That Mick Mulvaney now comes across as some semblance of “credible” is yet another testament to how low the bar has been set when it comes to what counts as “rationality” from the administration of a US president.
Prior to the Trump presidency, Mulvaney was something of a standing joke and we’ve certainly gone out of our way to lampoon his various trials and tribulations as he struggles to reconcile an apparent desire to stay politically relevant with the fact that this president’s fiscal policies are the picture of irresponsible.
If you’re not familiar with Mick, suffice to say he’s not what one might call “popular” in many circles, which is why a lot of folks have enjoyed watching the notorious budget hawk squirm when pressed to explain how it is that a ballooning deficit is consistent with his previous rhetoric on fiscal rectitude. Arguably, the “best” moment in that regard came in February of 2018 when a visibly distraught Mick was compelled to explain how spending $30 million on Trump’s now-scrapped military parade was in keeping with his (Mick’s) infamous 2010 declaration that “we can’t spend money we don’t have.”
As you’re probably aware, the US posted a record monthly budget gap in February of nearly $234 billion, topping the previous record shortfall set in 2012.
That’s the kind of fiscal largesse that, ostensibly anyway, should give Mulvaney nightmares, but now that he’s Acting Chief of Staff for the man whose policies are responsible for the ballooning deficit, Mick is willing to suffer the humiliation of being a budget hawk in a fiscally reckless administration.
The record monthly budget gap was just the latest bit of evidence to support the contention that Trump’s tax cuts were a terrible idea. In the simplest possible terms, they put the US on an even more unsustainable fiscal trajectory than the country was already on.
Read more on the politics of fiscal insanity
As usual, your supply-side sock puppets (e.g., Larry Kudlow) will swear the tax cuts are going to pay for themselves over time (“growth, growth, growth”) but everyone who is honest with themselves knows that’s not going to happen.
In any case, Mick showed up on CNN on Sunday and if you can get past some cringe-worthy lies about Obamacare (Mick claims nobody is going to lose coverage if it’s struck down), he actually came across as some semblance of credible which, again, underscores just how surreal things really are: Mick Mulvaney is what counts as “credible” from this administration.
One clip in particular is grabbing headlines and it’s worth highlighting here for a couple of reasons. Here it is:
Obviously, Tapper is referring to Adam Schiff’s “you might think it’s ok” speech delivered in response to calls for his resignation both from the president and Adam’s nine Republican colleagues on the House Intelligence Committee (Trump is calling for Schiff to resign from Congress altogether). We documented that speech at length on Thursday.
Here’s the transcript of the latter part of the exchange between Tapper and Mulvaney:
Mulvaney: The issue is not whether it’s ethical.
Tapper: But, forgetting Adam Schiff for a second, what about the larger point about ethics and morality?
Mulvaney: I think the voters are going to decide about the ethics and morality of the people they vote for on either side. People liked Bill Clinton even though they might not have thought he was that ethical. That’s not the job of the House Intelligence Committee. It’s not the job of the House Judiciary Committee. It’s not the job of the House Oversight Committee. They’re supposed to review the functioning of government. Voters make decisions about the candidates in other places.
As much as it pains me to say this, Mick is absolutely correct – with one obvious caveat. Arguably, voters did not get to “decide” in 2016. Or at least not free from the malign influence of a hostile foreign actor whose activities are the subject of the very speech from Adam Schiff that Mulvaney is referring to. In other words, Mick’s comments on Sunday are question-begging at its worst.
The Mueller report – just like every other US intelligence assessment – concludes that Russia did in fact interfere with the 2016 election in two ways. William Barr reiterated that in his letter to Congress last Sunday.
Everybody knows that the Kremlin engaged in malign activities designed to sow discord and confusion among the US electorate in the lead up to the vote. Trump has never wholeheartedly endorsed that unanimous assessment for reasons that remain unclear, but the bottom line if you’re Mulvaney is that it makes no sense to say that Adam Schiff should leave ethical judgments to voters when the very ethical questions he’s posing relate to Russia’s efforts to influence those very same voters.
Of course none of that is lost on Mick, but it surely is on Trump’s base.
And speaking of “ethics”, Donald Trump actually took his “pencil-neck” characterization of Adam Schiff (from the president’s raucous rally in Grand Rapids) and had it made into a t-shirt which he is now selling on the official Trump-Pence website for $28.
“Ethics”, Mick. “Ethics.”