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A Conservative's Take On Scaramucci's Quick Ouster


Let's get some perspective on President Trump from a longtime friend. The president had a big Monday. He welcomed his new White House chief of staff, John Kelly. He fired his new communications director, Anthony Scaramucci. He sent off a stream of tweets, some filled with his trademark darkness but then ending with, a great day at the White House. Christopher Ruddy has had a distinctive vantage point for the Trump presidency. The CEO of the media company Newsmax is a friend of the president, sometime visitor to the White House. And he's on the line from Rome. Welcome back to the program.

CHRISTOPHER RUDDY: Steve, great to be on with you.

INSKEEP: So the president is changing around the staff. But do you think he wants to change what he, himself, does?

RUDDY: We will find out in the next several weeks. I think the big change was not so much Scaramucci. It was General Kelly. He has a very distinct approach. He's a military man. He's going to want to operate through a chain of command. President Trump has had a much more eclectic style of management. He likes to poke his head into things and sometimes communicate directly. That doesn't necessarily fit with more of a traditional White House.

But there are a lot of things with the way the president manages that is very good for governing and for being president. My experience with the president when he ran his private businesses is that he defers greatly to his managers and his - the people that run things. So if he gets into that mode, I think we will see some tranquility.

INSKEEP: You know, in going around the chain of command, that can be good, if you're getting information from different sources. But this is a president who's been seen as entirely comfortable with chaos. It's where he seems to have his comfort zone. Do you agree with that?

RUDDY: Well, I wouldn't describe it as chaos. I think he's a guy underrated by the media and the establishment. Here's a man that went into New York real estate in his - at about the age of 30 and became a billionaire doing real estate deals.

INSKEEP: Well, he inherited some money. But sure, he got a lot of attention and did some big deals.

RUDDY: Yeah, it really - they've overstated. It was really a relatively small amount of money. I think, about maybe 5 or 10 million he came into New York with. So he really did build it up. And I - then he had a hit TV show - he started it - 15 years. Nobody has that. And then he said he was going to get in politics two years, and he beats the Bush machine, the Clinton machine.

He's now in a transition period. I think it - I saw that it was going to take about a year to go through a period for him to transition from his very freewheeling style into a style that would be appropriate for president. I think we're seeing some daylight here on that. I think General Kelly's choice is superb. He's known as being very bipartisan. I mean, Democratic administrations liked him. They like General Mattis, his best friend in the military. General Mattis...

INSKEEP: Let me just ask, though, because you're talking about the president changing. In the last week or so, he's had a series of what seemed - to me, anyway - to be especially dark statements. He attacked Hillary Clinton while talking to the Boy Scouts. He told police he hopes that they rough up suspects. He complained about other people getting credit for his election. Yesterday, he was tweeting that it's time to hurt insurance companies, maybe. This language of a helpless person lashing out, but he's the president. Do you have any idea what his frame of mind is right now?

RUDDY: Well, his frame of mind comes - we saw it on "The Apprentice" over many years, right? He's a guy that likes to just give you what he's thinking and what he's saying and doing. And that does not necessarily mean that he's going to push policies that do those things. You know, he's the type of guy that might say something angry on Twitter about Joe and Mika. But at the same time, he's not necessarily going to call the IRS and tell them to do an audit of Joe and Mika.

Well, we know that presidents in the past would smile at their critics and do exactly that. So Trump lets it all hang out on his shirtsleeve, so to speak. And the - that - some people don't like that. There's a downside. But the upside is he's not a passive aggressive. And I think...

INSKEEP: (Laughter) That is certainly true.

RUDDY: Yeah.

INSKEEP: Let me ask about one other thing, Christopher Ruddy, while we have time. The Washington Post is reporting, regarding this meeting with a Russian lawyer and Donald Trump Jr., that President Trump himself dictated a misleading statement about what initially was said to have happened in that meeting. He seemed to have micromanaged the statement. Does that sound like the Donald Trump you know?

RUDDY: Well, I'm not privy to what happened in that conversation or in that statement. I would not be surprised, on something so important, that the president himself weighed in. Whether he wrote it and personally dictated it, I - I'm not sure. He - it's quite possible he could have. And I'm not - I wouldn't be able to comment one way or another.

INSKEEP: OK, Christopher Ruddy, really appreciate talking with you. Thanks very much.

RUDDY: Always great being on with you.

INSKEEP: He is the CEO of Newsmax. And we now turn to NPR's political editor, Domenico Montanaro, who's on the line. He's been listening. Domenico, what did you hear there of note?

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Well, you know, it's always been this sort of thing with Trump where he - there's this big dichotomy between this guy who is kind of hands-off in his businesses and in his management style but then something of a micromanager when he hasn't been part of something for a while but then it becomes something that's really important. So you heard Chris Ruddy there mention that it's totally in line with the character of President Trump to maybe have weighed in on that statement for Donald Trump Jr. if, in fact, it was that important.

INSKEEP: OK, Domenico, thanks very much, really appreciate it.

MONTANARO: Thank you.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Domenico Montanaro. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.