The Media Today

The media today: Health-care drama; Scaramucci unloads

July 28, 2017

Sometimes, it does happen like in the movies. With the fate of Republican efforts, seven years in the making, to repeal Barack Obama’s signature piece of legislation hanging in the balance, John McCain strolled through a side door and into the well of the Senate, held out his hand, and gestured downwards, signaling a “no” vote that drew gasps in the chamber.

The Arizona senator, who returned to Washington on Tuesday just days after receiving a brain cancer diagnosis, joined with Maine’s Susan Collins and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski to sink a bill that would have rewritten one-sixth of the American economy. That bill, called the Health Care Freedom Act, was put forth just hours before voting began, leaving media organizations scrambling to describe what it contained. Throughout Thursday evening, reports varied over whether Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would be able to wrangle the votes necessary to get the bill through. That uncertainty continued into the early hours of Friday morning, as all eyes focused on McCain, who huddled with Vice President Mike Pence on the floor and then left the chamber to take a call from President Trump.

McCain, though, could not be swayed, and cheers briefly erupted from Senate Democrats as he signaled his deciding vote. Health-care reform appears dead for now, but rumors of its demise have been greatly exaggerated in the past. Below, more on last night’s dramatics.


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More news: What a communications director sounds like

While the Senate’s decision on health care is the most important story, the White House didn’t lack for its own drama last night. Anthony Scaramucci, the newly installed communications chief, provided what has to be the most shocking, bizarre, profane statement a comms professional has ever put on the record. If you haven’t, go read Ryan Lizza’s piece for The New Yorker right now.

Scaramucci, who was brought in to help get the president’s agenda on track, unloaded on Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, calling him “a fucking paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac.” Later in the conversation, while claiming that, unlike other advisers, he was not interested in building his profile, Scaramucci told Lizza, “I’m not Steve Bannon, I’m not trying to suck my own cock.” (Side note: Reporters go entire careers hoping to get one quote this good; Lizza got a dozen of them in a single phone call.)

Journalists have been writing stories about administration infighting since before Trump was even inaugurated, but never have internal tensions been pushed into public view this forcefully, or profanely. As reporters press the White House over factions battling for the president’s ear, Scaramucci’s words will make it impossible for anyone to claim with a straight face that the staff is united.

Beyond the vulgarities, Scaramucci also pressed Lizza to give up a source, telling the journalist, “You’re an American citizen, this is a major catastrophe for the American country. So I’m asking you as an American patriot to give me a sense of who leaked it.” When Lizza refused, Scaramucci threatened to “fire every one of them.”

The spectacular nature of the interview makes for easy joking, but Scaramucci is in a position of great power, and apparently has the president’s trust and support. Lizza provided a window into the way the new comms chief thinks, and the view was not reassuring. With the collapse of the health-care push, President Trump once again has to reset his agenda. Scaramucci will be by his side.

Below, reactions to Scaramucci’s tirade.

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Pete Vernon is a former CJR staff writer. Follow him on Twitter @ByPeteVernon.