I am now a single handshake away from The President of the United States.
The nonchalance of the Cambridge bubble is baffling to me.
Indeed, I shook hands with Anthony Scaramucci, former WH Communications Director and American financier/entrepreneur. I was fortunate enough to chat with him at the Union bar after the main event.
The tickets to the Scaramucci event at the Cambridge Union were hard to get hold of. The event was full in almost 30 minutes of the first ticket ballot. Upon reflection, Scaramucci was kind enough to sit through two consecutive events, each an hour long.
Unlike the Oxford Union, the Cambridge Union was in for a surprise. Some of the students gasped, given the distasteful untruths written about Mr Scaramucci’s personal life. Antisemite Scaramucci’s stunning Jewish wife Deidre Ball made a stylish entry.
Mrs Scaramucci was dressed in sand hued skinny jeans and a mulberry maroon off-the-shoulder top with a chokeresque neckline. Her makeup was glam but simple: she opted for smokey eyes and a nude lip. Her streaked blonde hair was admired by many, and her jewellery was elegant.
Deidre watched her husband in action at the Union, and even mingled with students before and after smiling away. I would have been sitting next to her, however, one of the more opportunistic members of the Union team removed me ruthlessly insisting the seat was “reserved”.
Curiosity killed the cat — it seems our current culture is so curious about every dimension of a person’s natural behaviour that they sometimes forget to look at the whole. I write this as my all-female college at Cambridge hosts a debate on gender.
The talk of the town has been nonstop dissection of Anthony Scaramucci. On the way to the Union, two male students debated the Mooch’s “true nature”: one didn’t mind the Mooch much, but the other fervently insisted he has an ego the size of our planet, ergo, he is bad.
Few who were not able to secure tickets have since asked me, “Apparently Scaramucci was super cocky, wasn’t he?” My reply: super confident, yes. Super cocky…well no. Asserting ones strengths isn’t cockiness, and crying about life isn’t humility.
In fact, in my books, Mr Scaramucci had this intrinsic humility about him. He offered to do two events to accommodate more people, and even hung out with us students afterwards at the Union bar sharing his nuggets of wisdom for almost 2 hours.
The Mooch’s main wisdoms about life were as follows:
- be yourself
- be true to yourself
- don’t worry about other people’s opinion about you
- be happy
- don’t look down on people
- don’t forget where you came from
- wake up in morning with utmost gratitude because you are not living in dire poverty like more than half the world’s 7b population
- competition is great but don’t become a bitter person while at it
- sell yourself without selling your soul (Chapter 14 of his book)
A few students sniggered behind me. Surely all this is too simplistic, they scoffed. And it probably highlights the American way of communication vs. the British way. As Brits, we value reservedness and pungent cynicism, whereas Americans tend to value openness and warmth.
Dare I say it: if a Hollywood celebrity had said the same things, most students would be rejoicing. Career yogis give us all kinds of motivational highs and charge for it. The Mooch didn’t charge extra for spreading positivity.
What students did however pay for was White House gossip. Why were you fired? Did you feel sad about being fired? Do you actually like Trump? Is Trump a good guy? Is Trump for real? Is Steve Bannon bad?
Scaramucci openly spoke about his falling out with Steve Bannon, stating Bannon has somewhat of a “Messiah complex”. He said the difference between Bannon and other bad guys is that Bannon is actually smart. I will leave it to both these political entrepreneurs to resolve their dispute (or not) between themselves.
One American student insisted that all Americans outside the US are suffering because of Trump’s remarks and asked the Mooch how he would have helped if he was still Communications Director. It was a good question, since his role was to help communicate Trump admin. policy to America and beyond.
However, I have yet to find anybody haranguing Americans in Cambridge, or the UK, or elsewhere for that matter. Truth is, nobody cares about your background here. You come here to travel, work, or study, not as a representative of your domestic government.
Another student took a jab at the Mooch by exposing his apparent lack of knowledge of world history. The questioner found parallels between Trump’s #DrainTheSwamp to a similar swamp drainage that took place during the Russian Revolution 1917.
In answer to this, Scaramucci referred back to Orwell’s Animal Farm (1945) and the US constitution's system of checks and balances. It may seem like a cop out, but then the question was quite bizarre itself.
After all, Donald Trump is a capitalist with a democratic mandate to serve the American people and hold the Washington elite accountable. On the flip side, the Russian Revolution was a communist overthrow of the Tsarist autocracy which lead to a civil war with a death toll of over 2 million.
Again, this probably reflects communication differences between Brits and Americans. Brits try to create grand narratives out of historical parallels (“History repeats itself” [ Marx]), whereas the American style of communication involves a set of key historical dates and snappy event summaries.
Another interesting question was Oxford vs. Cambridge. Anthony Scaramucci was certainly surprised by how polite the Cambridge crowd was vs. the Oxford crowd. Not a single Cambridge student protested his appearance, whilst a few Oxford students took to the streets.
My own reading of this predicament is that the Cambridge Union has far more postgrads/over 21s in attendance than at the Oxford Union, whose attendees are mostly far-left undergraduates. Ironically, Cambridge state school intake (at almost 65%) is 10% higher than Oxford’s.
Plus, over these last two years — now that politics is hot — the Cambridge Union has also become ‘hotter’. After all, this was the alma mater of free speech fundamentalist and campus provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos. We aren’t snowflakes, as such, over here.
At the bar, the Mooch saw his book in my hand, grabbed my pen, and asked me my name. After a few photos with myself and others, he proceeded onto discussions with us about policy. The Mooch was full of facts, figures and anecdotes.
Scaramucci said communicating Trump’s policy using simplistic language to always please “the base” is not not good for the long run. He argued it would be amazing if Trump’s policy could be intellectually justified to the more college-educated sections of society.
For example, Scaramucci used his knowledge of classical economists like David Ricardo to talk about how free trade today isn’t truly free trade, instead of depending on purely emotional appeals.
He also spoke about manufacturing jobs honestly: stating only 25 years of good public policy could solve the societal crisis, rather than false hopes of bringing manufacturing back to the US. Americans in attendance found Scaramucci’s honesty about this issue refreshing.
Another good point he made was that most of Bernie Sanders supporters defected to Trump, and not Hillary. The Mooch’s use of percentages was quite convincing. Numbers are always good in conversations.
All in all, Anthony Scaramucci was a super interesting person to meet. His immense knowledge of not only politics, but also the financial dimension of American/global life (from both a historical and current affairs POV) is immense.
In his book, which I hope to review later this month, Scaramucci writes he “used to make fun of people were on television all the time” (p. 21). But he began to realise the power of media and communication technology in pushing his hedge fund.
It’s amazing how we think the obsession with “becoming your own brand” has only just happened in the past few years. Yes, it certainly has intensified, but Anthony Scaramucci employed it as a business strategy almost 10 years ago.