Anthony Scaramucci
Credit: C-SPAN/Screengrab

Like the president he serves, Anthony Scaramucci, the flamboyant new White House communications director, likes to reference his Ivy League credentials. In a recent interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, Scaramucci was asked whether he would have attended a meeting with a Russian lawyer who promised to supply dirt on Hillary Clinton. While Donald Trump Jr. took the meeting, Scaramucci bragged that as a Harvard Law School graduate, he probably wouldn’t have gone himself. When asked about whether Trump could pardon himself, Scaramucci offered that he wasn’t sure, but he did get an A- in constitutional law from Harvard Law professor Larry Tribe.

What was the young Anthony Scaramucci like at Harvard Law School? And what might those early years tell us about President Trump’s new favorite aide, whose brash New York style is rightly earning Scaramucci the moniker, “mini-me”?

Scaramucci was in my first year section at Harvard Law School more than 30 years ago, and even then, he was known as a big personality. He was an exuberant figure who proposed to his girlfriend on a Times Square billboard. He made a brief appearance in a book I wrote called Broken Contract: A Memoir of Harvard Law School. In the volume, I used the real names of professors—who were well known—but gave the young, non-famous students pseudonyms.  Anthony Scaramucci’s was Joe Sisorelli.

Scaramucci was a well-liked and high profile figure in the class of 1989. The son of working-class parents from Long Island, neither of whom were college graduates, Scaramucci enjoyed challenging Harvard’s pretensions.

In the second year, we had a tax professor who intimidated a lot of people, but not Scaramucci. When the professor asked him a tough question, Scaramucci said, “Well, I’d be glad to answer. But first, could you tell me where you got that great haircut?” The class burst into laughter and people swarmed Scaramucci afterward to congratulate him for taking the professor down a peg.

I don’t remember whether Scaramucci had already embraced right wing politics back at Harvard, but if he had, he was nevertheless a popular presence. He was a showman then, is a showman now, and he may just succeed in advancing Trump’s agenda.

In retrospect, though, there was another side to the gregarious and wise-cracking Scaramucci that was more unsettling. Many of us had come to law school hoping to be the next Thurgood Marshall advancing civil rights or Ralph Nader promoting consumer protection. Two-thirds of us entered law school saying we wanted careers in public interest law, but most of us instead became corporate lawyers. Referencing the then-popular TV show, “LA Law,” I wrote: “A number of students come wanting to be Atticus Finch and leave as Arnie Becker.” If most of us sold out, we nevertheless agonized over the decision of what type of law to practice.

Scaramucci, however, skipped law altogether and went straight to investment banking at Goldman Sachs. He would later go on to found a group of global hedge funds known as SkyBridge Capital.

Looking back at our class of 1989 yearbook, I was struck by something Scaramucci’s parents wrote in a section of the volume where family members could wish their loved ones congratulations.

The note read: “To Anthony with love, pride and congratulations. ‘To the victor go the spoils.’ Mr. and Mrs. Alexander Scaramucci.”

On one level, this sentiment was understandable. The son of a construction worker had risen to graduate from Harvard Law School, an enormous accomplishment. But the parental advice was not a lofty “give back to your community,” or “to whom much is given, much is expected” or “promote justice in the legal profession.” It suggested that having advanced in America’s meritocratic race, it was time to cash in.

Like the president whom Scaramucci would go on to serve, getting rich was the goal, and winning was everything. In some ways, Scaramucci is a funnier and smarter version of his boss. And if Scaramucci’s early days are any indication, his charm may well be effective in carrying out their shared conception of success—uninspiring and shallow as that vision may be.

Richard D. Kahlenberg

Richard D. Kahlenberg is an education and housing policy consultant. He is the author or editor of 17 books, including The Remedy: Class, Race, and Affirmative Action, and Broken Contract: A Memoir of Harvard Law School.