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Life After Trump Can Be a Lucrative Business

Anthony Scaramucci is on TMZ and ‘The View.’ Sean Spicer is on a Hollywood redemption tour. In Trumpland, even the exiles can become stars.  

Sean Spicer, Hillary Clinton, and Anthony Scaramucci Getty Images/Ringer illustration

In July, Anthony Scaramucci briefly ran the White House communications department. On Monday—49 days after Scaramucci’s dramatic dismissal from the Trump administration—he hosted TMZ Live. “The president is a television consumer,” Scaramucci told the feisty TMZ newsroom. It is only natural that Scaramucci, whom Trump hired on the strength of his cable-news presence, would resurface right where Trump would see him—yapping about Tom Brady on daytime TV.

Later this week Scaramucci will cohost “Guy Day Friday” on The View, which Trump is as likely to be watching as any other stay-at-home dad. Scaramucci is a hyperactively telegenic man, a real charmer, and so it comes as no surprise that he has rehabilitated himself quickly enough that it’s tough to draw the line between when his White House tenure ended and his entertainment career began. Soon, Scaramucci expects to launch a news website, the Scaramucci Post, which he has taken to promoting with characteristic enthusiasm on Twitter. Unlike Steve Bannon, who runs the news website Breitbart as an alt-right bastion, Scaramucci courts a diverse following among media types and assorted admirers; a post-Trump fandom all his own. For Scaramucci, there is life after Trumpland. It’s quite possibly his best life.

Scaramucci won’t be the last Trump loyalist to seek the media’s loving embrace after exile. Trump’s first White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, a disgraced propagandist who has now embarked on a minor apology tour, stepped out at the Emmys this past weekend to perform a prime-time bit to conclude host Stephen Colbert’s opening monologue. Spicer wheeled himself to center stage on a rolling lectern, which he mounted as a chariot, as homage to Melissa McCarthy’s acclaimed, bombastic impersonation of Spicer throughout the latest season of SNL. He told The New York Times that Colbert proposed the routine to him through back channels, and an unnamed source close to the Emmys told the Times that Colbert designed Spicer’s cameo “as both a joke at the expense of Mr. Trump and a way to poke fun at Mr. Colbert, too.” It is unclear how Spicer’s routine, which wasn’t particularly scathing, might have cost Trump anything. It seemed primarily designed to demonstrate Spicer’s good humor while mending his reputation.

If there’s any vigorous anti-Trump fervor among Hollywood’s elite, you wouldn’t have guessed it from watching the smiles and applause during Spicer’s turn at the mock lectern. Alec Baldwin, who posed for a photograph with Spicer at the ceremony, told a reporter backstage, “Spicer obviously was compelled to do certain things that we might not have respected, we might not have admired, we might have been super critical of, in order to do his job. But I’ve done some jobs that are things that you shouldn’t admire or respect me for either. So he and I have that in common, I suppose.” In rare form for an actor who has cursed out any number of colleagues, journalists, and family members, Baldwin offered a charitable assessment of the spokesman for a president whom the actor has described as “a senile idiot.”

It is hardly surprising that Hollywood figures such as Colbert, Baldwin, and James Corden, who smooched Spicer’s cheek backstage, would embrace Trumpian figures so effusively. Political extremism aside, all of these men seem to primarily regard one another as entertainers. Four months ago, the popular video essayist Jay Smooth predicted as much in a Twitter video that many viewers shared immediately following Spicer’s cameo at the Emmys. “A few years in the future,” he says, “Sean Spicer and/or people like him are going to go on a press tour where they bare their souls about how ridiculous Donald Trump was behind the scenes and how hard it was to work with him.” Spicer did not wait “a few years” to endear himself to the media with such a self-effacing pivot. By comparison, Hillary Clinton took 10 months off between losing to Trump and rehabilitating herself in the press with a book tour. Between his final day at the White House and his reemergence at the Emmys, Spicer gave us fewer than three weeks.

Inevitably, many of Trump’s year-one loyalists will engineer lucrative, post-Trump careers for themselves. From G. Gordon Liddy through Steve Bannon, U.S. politics has long rewarded even the most disgraceful operatives with quaint stardom. Scaramucci and Spicer will do so without suffering much resistance for their having previously, however briefly or (now) repentantly, abetted the recent rise of white nationalism in U.S. politics. They’ve been all smiles this week. Which isn’t to suggest that all of Trump’s loyalists will live happily ever after. Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and the disgraced national security adviser Mike Flynn both face possible indictment in special investigator Robert Mueller’s ongoing Russia probe. But Spicer is one of the fortunate ones who escaped without criminal implication, brimming with the inherent promise of a book deal now that he might speak freely. Among the professional class, it seems there are few, sporadic consequences for white nationalism: Fame and royalties are somehow more certain than indictments. Following Spicer's August departure from the White House, he is touring the trade-conference circuit as a paid speaker, which is a conventional return to private practice as far as political consultancy goes. If this year’s Emmys show is the last we see of Spicer in Hollywood, we’ll be lucky.

Scaramucci’s star turn is an especially Trumpian spectacle, performed by a one-man Trump cover band. Here’s a guy—a political rookie—who envisioned the White House as a Trump fan club, only to get himself ejected for being far too impulsive, too vulgar, too rabid—too much like Trump himself. Scaramucci has leapt to pure entertainment, bringing Trumpism full circle back to its tabloid origins. Scaramucci stuck around just long enough to assert himself as a zany, renegade player in the grand Trump saga; but he left quickly enough to distance himself from the most reprehensible episodes that have occurred during the Trump administration, such as Charlottesville and the executive order temporarily banning refugees and blocking travel from seven majority-Muslim countries. Spicer was in deep; Scaramucci was out quick. But the two men have this much, in addition to a former boss, in common: They will continue to star in Trumpland long after their respective terminations, and long after the bully pulpit where Sarah Huckabee Sanders now stars comes crashing down.