Mulvaney's White House
President Trump's acting chief of staff has had a positive influence on executing policy.
President Donald Trump is understandably fond of touting his administration’s remarkable economic success, but he’s less likely to tout a certain other record-shattering performance. As Siraj Hashmi writes at the Washington Examiner, “President Trump now owns the record for the highest turnover in his first two and a half years than his five immediate predecessors did in their first term. [Alexander] Acosta is the ninth cabinet secretary to leave the Trump administration.” The list of departures is noteworthy, and it includes both lower- and higher-level officials.
Hashmi adds, “While Trump has acknowledged that he prefers ‘acting’ secretaries to permanent, Senate-confirmed agency secretaries, it takes a toll on the workflow of the executive branch. In addition to hurting employee morale, federal agencies are often at the mercy of the new cabinet secretary’s learning curve. Resources are diverted from policy implementation to ensuring a presidential cabinet nomination makes it past confirmation in the Senate.”
Maybe, but while the chaotic nature of his first term may be partially due to Trump being new to the world of Washington politics, even Hashmi admits that some of the firings and resignations were due to incompetence on the part of those individuals. What Trump really needed was a chief of staff to take charge and hold everyone’s proverbial feet to the fire.
Enter Mick Mulvaney.
As President Trump’s acting chief of staff and as director of the Office of Management and Budget, Mulvaney influences the president’s agenda in a far-reaching manner and makes sure other administration officials are working toward the same goals. And he’s doing it by letting Trump be Trump while keeping an eye on just about everyone else.
To some extent, Mulvaney’s desire to keep the administration’s players in check is a good thing. Notwithstanding the mainstream media’s penchant for punching it up, there’s no denying the turbulence within this White House. Yet Mulvaney’s presence has helped keep a sense of order while ensuring that those working for Trump are loyal to his vision.
Mulvaney “has helped install more than a dozen ideologically aligned advisers in the West Wing since his December hiring,” The Washington Post asserts. “Cabinet members are pressed weekly on what regulations they can strip from the books and have been told their performance will be judged on how many they remove. Policy and spending decisions are now made by the White House and dictated to Cabinet agencies, instead of vice versa. When Mulvaney cannot be in the Oval Office for a policy meeting, one of his allies is usually there.”
Critics of Mulvaney claim that he’s too involved in the day-to-day operations of the White House and in decisions made by other officials. But that’s what an effective chief of staff is supposed to do. Mulvaney’s detractors lament his headstrong and tenacious nature, but those are features far more than bugs.
The Post adds, “Where [Reince] Priebus and [John] Kelly were more deferential to Cabinet members, Mulvaney has told them they are being judged on how much they can deregulate, with the policy council monitoring them daily. He is pushing for faster rollbacks of rules enacted by former president Barack Obama before Trump’s first term ends.”
But some political analysts think (perhaps wishfully) that the honeymoon between Trump and Mulvaney is over. Nancy Cook writes at Politico, “Several staffers have begun to murmur about Mulvaney’s approach to the job, arguing he’s grown too accustomed to the trappings of White House power.” Cook notes that Mulvaney tends to surround himself with loyal staffers from the Office of Management and Budget. Again, though, what better way to get things done than to build a loyal support staff?
Mulvaney has a no-nonsense approach to governing, so it’s not a surprise that he might have occasional conflicts with Trump. What’s more important is that Mulvaney is seen as a tough negotiator, which makes his efforts to implement a conservative agenda unpopular with some Republicans on Capitol Hill who preferred the more nuanced, more hands-off-policy approach of Priebus or Kelly.
But when politicians such as New York Sen. Chuck Schumer complain about Mulvaney drawing a red line in budget negotiations, it’s hard to argue that he’s not the right man for the job.
For now, Trump seems appreciative of Mulvaney despite the media’s best efforts to make a big deal out of “cough-gate” and other such morsels. Ultimately, this president needs someone on his team with the same fire-in-the-belly approach to making deals, even if they privately clash from time to time. And Mulvaney’s presence has clearly made Trump’s orchestrated chaos a little more orchestrated and a bit less chaotic.
That may not be what the Left wants, but it’s just what the president, and the country, needs.