“The Mooch” was not long for the White House.

But former communications director Anthony Scaramucci’s tenure, while brief, was just long enough to provide a lesson in how political journalists interact with the people they cover.

For those who were in another country a week ago, Scaramucci was fired as White House communications director on Monday, just 11 days into his tenure and only four days after The New Yorker published his expletive-laced rant to a reporter.

Scaramucci was upset that New Yorker reporter Ryan Lizza had learned and tweeted that Scaramucci was having dinner at the White House with President Donald Trump, first lady Melania Trump, Fox News talk show host Sean Hannity, and former Fox News executive Bill Shine.

Scaramucci called Lizza and delivered a now-infamous rant. He pleaded with Lizza to reveal his sources, appealing to Lizza’s patriotism and threatening to fire the entire White House communications staff if he didn’t. (Lizza, naturally, did not reveal his sources.)

That was only the beginning.

Scaramucci then disparaged — in colorful language, to say the least — former White House chief of staff Reince Preibus, who resigned the next day, and Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist. The rant was filled with expletives graphic, sexually-charged insults.

In the immediate aftermath of the story, which published Thursday afternoon, Scaramucci offered a pair of responses via Twitter.

First, he said that he sometimes uses colorful language and pledged to refrain from doing so in the future while serving in his official role.

Then he shot the messenger.

“I made a mistake in trusting in a reporter. It won't happen again,” Scaramucci tweeted Thursday night.

There’s one big problem with that.

Every communications staffer at any level of politics or government knows that if one does not wish a conversation with a reporter to be fair game to be published, one makes the simple request to discuss matters off the record.

“Can we go off the record?”


It really is simple as that.

And like I said, every communications staffer knows that. I’ve worked with comms staffers for the top presidential campaigns down to state campaigns and state agencies. Every one of them has known that if they’re talking to me and they don’t want any of what they say published, they ask our conversation go off the record.

Scaramucci did not ask for his phone call to Lizza to be off the record. So one of two things happened.

It’s possible Scaramucci made a critical oversight and paid dearly for it. But he didn’t ask to go off the record before the phone conversation or afterward. That’s on him. Pleading ignorance does not work for the top communications staffer to the president of the United States.

Or it’s also possible Scaramucci knew full well his conversation was on the record, did not care in the least that it was published, and attempted to repel any ire by attempting to shift blame to the reporter.

In fact, Lizza told CNN that in a later conversation Scaramucci had second thoughts about what he had told Lizza but agreed the conversation was on the record.

If that is true, Scaramucci’s problem was not trusting a reporter. Scaramucci’s problem was underestimating the impact his inflammatory comments would have within the White House.

Iowa scores well on Medicaid

Iowa received the second-highest score in the nation for patient satisfaction with management of the state’s Medicaid program, according to a report published this week by J.D. Power.

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The study surveyed 2,145 managed Medicaid health plan members in 36 states and Washington, D.C., from January to March. The study measured overall satisfaction based on six factors: provider choice, coverage and benefits, customer service, cost, information and communication, and claims processing.

Iowa scored highest in the total ratings, trailing only Utah.

A press release accompanying the report did not contain details or state-level results, and J.D. Power did not respond to a request for that information.

Former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad shifted management of the state’s $5 billion Medicaid program to three private health care companies. Republicans have said the transition has been a success, touting individual success stories; Democrats have criticized the move, saying it has not saved money as planned and caused frustration for many patients.

Prediction: GOP will lose governors

Using past midterm elections as a predictor, the Crystal Ball predicts Republicans will suffer a net loss in governors in the 2018 elections.

The Crystal Ball is produced by the University of Virginia Center for Politics.

Republicans control 36 gubernatorial seats, and 26 are up for election in 2018.

The president’s party has lost gubernatorial seats in 14 of the past 18 midterm elections since World War II, according to the Crystal Ball’s report. The report predicts the number of governors the GOP will lose based on generic ballot responses in polling (in which respondents are asked generally whether they would support a Republican or Democrat for governor).

The report predicts Republicans will lose anywhere from six gubernatorial seats with a plus-4 generic ballot rating, to nine seats with a negative-8 generic ballot rating.

"We are a long way from November 2018, so national conditions could change,” the report cautions, also noting the quality of candidates obviously will impact outcomes. “Still, Republicans will have so many seats at risk in next year’s gubernatorial elections that they are almost guaranteed to suffer a net loss of seats.”

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Erin Murphy covers Iowa politics and government for Lee Enterprises. Contact him at erin.murphy@lee.net.


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