A growing headache for McConnell and maybe for Trump too. Actual headline from the Daily Beast this evening:
I think when Trump first floated Cain’s name for a Fed slot, he expected Senate Republicans would go along without a fuss. And why not? That’s what they almost always do, especially with presidential nominations. In fact, they just got done nuking a Senate rule that required 30 hours of debate for certain nominees, replacing it with one that requires two hours instead. It seemed like they were building a conveyor belt to streamline confirmation of Trump’s picks for key vacancies.
And then suddenly there were four Republicans hinting that Herman Cain’s appointment to the Federal Reserve was dead on arrival.
When Trump was asked whether that opposition would lead him to yank Cain’s nomination, he dodged. He didn’t strongly rebuke the idea but he hasn’t made any moves to throw Cain under the bus either. Instead he left the matter up to Cain, saying that it would be for the nominee to decide whether he wanted to withdraw. But that was risky: What if Cain refused? That would put McConnell and his caucus back on the hot seat in having to potentially embarrass the president by rejecting his nominee. But it would put Trump on the hot seat too by leaving him effectively powerless to yank Cain’s nomination now in the name of avoiding embarrassment. The whole reason populists like Trump is that he’s willing to fightfightfight the establishment; if Cain is willing to fight on against Mr. Establishment Mitch McConnell, how could Trump possibly stand in his way?
A confirmation hearing may be inevitable, then, with Democrats destined to air Cain’s #MeToo dirty laundry extensively and Trump-skeptical Republicans like Mitt Romney destined to scoff at his political independence from the president.
Cain, a former pizza executive and 2012 GOP presidential candidate, told The Wall Street Journal in an interview Wednesday that he is “very committed” to sticking to his potential nomination, saying, “I happen to believe that you need some new voices on the Federal Reserve.”…
Cain stood firm, telling the Journal on Wednesday: “I don’t quit because of negative criticism. I don’t quit because of negative attacks. And I don’t quit because several senators have expressed reservations about my qualifications.”…
“What Kudlow was doing was giving me an out, and I appreciate that, but I don’t want an out,” Cain said. “You know that the president is a fighter, and Kudlow is a fighter. They might be getting a lot of blowback from some folks, I don’t know. But I don’t think they’re getting uncomfortable with it.”
He fights! And he’s being smart about broadcasting his commitment to seeing this through. Cain knows that the more public he is about wanting to battle for the seat, the more support for his nomination will grow among the grassroots right and the harder it’ll be for Trump to bow to McConnell’s wishes by yanking the nomination. For example, Cain has an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal today arguing that the Fed already has enough academics. What it needs, he says, is people who have firsthand business experience with markets who’ll know how to interpret the monetary signals they’re emitting:
The Fed still operates on the “professor standard,” enshrined with Bill Clinton’s nominations of pure academics. Their textbooks say strong economic growth, particularly strong wage growth, causes inflation, which Fed policy should temper. Both the Bush and Obama administrations perpetuated the professor standard, and both presided over income stagnation…
We need new voices at the Fed that understand stable money and know how to interpret important market signals—and that means breaking the professor standard. Monocultures tend to be fragile, but is the Fed so closed off that it can’t handle challenges to its models or the assumptions that feed them? So fragile it can’t consider that the economy is driven by production, not consumption, and that the dollar’s commodity value is important to the real investment that fuels production? I hope not.
Do you want more Ivory Tower eggheads on the Fed or do you want hardnosed business people who actually know what they’re talking about? Which sort of person should the Trump revolution bring to power? He’s making it awfully hard on the White House to cut him loose with arguments like that. And yet:
SCOOP: Trump Administration officials pressed @BankingGOP on @THEHermanCain, @StephenMoore for Fed board; officials found little support for Cain some support for Moore for Fed board; officials concede both nominations in jeopardy amid lack of support more now @FoxBusiness
— Charles Gasparino (@CGasparino) April 18, 2019
Not just Cain but Trump’s other nominee, Stephen Moore, is at risk. I’ve been thinking that the Senate GOP might try to split the baby in this case, rejecting Cain but confirming Moore as a sop to the White House. But that’s politically dicey too. Unless Republicans make a big show of the #MeToo concerns about Cain in voting him down, it’ll be hard to argue that he’s meaningfully less qualified for the position than Moore is. Remember that Cain was chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank in Kansas City years ago. Confirming Moore, a white candidate, but not Cain under those circumstances is … bad optics, shall we say. And given how badly Cain seems to want the seat, he might notice those optics and call attention to them.
Here he is on Fox Business, again playing to a Trump-friendly audience by vowing to fight for the seat. If I were a nominee for a Fed spot and one of the knocks against me was that I was too much of a crony for the president to be trusted with that role, I probably would have declined the invitation here to defend Trump on an unrelated, politically supercharged matter like Russiagate.