci tweeted out this warning Sunday.
No matter how loyal you try to be, Scaramucci warns, "Eventually he turns on everyone and soon it will be you and then the entire country."
It's Scaramucci's version of the famous lines:
First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
Except that he did speak out. In July when Trump tweeted that The Squad — freshman representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib — should go back to their own countries, Scaramucci called the attacks "racist and unacceptable." Then last week he said, on MSNBC of all places, it was a "catastrophe" for the president when he failed to show empathy during his visits to Dayton and El Paso after the two cities were torn apart by mass shootings.
That's what earned Trump's ad hominem Twitter attacks. The Debaser-in-chief expects Democrats and the media to say that kind of thing, but not members of his royal entourage. If they speak out, they will be punished.
I'm not praising Scaramucci's bravery here. He was playing small ball, criticizing Trump for targeting The Squad and not acting the role of Consoler in Chief. He didn't speak out against Trump's dangerous racist attacks on refugees, undocumented immigrants and the Latino community, and I don't remember hearing from him when Muslims were the president's targets. Besides, Scaramucci is a private citizen, not an elected official or a member of the media, so he didn't risk much. He's not likely to be harmed by Trump's scorn.
That said, his Sunday tweet was an important acknowledgement of how little room anyone has to criticize Trump, even when they are supporters. Especially when they are supporters. It took Scaramucci awhile to wake up to how dangerous it is when the country's leader demands unquestioning allegiance, but his statement is a clear warning to the nation.
Trump issued a warning with his anti-Scaramucci tweets as well, to his loyalists. "Support me no matter how vile, racist or wrong I may be," Trump reminded Republican office holders. "If you can't think of anything nice to say, just shut the hell up, or incur my wrath." They know he means it. They know he has the power to ruin their political careers.
Fox News knows Trump means it too. He has said in so many words he is upset that the network has been less than a perfect echo chamber. He even threatened to send his followers to a little known news channel which is a more perfect blend of Trumpist and Russian propaganda. Fox knows Trump will carry out his threat in a heartbeat if any of its on air personalities get too feisty.
Rather than cowering in the face of Trump's negative tweets, Scaramucci upped the ante. The next day he said he is "no longer an active supporter of President Trump and his reelection bid" and thinks Republicans should "consider a change at the top of the ticket." That sounds a whole lot like Scaramucci trying to out-Trump Trump once again, slugging back twice as hard as he is hit. But it's refreshing to watch someone on the Republican side who knows how to play the game.
It will be interesting, in the "We live in interesting times" sense of interesting, to see what happens next.
Will Scaramucci fall back in line? Will he shut the hell up? Or will he continue to put the screws to Trump?
Will other prominent Republicans decide it's time to speak out? (Mitt Romney, what the hell do you have to lose?) Or will they lockstep behind their leader and become even more subservient and obedient?