Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s predecessor Larry Summers once called him possibly “the greatest sycophant in Cabinet history.”
Mnuchin has reliably backed up President Trump not just on economic policy — but also on race relations and football. He has praised Trump’s “perfect genes.” When CNN ranked two dozen Cabinet officials’ compliments of Trump from a single meeting last year, Mnuchin easily made the top 10 list for extolling the many virtues of serving the president.
Trump is great and right and healthy, in Mnuchin’s words. And did you know he’s funny, too?
The treasury secretary revealed this in an interview with NBC’s Chuck Todd on Sunday, after Trump had held a rally in Pennsylvania and called for the execution of drug dealers, praised dictators, cussed, and whipped the crowd into a frenzy by calling Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), a frequent critic of his, “a very low-IQ individual.”
Todd offered Mnuchin an opportunity to explain Trump’s conduct. Another less-admiring aide might have simply tried his best to do so. But Mnuchin took the opportunity to praise Trump like he’d never praised him before.
“The president likes making funny names,” he told Todd, whom Trump had called a “sleeping son of a bitch” at the rally.
“He’s using these vulgarities in the context of a campaign rally,” Mnuchin said, “and, obviously, there were a lot of funny moments in that rally.”
Unlike CNN, we won’t attempt to rank that compliment against Mnuchin’s priors. Nor do we see any reason to compare Mnuchin’s flattery with that of Trump’s other subordinates.
Nearly everyone who works for Trump seems to admire him in their own unique way. So here’s a list in no particular order.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt
“It is abundantly clear that President Trump is the most consequential leader of our time. … No one has done more to advance the rule of law than President Trump.” — In an agency statement from January.
Trade adviser Peter Navarro
“My function, really, as an economist is to try to provide the underlying analytics that confirm his intuition. And his intuition is always right in these matters.” — In an interview with Bloomberg last week.
Former National Economic Council director Gary Cohn
“The president was able to make some of the most amazing deals that have really been made by an administration ever.” — Speaking to NPR and other media outlets after Trump visited Saudi Arabia and watched a signing ceremony with U.S. business leaders.
Policy adviser Stephen Miller
To transcribe what he said would only lessen its effect, so just behold:
Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer
“I apologize for being late to work. I got bogged down in that swamp that you’ve been trying to drain.” — A joke at a Cabinet meeting last year in which two dozen aides took turns praising Trump, via CNN.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross
“Mr. President, thank you for the opportunity to help fix the trade deficit and other things.” — At the same Cabinet meeting.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue
“A lot of us just got back from Mississippi. They love you there.” — Same deal.
Communications Director Hope Hicks, before she resigned
“President Trump has a magnetic personality and exudes positive energy, which is infectious to those around him. He has an unparalleled ability to communicate with people. … He is brilliant with a great sense of humor.” — In a written statement.
(We note, for the record, that Hicks praised Trump’s sense of humor months before Mnuchin’s appearance on NBC.)
Vice President Pence
We could quote Pence if we wanted to. After all, he once praised Trump every 12 seconds for three minutes straight.
But more often, the vice president conveys his admiration without saying anything at all: