Sean Spicer lasted a mere half-year as the White House press secretary, but that was plenty long enough to mortify himself. He began with that kooky, laughable lie about the unprecedented size of President Donald Trump’s inauguration crowd, and things didn’t pick up much from there. A punching bag for the administration, he became a punch line for much of America.
But who’s laughing now? Upon exiting his job he apparently had his pick of posh lecture-circuit agents, one of whom told Mike Allen of Axios that Spicer scoffed at the suggestion that he might be worth only $20,000 to $30,000 per speech, which is what other former press secretaries made. So he presumably bagged more than that for his first gig, speaking in front of an audience of investment bankers in Manhattan.
Oh, the juicy fruit of even an ephemeral fling with our fruitcake-in-chief. Ask Anthony Scaramucci. He was sent packing after just 10 profane and ignominious days as the White House communications director, and what do you suppose he did? Change his name and enter the political equivalent of witness protection? Retreat to a monastery for prayerful atonement until the shame dissipated?
No. The Mooch did not rechristen himself the Pooch, nor was there any penance. In lieu of a priest he found himself a publicist — a Hollywood bigwig whose list of clients includes the “Flip or Flop” star Tarek El Moussa, the singer Barry Manilow and the Jet Blue flight attendant who grabbed two frosty brews and waved a feisty adieu as he opened a mid-plane hatch and slid to freedom. Dignity lays little claim to many of the aides still in Trump’s employ. Why should it govern those in exile?
For decades, it has been customary for the former attendants of presidents and presidential candidates to cash in. The Clintons were a money train with no shortage of passengers, and Bill and Hillary themselves never shrank from turning political pain into financial gain. She’ll mint fresh millions from her new book, “What Happened,” and from engagements to promote it.
But the gold rush by some of the refugees from Trumplandia has a quickness and crassness all its own. I suppose that’s fitting. They got no loyalty from Trump, though he demanded it from them. They weren’t idealists in grateful thrall to some coherent vision or exalted principles that he was advancing. They were more or less flunkies for a bully whose top priorities have always been an immense fortune and immeasurable celebrity, though not necessarily in that order. Spicer and Scaramucci are paying their onetime boss the highest of compliments. They’re emulating him.
Corey Lewandowski, too. He didn’t have a particularly luminous résumé before Trump, and his year at the helm of Trump’s campaign was filled with fits of temper. He was even brought up on charges — later dropped — of manhandling a female journalist. But none of that hampered the swagger with which he opened his access-peddling, swamp-situated venture, Avenue Strategies. “A typical boutique lobbying firm might charge $10,000 to $15,000 a month,” my colleague Nicholas Confessore wrote about Avenue in the New York Times Magazine recently. “Avenue sometimes asked for as much as $50,000 a month.”
And let us never forget Mike Flynn, the epitome of the kind of barnacle that affixes itself to Trump. Even as Flynn was advising the Trump campaign on foreign policy, he was taking payments to represent Turkish interests. Why wait for a post-presidency windfall if you can engineer a pre-presidency one? It’s good that he struck while the iron was hot, because he now dwells in a frigid limbo on the far side of his days of White House service, which numbered all of 24. He’s weighed down by actual scandal, while Spicer and Scaramucci are weighed down only by their volitional debasement, and that’s apparently no drag at all.