“Budget Hawk” Mick Mulvaney is the latest conservative in the crosshairs of the New York Times. The front of Wednesday’s edition featured a very long, quite hostile profile by Glenn Thrush and Alan Rappeport of Mulvaney, Trump’s budget director and current head of the Obama-era agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: “Budget Hawk Hones Claws at Consumer Bureau.”
In his time in the Trump administration, Mick Mulvaney has produced two budgets that slashed federal spending and were heralded as blueprints for the deconstruction of the administrative state. Even Republicans ignored them, and Congress then added billions to the very programs he targeted in what seemed a personal rebuke.
But Mr. Mulvaney -- President Trump’s exasperated, restless, but deeply determined budget director -- has found an alternative path to relevance in Mr. Trump’s Washington.
A firebrand fiscal hawk as a congressman from South Carolina, Mr. Mulvaney has seized on his second job as the interim chief of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as an opportunity to dismantle an Obama-era watchdog agency vilified by Republicans since its inception as an example of government overreach.
The CFPB is the brainchild of Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and a Trump staffer found a colorful way to describe Mulvaney’s attitude toward it:
“There are lots of targets of opportunity over there for Mick,” said Marc Short, Mr. Trump’s legislative affairs director. “He’s like a mosquito in a nudist colony.”
The reporters weren’t afraid of dealing out personal insults toward the conservative Republican. Is Mulvaney a voracious "hawk," or an excitable dog?
Testifying last month about the bureau before the House Financial Services Committee, Mr. Mulvaney looked forlorn as he slumped under a whirring national debt clock projected on the wall by committee Republicans, a reminder of his failure to rein in federal spending. Then Democrats started attacking him and he sprung to life like a Jack Russell terrier off leash.
The reporters gave credibility to one of the more ridiculous things said by a congressman lately:
Representative Keith Ellison of Minnesota struck first, chiding Mr. Mulvaney for installing frosted glass on the glass walls of his office, what he described as a literal effort to subvert “transparency.”
“I’ve been to your office,” Mr. Mulvaney shot back. “I can’t see into it.”
But Mr. Mulvaney’s intentions at the bureau are anything but opaque.
Thrush and Rappeport gave Ellison’s silly metaphor credibility:
At the bureau’s headquarters near the White House, Mr. Mulvaney has touched off a polite but ferocious civil war, walling himself off behind the new frosted glass walls, while career civil servants, largely excluded from decision making, battle him to preserve the original mission of the agency.
Mr. Mulvaney, a hypercompetitive golfer with an 8 handicap, is determined to prevail while maintaining he is strictly adhering to dictates of the law. In his view, that means giving equal weight to reducing “burdensome regulations” on the industries he regulates, as he described his approach to a meeting of lenders last month.
The reporters let liberal Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio accuse him of lying, and threw a bunch of shrugworthy anecdotes at Mulvaney, like taco-gate.
....When they got to the White House mess hall, he was unimpressed with the tacos, telling his predecessor, Shaun Donovan, the meal did not measure up to the Mexican restaurants he once owned in Charlotte, N.C., according to a person to whom Mr. Donovan related the encounter.
The reporters seem personally offended by Mulvaney’s limited government stance.
Mr. Mulvaney seems happiest when describing new ways to undermine the consumer bureau by, say, removing its online complaint system from public view -- or using the agency’s obscure statutory name, the “Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection,” to undo years of branding.