After a comical spin through the Republican Rolodex all week, to see who in the world might a) be available to take the Chief of Staff post and b) who might be crazy enough to want it, on Friday evening Trump tweeted that the honor would go to budget director Mick Mulvaney — but only as “acting” chief of staff. That of course begged the question of defining exactly what the parameters of the position were. Right now it appears to be a variation of a temp-to-perm position, which is a new one for a top White House post, but then this mis-administration has been nothing but a series of eye openers and first occurrences, since day one.
The White House sent mixed messages Friday about the length of Mulvaney’s tenure and whether he would be named to the post permanently, with aides saying Trump wanted to preserve flexibility. A White House official said in a briefing to reporters that deputy budget director Russell Vought would replace Mulvaney as OMB director, but White House press secretary Sarah Sanders clarified later that Mulvaney would not resign from the OMB. Still, she said he would spend “all of his time devoted” to acting as chief of staff and Vought would run the OMB.
Trump grew deeply frustrated at the rejections and the media narrative that no one of high stature wanted to be his chief of staff, according to a senior White House official, so he decided suddenly on Friday afternoon to tap Mulvaney.
Generally speaking, upon a governmental appointment of this caliber, praise is lavished by the president and other parties as to the appointee’s vast background in government, his or her service above and beyond the call of duty in specific circumstances — in short, a portrait is painted of a singular individual with unique qualifications. And what are Mulvaney’s?
Mulvaney has an easy rapport with Trump, often taking large charts and colorful graphics into the Oval Office to explain fiscal policy, administration officials said. Trump also relies on Mulvaney for political advice, polling him about races during the fall midterm elections. Trump has also admired Mulvaney’s performances on cable TV shows and considers him a talented golf partner, officials said.
Now we know where Priebus and Kelly dropped the ball, they failed to provide a Civics coloring book or praise Trump sycophant-ishly enough on the fairway. Okey doke. Good information to have going forward.
Mulvaney purportedly told Trump that, hypothetically, if he were Chief of Staff, he would manage the staff but not the president and this was a comment that Trump appreciated. And, there’s one definite bright spot: John Kelly referred to Trump as a “fucking idiot” and so far the worse thing Mulvaney has said about Trump on record is that he’s a “terrible human being.” So, maybe the needle is moving in the right direction on the gauge, here. Or, maybe Mulvaney simply hasn’t spent enough time with Trump.
And this much is certain: No chief of staff has ever gone to work for a sitting president with a business organization under siege, whose inauguration fund and children are being investigated for their part in financial wrongdoings, who is being investigated for violation of campaign finance laws for paying off alleged mistresses with campaign funds, who is being investigated for collusion with a foreign power to steal an election and so on and so forth. “In the best of times, this is a thankless, all-consuming, brutal job,” said Chris Whipple, author of “The Gatekeepers,” a history of White House chiefs of staff. That’s in the best of times, mind you, and also, working for presidents with a great deal more character and moral fibre than this one has displayed so far.
Forget the standard, “good luck on the new job” cards, just cue up the Mission Impossible theme song. And start the countdown. Anthony Scaramucci lasted ten days, how many do you give Mulvaney, given the utter chaos into which he’s walking?