For cripes sake. What did poor Mick Mulvaney do to deserve this?
….I look forward to working with him in this new capacity as we continue to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN! John will be staying until the end of the year. He is a GREAT PATRIOT and I want to personally thank him for his service!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 14, 2018
Mulvaney does have some free time on his hands. Not only does he run OMB, you may remember that he’s spent months as acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Board. That changed eight days ago, though, when the CFPB’s new permanent director was confirmed. Time to give Mulvaney another small side gig to occupy his time. Like running the White House.
By next summer, after all the remaining regulars have either quit or been fired, 97 percent of the top jobs in this administration will be filled by people in an “acting” capacity. And given the way we’re going, 94 percent of those will be filled by Mick Mulvaney.
A mystery: Why does Trump need an “acting” chief of staff right now when John Kelly will still be on the job for a few more weeks? Especially since Trump’s first pick for the job, Nick Ayers, had reportedly already agreed to serve as “acting” chief for a few months. That arrangement fell apart when Trump demanded a commitment longer than what Ayers was willing to provide. So Ayers walked. And now here’s POTUS with an “acting” chief anyway.
Does Tom Nichols have it right?
Why pick Mulvaney to step in as "acting" just two weeks before Christmas, when Kelly already agreed to stay until January? Probably because it looks bad to have so many people run from the job; maybe because bad news is looking and this was the only way to have a CoS in time.
— Tom Nichols (@RadioFreeTom) December 14, 2018
He meant “looming,” not “looking.” Another question: Why not Jared? He wouldn’t be the worst conceivable choice, and he’s loyal and fully up to speed.
Maggie Haberman might have answered that last night:
Vying for the actual title of chief of staff is really not fitting with Kushner’s MO, which has historically been dipping in and out of roles in shadow fashion without the accountability of a title
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) December 14, 2018
“Trump Should Just Be His Own Chief Of Staff” writes an exasperated Ben Shapiro today at the Daily Wire. Maybe that’s the point of appointing Mulvaney. Trump might have concluded, correctly, that he’d get endless grief from the media if he left a position as momentous as chief of staff vacant. It’d be treated as a smoking gun that the White House is being run chaotically, with no one managing the whole production. So he’s checking the box by installing Mulvaney, probably fully intending that he’ll freelance most of the important parts of the chief’s job himself. Mulvaney will likely end up with the crap work of dealing with personnel.
Oh, and for the record, Mulvaney won’t actually be working two jobs at once:
NEW: OMB deputy Russell Vought will replace Mick Mulvaney when Mulvaney takes over as Trump’s chief of staff when John Kelly leaves at end of year.
— Jennifer Jacobs (@JenniferJJacobs) December 14, 2018
I’ll bet Trump intuitively really likes this arrangement. Now, if and when he gets tired of Mulvaney as chief, he doesn’t have to agonize over firing him the way he did for so long with Kelly. For starters, Mulvaney’s not in the job permanently (not formally, at least). He’s merely “acting,” his eventual departure already in mind. And when he does depart, he won’t be fired. He’ll simply return to OMB. A plum job elsewhere in the administration is waiting for him! What could go wrong?
Update: Nichols’s theory is looking pretty good:
Two sources tell NBC News it was Mick Mulvaney who asked for the “acting” title. One source says Mulvaney wanted to enter the position with a safe exit in place, if needed. Source familiar says Trump was eager to kill the talk that "no one wanted to be his chief of staff."
— Geoff Bennett (@GeoffRBennett) December 14, 2018