Trump's choice for Budget Director is tough to defend

U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., speaks at the Freedom Summit, Saturday, May 9, 2015, in Greenville, S.C. (Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/AP)
U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., speaks at the Freedom Summit, Saturday, May 9, 2015, in Greenville, S.C.
Last fall, Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) described his approach to budget negotiations in a memorable way: "I'll play chicken with you every time. You think I am crazy, and I know you are not." It's quite a philosophy: the Republican congressman assumes Democrats will be responsible and take steps to avoid hurting people, and he wants his rivals to know he has no comparable concerns.Donald Trump now wants Mick Mulvaney to be the White House's Budget Director.If we were to rank the president-elect's personnel decisions by their outlandishness, Mulvaney would have to be near the top. As we discussed yesterday, the GOP congressman, a founder of the right-wing House Freedom Caucus, celebrated the 2013 government shutdown as "good policy," and championed the Republicans' 2011 debt-ceiling hostage crisis, arguing publicly that if the United States went into default, he didn't think it would matter.Making matters considerably worse, Mother Jones reported yesterday that Mulvaney, just six months ago, accepted a speaking invitation from the John Birch Society.

Mother Jones obtained audio of Mulvaney's speech to the John Birch Society chapter. In the speech, Mulvaney blasted the Federal Reserve, saying its actions have "effectively devalued the dollar" and "choke[d] off economic growth." He praised bitcoin as a currency that is "not manipulatable by any government."He told his audience, "You all put out some really good stuff and it's always interesting," and he said he was "looking forward to reading The Shadows of Power," a 1988 book by James Perloff with the subtitle "The Council on Foreign Relations and the American Decline." The book advances conspiracy theories about the New York-based think tank, alleging that it advocates "the creation of a world government."

For those unfamiliar with the fringe group, Mother Jones described the John Birch Society as "an extreme right-wing group known for peddling outlandish conspiracy theories" for decades, including allegations against Dwight Eisenhower in the 1950s that he was "a conscious agent of the communist conspiracy."In the not-too-distant past, even conservative Republicans wanted nothing to do with such extremists. Now, a congressman can speak to the John Birch Society, praise its bizarre materials, get re-elected, and then receive a nomination to lead the federal Office of Management and Budget.This is, by the way, a Senate-confirmed post. There was a time even many GOP senators would balk at such a nomination, but in Trump's America, Mulvaney isn't expected to face too much opposition.