It’s been a rough week for Trump administration officials.
The problem for the President’s advisors, aides and apologists is that Trump insists on taking the most controversial position possible on every single issue that has the misfortune of landing on his plate.
From international relations to domestic issues to economic policy, he revels in controversy. He seemingly views everything as an opportunity to “prove” his “disruptor” credentials, even when it’s not necessary. Here’s how I described it earlier on Friday:
While there’s probably something to be said for not overreacting, the issue with this administration is that every time the public gives Trump the benefit of the doubt, he subsequently sets out to “prove” something. It’s a kind of pernicious dynamic where he seems to interpret benign assessments of his bombast as a challenge – a test of his populist mettle, if you will. He then sets about doubling and tripling down until he elicits criticism, which only serves to exacerbate the situation to the extent he interprets that criticism as yet another test of his will.
From the perspective of administration officials, this would be challenging enough on its own. But it’s made immeasurably more challenging by the fact that Trump doesn’t leave any room for ambiguity or interpretation.
For instance, when asked this week if Russia was still targeting the U.S. electoral process, Trump said “no”. And he didn’t just say it once. He said it repeatedly.
That put Sarah Huckabee Sanders in the absurd position of having to contend that he was actually saying “no” to a question about whether or not he would take more questions, rather than denying the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment of the threat emanating from the Kremlin, something he’s done on too many occasions to count.
That came just a day after Trump’s already infamous “would”/”wouldn’t” debacle, which was another example of an administration official (in this case the President himself) being forced to offer up a wildly implausible theory as to why everyone didn’t hear what they thought they heard.
Fast forward to Thursday and CNBC released the following clip of Donald Trump explicitly stating that he is “not thrilled” about the current state of monetary policy in the United States:
There is nothing ambiguous about that and even if there was, he “cleared” things up on Friday morning by tweeting this:
….The United States should not be penalized because we are doing so well. Tightening now hurts all that we have done. The U.S. should be allowed to recapture what was lost due to illegal currency manipulation and BAD Trade Deals. Debt coming due & we are raising rates – Really?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 20, 2018
Again, it’s virtually impossible to interpret that as anything other than what it is, but given the universal backlash against what certainly appears to be an encroachment on Fed independence, the administration is compelled to give it a shot.
Enter Mick Mulvaney, notorious deficit hawk who is now the “proud” owner of a truly “deplorable” fiscal situation that, by 2023, will put America on par with Italy in terms of debt sustainability.
On Friday, in an interview on Fox News, the OMB Director said this:
- MULVANEY SAYS TRUMP DIDN’T TRY TO INFLUENCE FED DECISIONS
Yes, Mick, he did. He’s the President of the United States and he said, on national television, that he’s “not happy” with rate hikes and then, the very next morning, he tweeted that “[Fed] tightening hurts all that we have done.”
So either we’re all supposed to believe that Jerome Powell won’t feel pressured by Donald Trump explicitly saying, in public, that Fed policy is undermining “everything” that the administration is doing, or else Mick Mulvaney is lying.
That’s just all there is to this. Sorry, Mick.
But then again, Mulvaney is used to this by now. After all, back in February, he was forced to explain, to Congress, on television, how exactly it is that a $30 million military parade is consistent with his famously hawkish fiscal stance.
NEW: OMB Director Mulvaney says President Trump's military parade would likely cost between $10 million and $30 million. pic.twitter.com/DnHTHjjMTG
— NBC News (@NBCNews) February 14, 2018