When asked why he resigned from the Trump administration after the violent insurrection at the Capitol and not over its child separations or Trump’s Charlottesville comments, former yes man Mick Mulvaney shrugged off Charlottesville as “misspeaking” and said neither issue was “something that people resign over.”
As I wrote in my last post, I give Mulvaney credit for speaking out publicly against the armed insurrection and Donald Trump’s incitement of it.
But he's hardly a profile in principles, as host Chris Wallace deftly exposed.
After Mulvaney explained why he resigned his post as as special envoy to Northern Ireland and stopped a hair short of calling for Trump's removal from office, Wallace began grilling Mulvaney about his own role in enabling Trump. “Do you feel any responsibility – you were chief of staff for more than a year – do you feel any responsibility for Donald Trump?”
Short answer: No. Mulvaney said he was shocked, angered, sad and embarrassed by what happened at the Capitol and that he is still trying to figure out what he could have done differently, “if anything.” But he also insisted that the Trump he knew was presidential “every single day.” Now, “either he’s different, the people around him are different or both,” Mulvaney claimed.
Wallace wasn’t buying it. He played a clip of Mulvaney’s predecessor, John Kelly, suggesting that yes men, like Mulvaney, had gotten Trump impeached and, by implication, allowed him to get out of hand on Wednesday. Not surprisingly, Mulvaney took issue with that.
Then, after challenging Mulvaney for not resigning after Trump’s Ukraine quid pro quo phone call, the basis for last year’s impeachment, Wallace challenged Mulvaney further on what he has supported from Trump. Mulvaney first tried to duck and deflect on separating immigrant children from their families, suggesting he knew it was wrong, before switching to the “those were no biggies” defense.
WALLACE: Let me ask you about some other things. You were a top member of the administration when the president defended the White supremacists at Charlottesville. You were a top member of the administration, not chief of staff, when the Trump administration separated parents coming across the border from their children.
Why not resign over those?
MULVANEY: Because it -- the -- I remember the kids in cages thing, which was -- which a lot of folks gave a lot of attention to and we seem to have forgotten, including you Chris, that those pictures -- many of the pictures of the kids in cages were taken during the Obama administration. They were Obama caged --
WALLACE: Nothing --
WALLACE: -- nothing like with the policy under Donald Trump.
MULVANEY: Chris, these are policy differences, OK? These are things that you think the country should look one way, we think it should look another. These are differences of style, the way the president speaks. Did he misspeak at Charlottesville? Yes. Should he have corrected it? Yes. Did he handle it poorly? Yes. But it was not something that people resign over.
If you talk as a living, as you and I do, you're going to misspeak from time to time. It's inevitable. Those are not the type of things to give rise to resignations. In fact, I don't think anybody including John Kelly resigned during any of those. As I recall, John Kelly got fired and didn't resign.
Wednesday was different. And I hope that we focus on why Wednesday was different than something about a policy over immigration or a policy on how to handle this or that. This is different and I think it's important that people recognize the differentiations between differences of policy and what happened on Wednesday.
I can’t know whether Mulvaney’s conscience or his instinct for self-preservation (or both) impelled him to take this stand, two weeks before his job would have ended anyway, but it doesn’t really matter. It’s good that he did it but nobody should look at him as a hero for the republic.
After the wildfires have all been put out and every last smouldering ember has been stomped into oblivion, we will laugh. Oh, how we will laugh.