Intimate Conversations with America’s Change-Makers
Burn the Boats is an award-winning podcast featuring intimate conversations with change-makers from every walk of life. Host Ken Harbaugh interviews politicians, authors, activists, and others about the most important issues of our time.
Anthony Scaramucci talks about his brief tenure as the White House Communications Director and his recent decision to denounce Trump, as well as his journey from working class to Goldman Sachs and the White House.
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Anthony Scaramucci: I thought differently of him then than I do today. Somebody could say to me, "Well, he's the exact same guy today as he was then, why did you think differently of him?" My response to that always is, well, he may be the exact same guy, but I'm not the exact same guy.
KH: I’m Ken Harbaugh, and this is Burn the Boats, a podcast about big decisions. On Burn the Boats, I interview political leaders and other history makers about choices they confront when failure is not an option.
My guest today, Anthony Scaramucci, grew up in a working class Italian family on Long Island, attended Harvard Law School and is the founder of the investment firm, SkyBridge Capital. He is among a growing chorus of Republicans who have come out to oppose Donald Trump and is the founder of Right Side PAC, an organization dedicated to electing Joe Biden in November. He is also the first White House official to have a unit of measurement named after him, the Scaramucci. Anthony, welcome to Burn the Boats. Great to have you.
AS: So we're all clear on the official scoring, Scaramucci is 11 days is not-
KH: Not 10.
AS: ... 10 days. Don't be hurting my feelings today. When the president was calling me an unstable nut job on Twitter, he himself said I was there for 11 days.
KH: Is unstable nut job the opposite of stable genius? I assume that's-
AS: I think so, I think so. There's a little bit of projection in that, but let me tell you something, when the president of the United States is calling you an unstable nut job, you have never felt more alive. Trust me on that.
KH: I want to ask you about that 11-day gap in your LinkedIn profile. Looking back on it, would you do it again?
AS: Yeah, listen, yes. I'm saying it qualified because there was a lot of pain and torture that came out of it. But the flip side of it is I learned so much about myself, I learned so much about the country, I learned a tremendous amount about Washington and how it works. I almost got an 11-day Ph.D. in Washington scumbaggery. And because of the high profile, I think I've met a lot of people, frankly, that I would never have met. So for all those reasons, yes. Was it one of the worst experiences of my life to be fired like that? It was. You learn a lot about yourself and you learn a lot about your sense of humor, and your resiliency when you go through something like that. But yes, it was brutal. Not that I would like to go through it again, but I'm very glad that I went through it.
KH: I want to dive into that, this idea of using that trauma as a growth opportunity because I got to be honest with you, afew people told me not to do this interview. “Anthony Scaramucci is an opportunist, he's using you”. And then I talked to people who know you well and they said, "He's a good guy, give him a shot." You yourself have said, “please leave room on the off ramp for those willing to admit their mistakes”.
AS: Yeah. well, listen, I mean, I get the whole opportunist rap. I mean, listen, if you look at somebody from a distance, I think this is why your podcast is so successful because you have a tendency to deep dive into people, really try to get to know the person. So, if you look at the superficial reality of things, I could see how I look like an opportunist to people and stuff like that. I have heard everything that you could possibly imagine. Being called an opportunist would be at the high end and the classy end.
KH: Well and you are an investor, right? Any investor who's not an opportunist is probably not doing their job.
AS: Well, look, I mean, yeah. But there's opportunism in a pejorative sense and there's opportunism obviously in entrepreneurial sense, but I don't want to get overly philosophical. But here's what I would say to you is that if you're coming from a blue collar background, you're hustling your way into Harvard, you don't really know anybody, you weren't in a prep school, you never hit a golf ball, you never swung a tennis racket, you're doing your first job entering Goldman in 100% polyester suit, where you're walking in fully flammable for the job interview and you're ill-prepared for that world. So you're having this huge rite of passage to get into that world. And then when you realize you're in the world, but you know what? The only way I'm going to be super successful is if I have my own business. So I'm just not going to fit in personality wise to these various clubs that are up and around Wall Street. So now you're in the business, how did I get involved with politics? I got involved with politics because I didn't have a network. So, I ended up joining Goldman, I had a desk and a telephone, I had to bring in high net worth individuals into the firm as a private banker. I didn't really have a network, and so my first check was to Rudolph Giuliani in 1989, when he was running for mayor. He lost that race, but then he introduced me to Governor Pataki. He won in '93 and now my network starts expanding in Republican Party politics. I was basically just a check writer and a check aggregator for the Republicans, I was not involved in politics at all. And then 2008 comes, one of my buddies from Harvard Law School knew Barack Obama super well. It's July of 2007, we're at the university club, and these guys asked me to write a check to Barack Obama, even though he was in Democrat. I said, "No problem." I had written checks to Democrats and I'm pretty much a centrist. I go to meet with then Senator Obama, I say, "Hey, I'm about to write you a big check." And then he looked at me, he said, "Well, I'll tell you what, if you double the amount of the check, we can take it right back to Hawaii." Okay. And then he gave you the Barack Obama smile, which I still maintain he has the best smile in American politics since Jack Kennedy.
KH: Did you double the check?
AS: I did double the check, and I actually went out and bundled for him-
KH: That's an expensive smile.
AS: Yeah. It was an expensive smile. And I was happy to do that because I thought he was going to represent a return of what I thought Bill Clinton ... Look, I'm a Republican, but I did vote for Bill Clinton in his second term because I thought he was doing a reasonably good job. Remember, he left us with a budget surplus at the end of his term. The great irony here is that the Democrats have actually become more fiscally conservative than the Republicans. So, I'm basically not that ideological. You have to remember, I was an establishment Republican working for Jeb Bush. Jeb lost, Donald Trump then pursued me, asked me to join his team. I met with him a few times, and then I decided to join his team. Why did I do that? Well, my critics could say, "Well, you did that because you're opportunistic," and so forth. I can understand that reasoning, but that's not why I did it. I did it because I'm a Republican and I thought I was being loyal to the party. Everybody in the party has taken a pledge that they'd support the eventual nominee.
I thought differently of him then than I do today. Somebody could say to me, "Well, he's the exact same guy today as he was then, why did you think differently of him?" My response to that always is, “well, he may be the exact same guy, but I'm not the exact same guy.” I think my experience and the humiliation of my firing and that being crushed into broken glass, if you will, and then having a series of people that actually don't know me, never met me, never did a business deal with me, tell people like you that I'm an opportunist and don't interview him under any circumstances, that's politics.
I've never really gotten overly lit up about what people think of me. My grandmother, it's a cliche, but I've had to use it a lot in the last three years- “what other people think of you is none of your business”, and so, she used to say that to us all the time. So, I had to live that and take that to heart over the last three years.
KH: You said in, I believe it was a Guardian profile, that “we grow up in a certain background with certain prejudices and biases, and you need earth shaking experiences sometimes to wake you up to what other people's realities are and what they're dealing with”. I want to-
AS: No question.
KH: ... I want to visit your backstory as you describe it, a blue collar upbringing, because it's part of what drew you to Trump. You've said that there were two candidates in 2016 who understood the plight of working class America, and they were Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. Tell us a little bit about growing up on Long Island-
AS: I mean, this is why your podcast is so successful because you do your homework, and I did say that and I do believe that. I'm going to tell you about a seminal moment in the campaign in a second, but let me give you the upbringing. My dad is from a coal mining family. He was born five miles from where Joe Biden and Secretary Clinton were born in the Wilkes-Barre - Scranton Area. He went to Plains High School in Scranton PA, it’s no longer there. He had a family of seven. They didn't have hot water in the house until he was about eight. It was a very poor family. My grandfather was a coal miner, he died early from black lung. My dad made his way to Port Washington, and he started on a stone dock as a labor. Worked 42 years there. He was interrupted for two years by being drafted into the U.S. Army. He was almost deployed in Korea, but got stuck in Louisiana. The war ended, thank God, and he returned home to Port Washington and went back to his job. Most of the career that he had was as a crane operator. It was a very good upbringing. We were definitely in the middle class. I would never dishonor my dad's work ethic by telling you that we were not in the middle class. We were also very fortunate that we were where there were pockets of affluence in Port Washington, where the school system was very, very good. But if you went to where I grew up, it was Italian masons, Italian crane operators, landscapers, sheet rock people, a few plumbers. There was nobody in the enclave that I grew up in that had actually gone to college. So my father was very keen on making sure his two sons and his daughter went to college.
This is a very funny story- my dad's weighing trucks on the construction site that he's from. There's a guy by the name of Billy Tomaso who comes to see him. He says, "Well, what about your two kids, where are they going to go to school?" My dad's like, "Well, they're going to college. They'll probably go to C.W. Post”, which is the local school. And then he says, "No. I went to a school called Tufts up in Boston. I would like to see your kids go there, let me help them out." My father comes home that night, He looks over at me and my brother, he says, "Well, you're not going to C.W. Post, you're going to a school called Tufts. It's spelled T-O-U-G-H-S, look it up and figure it out."
So my brother and I are like okay. My brother had that big phone book, He said, "Dad, it's spelled T-U-F-T-S and it's most selective. We are not getting into Tufts." My father said, "No, I think you're going to get into Tufts." My brother applied, got into Tufts. And then my father was a little bit like Henry Ford this way. He said I could go to any school I wanted, as long as it was Tufts. I said, "No problem." So I applied to three schools, by I ended up going to Tufts, I followed my brother there.
And then my dad did something for me that I will never, ever forget. I tell young kids about this all the time. He handed me in April 1982, a check for $10,000. I said, "Okay. Dad, what is this?" He said, "Well, I cashed out my life insurance policy." He had a $200,000 life insurance policy through the union that had some cash value in it. So he cashed it out, terminated the policy, got the cash value. It was $10,000, he gave it to me and he said to me, "That's really what I have to help you get through college." That was a big moment for me because I was a Long Island Guido. I had the gold chains, I was driving around in my Camaro. I was doing pushups in the parking lots of these discos before I’d walk in there. And that was a big moment. I was 18 years old, I was like, okay, this means so much to my dad. He cashed out his life insurance policy. I got to get my S-H-I-T together, and I've got to figure this out.
So Tufts was $26,000, including room and board. I got the 10 from my dad. I was working two or three jobs over the summer. I worked the entire time that I was at Tufts, hustled my way through pizza deliveries, newspaper deliveries, had all kinds of jobs going to help me get through the schooling, but it really changed my life. That was the first real epiphany for me, where I said, “okay, I'm going to really focus on my studies. I'm going to surprise everybody.” I graduated very high grades and then that was the entree to Harvard Law. When I got over to Harvard, it was another, again, a fish out of water over there, but that was a great education and a very valuable time for me.
Fast forward to 2016, I'm with then-candidate Trump in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It turns out to me, I'm having another epiphany. He's talking to the people that I left. He's talking to the people that didn't go to Tufts and Harvard, seven years at Goldman, built two successful hedge fund businesses - he's talking to my dad. He's talking to my dad that he is 35 or 40 years younger than my dad, but is now struggling to find a job in different parts of America.
I will never forget this, I crossed the security perimeter at my first Trump rally and I went into the crowd. I asked the younger gentlemen there, I said, "Sir, why are you here?" He said to me, "Well, I just lost my job. My dad was at this factory for 30 years, I was there for 12, they moved the factory to Mexico. I'm working at the Lowe's, the home improvement store and I'm delivering Domino's pizza at night. I'm really struggling. The town has been blighted by these job losses. Mr. Trump is a businessman, he's going to bring the jobs back."
I got back on the plane, we were flying out to California from Albuquerque, and I turned to Mr. Trump, I said, "Mr. Trump, if my dad had the same job today in 2016," - he retired in 2000 - "his real wages would be down 26.5% versus the 1960s, '70s and the early '80s. So the wages have been on a descending slope as lots of America is growing, lots of America is improving, but middle and lower middle class people are not. You're really onto something here in terms of tapping into these people, they believe in you."
And then I went to a few Bernie Sanders rallies, and I saw the same thing. That's why I said, they have different ideologies, but they are seeing a generation of Americans. My father, I would describe him as aspirationally blue collar. He was definitely somebody that believed in the American dream and pushed it on us. But I would say that people now in similar positions are economically desperational. So you're going from economic aspiration to economic desperation in about 35 or 40 years - that has to be fixed. If you want to mend the society and rebuild the social fabric in the society, that has to be fixed. So, that did draw me to president Trump. I said, okay, he's seeing this, the establishment on both sides has committed malpractice towards these people for three decades. It's now showing up in their angst and in their populism and the itinerant negative natures of nationalism.
KH: I'm glad I asked you about the backstory -
AS: I'm a little long winded, but I think it's important to now understand the back story because as I said in that Guardian interview, you are influenced by your upbringing.
KH: Yea. And I want to get a sense of how tethered you remain to that world you came from. I'm guessing you don't wear the polyester suits anymore.
AS: No. I’m in Briony now, I mean, that was an embarrassing moment. the Goldman partner said to me, "Hey man, you're a super smart kid, I want to give you a shot, but you are the worst dressed person that we've met at the Harvard Law School." I remember calling my mother and my mother said, "What the hell is he talking about? You look great." I mean, she had no idea, I had no idea. And then after that embarrassing moment, I made a decision. I'm going to spend a lot of money on clothing because it would help out. I'm in Briony and Normani now, but back then, I didn't know better. But you asked me about being tethered to that upbringing. I'm talking to you right now two miles from my parent's home, my cousins are still in the area. One of my cousins is a clammer, one owns a deli, one is an auto glass installer, that's my family. We got a lot of people in my family cause we're Italian named Anthony. So you've got Anthony pizzeria, you got Anthony auto glass. I happen to be Anthony hedge fund on Christmas Eve. I mean, it's a no bull Italian family. So when the president of the United States is going after my wife, this entire area, he's done, there’s no ifs ands or buts. But you don't go after people's wives, not even the mob does that.
You go up to Rayos, and some of the May guys will turn to me and say, "Yeah, I don't understand why he would go after your wife. You gave him a million dollars, you raised money for him, you supported them." I got fired and look at the record. For two years, I was trying to support him and be helpful. But once he went after my wife, I said, “okay, this guy's full blown crazy. I mean, he's not going to make it come”. Remember I defected in July last year, go look at his poll numbers. Those were the highest poll numbers that he had. Everyone said, "100%, he's going to get reelected." I said, this guy's batshit crazy, he's not going to get reelected.
KH: I want to help you out here because you actually began your pivot a little before he launched those attacks against your wife in August 2019 when he began to attack the Squad. We'll get to that in a minute. But I want to dwell on the Anthony Scaramucci story a little bit longer because you come from a big Italian family full of people who fix things, who make things. I mean, your dad turned sand into concrete, which built New York. And your place in all this then is to head off to law school. I understand that this is going to perhaps seem a little bit hypocritical coming from a fellow law grad, but you're not in the business of feeding people or fixing things. You show up at Goldman Sachs in a polyester suit and join an industry that I got to imagine a lot of people in your orbit, in your upbringing wouldn't intuitively understand, especially when you have people like Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman saying that Goldman Sachs' workers are among the most productive in the world. How does that sit with you, as someone who came from the world you came from, do you reflect upon the value of work a little bit differently? Is an hour of your time really worth 1,000 times more than an hour of your dad's time -
AS: Okay. You’re getting into something- this is going to be very philosophical and I'm long winded. So, I'm going to try to do my best to truncate it. But you have to understand about the mechanisms of capitalism. We can talk about the society and the system, and then we can say, okay, does the system need to be re-engineered for the 21st century? I'll make the stipulation that the answer is, yes, it has to be re-engineered. But you have to remember, I'm born in the 1960s, I'm 56. I was born into an explosion for America where a lot of blue collar people like my dad were getting very high wages. So, they had lived very well in the American suburbs.
Henry Ford, a despicable guy, racist guy, we know all that, but he was actually a very practical social engineer. He said to people, "Well, I'm paying my workers enough money, so that they can buy the car that they're producing and they can live in a single family house somewhere in one of these areas where the factories are. Oh, by the way, I'm going to make sure there's a good public school system there so their kids can do well. I don't want these people descending upon my mansion in Dearborn, Michigan with pitchforks and Tiki torches."
KH: Bring us to the present, Anthony, because I think this speaks to what you were getting at about the grievance among working class Americans, the idea that the system is not working for them.
AS: Yeah. What ended up happening was we lost that social construction. And then we started going for every man is himself and for himself. That's why you've seen this rampage of greed. You've actually seen something that I'm very concerned about which is the rise and ascent of monopoly power. Teddy Roosevelt wouldn't have stood for that. They were breaking monopolies in ancient Rome. So we're there again. We've had this rise of new robber barons, consolidation of power, consolidation of corporate structure and an actual indifference to the working class. What I would say to my fellow capitalists is you should really fix that because if you don't fix it, the government's going to try to fix it. You're not going to like the outcome that the government is going to provide.
Now, having said that, if you're asking me where we are right now, we have to create a flatter bed of equal opportunity for people. The educational system is uneven, the infrastructure is uneven, the investment that we're making in our youth is unbelievably uneven. So, if you want to stop and rebuild the society, then we need 10, 15 or 25 year plans. The current crop of politicians really only care about their personal power. They only really care about, how are they going to gerrymander themselves into place, suppress the voters of people that are not like them, increase the voters of people that are like them and beat the living daylights out of each other on cable news. We have no 10-year plan for infrastructure, education or jobs training.
KH: I agree with your political diagnosis, but your economic diagnosis focusing on monopoly, I think, does not address that totally perverse assignment of value within our society, especially in light of COVID-19 where we come face to face every day with the value of a worker who risks their lives to bring us groceries or to care for our parents. How do we fix a system that gives that person $15 an hour or less, and someone like you $15,000 an hour?
AS: Well, listen, it’s way more than $15,000 an hour. What I would tell you is that when you're working with capital and just study capitalism, you're working with capital, you're paying it off of the capital. I'm not saying you're confusing things but I'm just trying to explain something to you, I chose a job where I'm working with capital, so now I'm getting paid off of the capital.
KH: I understand how it works.
AS: So therefore, if I chose a labor job, I'm working off of my hourly wages. Let me give you an example. You're a lawyer, you said, so if we were working as lawyers, we get billable hours. But if I own assets, now I'm getting paid off the assets. You see what I'm saying?
KH: Sure. I'm making a systemic critique, not-
AS: Yes, okay. But you have to make it fairly. So, what I would say to you is if we were being practical, and we actually wanted to save the society, we would need to focus on what Andrew Yang is talking about. You want to talk about a platform of equal opportunity, you have to figure out a way to get healthcare to everybody. And then you have to figure out a way to get everybody a piece of the action through universal base income. But what you can't do is you can't say to the guy, "Well, look, all I want to do is X, Y, Z." Whatever that job is, I don't want to say it because I don't want to make anybody think I’m making a job menial and trivial, or- and I don't want to pay Jeff Bezos what he's making, because maybe you want to attack Jeff Bezos more, but you certainly don't want to destroy what he's making because he's adding a lot of value to the society with what it is that he's doing. We can have a debate about his net worth and all that other stuff, but the truth of the matter is, you don't necessarily want to cap people's outcomes because then you'll ruin their drive and their attempts at innovation. That's one of the hallmarks of the success of the American system. What's fractured is we're not bringing everybody with us. But you're never going to pay the ditch digger or my dad, the crane operator, as much as you're paying Jeff Bezos. You're not going to do that.
KH: For those who can-
AS: But should they be paid more? The answer is yes.
KH: All right. That's what I want to get to.
AS: The people in those jobs that you're describing, should they be paid more? The answer is yes. Am I a supporter of the $15 minimum wage? Yes.
KH: How about UBI? You invoked Andrew Yang.
AS: I am a supporter of UBI. And I'm going to tell something to my conservative friends that hate UBI because they don't really understand it. If you read JS Mill on Liberty or John Locke, my conservative friends, these enlightened sanctimonious pricks- if you read those people, you will understand that universal income is actually providing exactly what they wanted. If you study the Western canon of individuality and liberty and individualism, you're giving everybody irrespective of their origin or their birth or their skin color or whatever, you're giving them a fighting chance to make it in the society, to live the arc of their own individuality. There's nothing more conservative than that. And oh, by the way, you sanctimonious pricks, your deficit spending is out of control. It's worse than any critique that you've made over 35 years of any Democrat. Go look at Jimmy Carter’s deficit spending or Bill Clinton's deficit spending or, by the way, Barack Obama, he had high deficits in the beginning as we were trying to heal the economy, but he brought the deficit down. The irony is the Democrats are more fiscally conservative than the Republicans. The Republicans are off the reservation right now.
KH: Largely due to Trumpism, you believe?
AS: 1,000%. No, he's hijacked the party and he's done something that I never thought could be done because I thought most people stood on some level of principle, he subverted all their principles. He's also used high school and middle school bullying methodology to scare the bejesus out of all these people. He's got them scared to the daylights. And then if you read about demagoguery and you read about the subversion of democracies through demagoguery and fear and intimidation, then it starts to make sense. But you say to yourself as an American, how could that happen here? Now, the good news though is the institutions of our democracy are very, very strong. The fact that the institutions of our democracy are rejecting very large parts of Trumpism, his next move is to go full-on racist, full-on nativist and then full-on voter suppression. Those are the moves to try to keep him in power. The great irony of this whole conversation is Trump is actually bringing us together. He just happens to be bringing us together against him. That's what's going on right now.
KH: We've got to talk about your conversion and the fact that, in the spirit of bringing people together, it somehow allied you and me, at least in this cause. August of 2019, what did Trump do that crossed the line for you and why didn't you speak up sooner?
AS: Well, let me get to the, “why didn’t I speak up sooner”. I was actually speaking up in a more of a surgical way. You can find videotape of me on CNN disagreeing with child separation. You can find videotape of me disagreeing with the disavow of the intelligence agencies. I wrote an op-ed in April 2019, “Mr. President, the press is not the enemy of the people”. You can find that on thehill.com. So I was trying to be supportive, but I was also trying to say, “hey, you're going off the reservation with some of these ideas, they're not helpful to the ideals of America”. And then when the Squad situation came about, I was like, “okay, this is full-on racism”.
KH: Call out for us. He said “go back”.
AS: There are four women- by the way, I don't agree with the four women ideologically, I'd love to debate them, but they're entitled to their views, that's what makes us America. I would rather debate them in the free marketplace of ideas than tell them to go back to the country that they originally came from-
KH: It's not just that they're entitled to their views, they're entitled to their patriotism, to their love of the country.
AS: No question.
KH: Speak to that, especially with your background.
AS: Their love of country cannot be questioned. I'm very impressed with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. I may not agree with her on everything. She's a super hard worker, she's a very proud woman. I don't agree with her on everything, but I'm saying to you, she was born here. So of the Squad, three of them were born here, one was naturalized as a citizen. All four were democratically elected to our Congress. This guy is writing from the Oval Office, “go back to the countries you originally came from”. So my grandmother used to be very upset about this. She got here at age 18. She came through Ellis Island. There were no jobs in Brooklyn for her. “No Italians need apply”, “NINA”. So she became a maid. She was turning people's beds and she was fixing their homes. So that I could live my share, my piece of the American dream. She used to be very upset that racist nativists would tell her to go back to the country she originally came from. I am not going to disavow my heritage by supporting that nonsense. So I’m on the Bill Maher Show, we're talking, I was being supportive of the president on certain economic policy, certain things he's doing with China. Bill then asked me, "Well, what about the Squad?" I disagree with that. I think it's racist. I think he should stop doing that. And then the next day, boom, he started attacking me and then I started attacking him. Then he called me an unstable nut job. So then I hit him a few more times and then he stopped hitting. He couldn't take the sub tweets of mine on CNN which was eviscerating him. So he's like, “oh shit, I better not raise the volume here with this guy because he doesn't care, he's coming lights out for me”.
KH: You have said, it's not enough to beat Trump in November. He has to be knocked over the ropes into the first row of seats?
AS: Yes. He has to be completely and fully humiliated.
KH: That's not about him though, right? That's about something larger, that's about Trumpism.
AS: Yes, that's about Trumpism, that is about Trumpism and demagoguery. There's no place for demagoguery in the American system. What we have, unfortunately, is a bunch of cowards in most places in our political system. What we find is, you got Mitt Romney and 52 other clowns. And so they have to be shunted and they have to be humiliated. Once they're humiliated, there'll be a comeuppance and, if you're a Democrat listening to this, you need a two-party system at a minimum because you need to have the sharpening of the ideas, a circulation of people to prevent full-on corruption and bribery. You need all of that, so you need the Republicans that come back to a normal point in the political spectrum, not this outlandish Trumpism and this hijacking of that party. The only way to heal that party is you've got to get those people that are on the stump for Trump right now like the zombies in Game of Thrones, once the Night King is taken out, they’ll dematerialize. There are guys right now, I guarantee, going “I wasn't really that supportive of him”. Look at the arc of these people. I wrote about this in the Washington Post when John Bolton was going through it. I said, “hey, John, welcome to life under the Trump bus”, because you have this arc. When I was working for Bush, I denounced him. Then he got the job, I tried to like him. And then you say, “okay, there's no way to like this guy” and now I'm back to denouncing him. Every single person goes through that arc. General Kelly went through that arc, General Mattis went through that arc, Secretary Tillerson went through that arc. Lindsey Graham is at the top of the arc right now, but he's coming down. He called him a demagogue and a bully and a bigot and a racist. Now he's Mr. Sycophant.
KH: I guess the problem is, that arc is possible for people who get to see the real Donald Trump. But for those folks on the other side of the security line that you met with, their perspective about Trump is not shaped by actual experience with the man, it's shaped by Fox News. Are they going to get enough of the truth to be able to wind up on the curve that you're on and have the veil pulled from their eyes?
AS: It's a great observation by you and you have to give every one of those people a pass because they're struggling in their own lives. As I've said to members of the Biden campaign, you have to convince these people that you're going to advocate for their causes. If you get the right messages out there to those people, they will disavow Trump. There's a cult-like thing around him right now because they feel that they don't have a choice. If you ask those people straight up in a bar, they say, "yeah, well, what are my choices? At least he's going after the press, he's going after the elites. I’m an anti-elitist, he's an anti elitist." We have to fix it from the ground up. Trump didn't fix it. Trump tweets and Trump says nonsense and Trump divides. He didn't sit down and say, "okay, here is a blueprint to rebuild America and to renew the American dream for a very large group of people." He didn't do that. He's out there throwing mud at people. So he's not your answer. Now, is Joe Biden the answer? Listen, he's a better answer than Donald Trump. Unfortunately in our system, you only get two choices for the top job.
KH: Well, Anthony, it's been great having you on the show. I really appreciate your perspective from a kid who was delivering papers on Wednesdays to a partial owner of the New York Mets. Thank you so much-.
AS: First of all, I'm very grateful you brought me on. Thank you. If your friends that are listening, they think I'm an opportunist, that's great too. Let's go have a cup of coffee with them. But in the meantime, let's defeat this son of a bitch. Then we can start arguing again like we used to.
KH: We end every show with the same question, it’s what Burn the Boats is built on: what is the bravest decision you've ever been a part of or witnessed?
AS: Well, I mean, it's not that dramatic. But the first boat burning that I did was in Thanksgiving weekend of 1996, I was 32 years old. My net worth was zero because I had just paid off all of my school debt, I had a mortgage on my house. I left Goldman Sachs where I was getting paid a ridiculous amount of money. So, people thought I was absolutely crazy to leave. I went from making seven figures plus to zero to start my own business as a registered investment advisor and as a small hedge fund manager. And I was absolutely panicked and I got myself sick from stress over that weekend. I had almost like a flu the first day that I started. It's not that dramatic, right, I got through it. I built two reasonably successful companies, but I just want to let you know the fear. Your listeners listen for a reason because they want to burn their own boats, they want to get through that fear. So all I can tell you is that once you get through that fear, no matter what happens, it's very, very liberating. I try to live my life by the remarkable words of Mel Brooks. Can we end it on this? This is one-
KH: Let's do it.
AS: ... of my greatest quotes. I tell my children this and certainly when I was getting blown out of the White House and humiliated on the international stage of media, Mel Brooks has one of the best lines ever. “Relax, none of us are getting out of here alive.” Isn't that a beautiful one?
AS: When you stop and you put everything into perspective, go for your dreams in life, try to actualize yourself as the person that you are, take the risks. Even though I got blown from the White House, as you asked me, I'm happy I went through the experience. It's made me wiser and smarter and I've met more people. Maybe I wouldn't have been on this podcast if that didn't happen. So, my point is, that's the boat burning. You got to live through your fear and your self-consciousness and your fear of failure and what other people think of you. Set the goddamn boat on fire, you're going to have a much more interesting life.
KH: Thanks, Anthony. Words to end on, it's been great having you.
AS: Thank you for having me. I really appreciate it.
KH: Thanks again to Anthony for joining me. You can find him on Twitter at @Scaramucci.
Next time on Burn the Boats, I’m talking to Representative Cheri Bustos, congresswoman from Illinois’ 17th District and chair of the DCCC - the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Cheri talks about the values that women bring to leadership, about her experience winning as a Democrat in a district that also voted for Trump and what that can teach the party going into the election and hopefully a post-Trump future. We recorded the conversation the week after Congressman John Lewis passed away, so Cheri also takes a moment to pay tribute to him.
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Burn the Boats is a production of Evergreen Podcasts. Our producer is Isabel Robertson. Audio engineer is Sean Rule-Hoffman. Special thanks to Evergreen executive producers Joan Andrews, Michael DeAloia, and David Moss.
I’m Ken Harbaugh and this is Burn the Boats, a podcast about big decisions.