President Trump’s most recent personnel fiasco — in which he fired his chief of staff on the assumption that he had a replacement lined up, only for the replacement to bolt — highlighted the fact that not many qualified people want to join his clown show of an administration. Trump, by contrast, has insisted he has multiple candidates eager to take the job. He has answered the critics, sort of, by announcing the appointment of Mick Mulvaney as “Acting White House Chief of Staff.”
Trump made the impulsive announcement in order to “disprove” critics who noted the lack of interest in taking this horrible job. His decision was so hasty that he blew off a Monday meeting with another job candidate, and hired Mulvaney, who was not even seeking the job when Trump saw him.
The “acting” part implies that Mulvaney will not be holding the job for very long. Which would make sense. Mulvaney has already held two jobs in the administration. In his role as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, he has performed disastrously (from the standpoint of people who don’t want financial companies to defraud consumers) and highly effectively (from the standpoint of anti-government fanatics and purveyors of fraudulent financial products). Mulvaney’s leadership resulted in a 75 percent reduction in publicly announced enforcement actions and a concurrent spike in consumer complaints.
As director of Management and Budget, he has presided over an increase in the deficit of some $300 billion a year, which would be justified if the government was coping with either a large war or a recession, which it is not. In Mulvaney’s defense, this is not really his fault so much as it is the shared fault of the party-wide policy agenda that engineered this outcome.
All of this is to say Mulvaney is demonstrably effective at carrying out his party’s agenda (letting banks defraud consumers, blowing up the deficit with huge tax cuts) while pretending to do the opposite (protecting consumers, reducing the deficit). His new job requires imposing order on the president. Previous occupants in this role have not only failed, they have given up trying and lost all dignity in the process. Mulvaney asked for the “acting” bit to be in his title so he could leave the job quickly and say it was the plan all along, rather than suffer the inevitable torments of Reince Priebus and John Kelly.
The New York Times reported last week that Trump seemed to appreciate the fact that his previous choice for the job, Nick Ayers, looked kind of like a young Trump. Mulvaney does not look quite as Trump-like as Ayers, but does possess other qualifications – or, if not “qualifications” exactly, then attributes Trump uses to judge candidates for the job. Axios notes that Trump also respects Mulvaney’s skill as a golfer, and that Mulvaney has built a rapport with the president by bringing “large charts and colorful graphics into the Oval Office.” He may not grasp the underlying policy but appreciates the color and the movement. Baby-sitter, golf buddy, white man who can successfully wear a tie and show up to work — Mulvaney is as suited for the job as anybody Trump was going to find.