Sure, Senator Sherrod Brown is gruff, political and abrasive. He’s what many would and often do correctly label as an a**hole in many regards. But this was one instance where it was good for Republicans to see what kind of guy has been nominated as the Treasury Secretary. Steve Mnuchin was a seventeen year executive with Goldman Sachs who then became a hedge fund manager, banker and movie studio mogul. He’s nominated for Treasury Secretary after having been Mr. Trump’s national finance chairman for his campaign. He’s very good a raising money, not only because he’s a good salesman and fun to watch, but because he’s well-connected to the right people.
His Wikipedia listing states that “During the financial crisis of 2007–2008, Mnuchin bought failed residential lender IndyMac. He changed the name to OneWest Bank and rebuilt the bank, then sold it to CIT Group in 2015.” It is his relationships, his possibly predatory conduct and how they were transformed into his personal wealth estimated at $400 million that are being seized upon by the Democrats as potential disqualifiers to his nomination.
While it’s clear Mr. Mnuchin may have the expertise for the position, his activities during the “financial crisis” have led to questions concerning his fitness. His odd mannerisms, particularly when he’s under the clear duress of Senator Brown’s questioning, call into question his health and physical condition. The twitches, expressions, gestures and actions, as well as the content and nature of the responses of this Hollywood financier are in some ways reminiscent of the Dustin Hoffman character in “Rainman.” He doesn’t look like a meth addict, odds are it’s just him.
Mnuchin is combative, which, when dealing with Brown, is a natural response. One can either fight back or get beaten up. He does appear to be vulnerable in the areas of profiting from the financial crisis, though, and of being ruthless regarding foreclosures and other actions taken against borrowers. Those practices, which included many military families, were often done inappropriately. For those shortcomings he made a statement of apology, for the record, during the hearings.
It’s ironic that Brown, a Democrat, cites a leaked document from the California Attorney General’s office in his aggressive questioning, given their attacks on “Russia” for doing the same thing against corrupt Hillary Clinton. Ironic is sometimes a polite way of saying “extremely hypocritical.” The questions included a practice at Mnuchin’s OneWest of back-dating documents and complaints of obstruction of their investigation.
Mnuchin stands his ground on the badgering and not being allowed an opportunity to respond to questions, a fair argument. Five minutes per Senator is not enough time for a meaningful interaction and invariably leads to showboating and extremes in the form of either softballs or badgering, dependent upon the political relationship between the questioner and the witness.
One thing is certain, if Mnuchin is confirmed, he’ll be entertaining. Although the exchange was short, he never ran out of facial contortions and other actions, effectively keeping the viewers in the room and at home engaged and on the edge of their seats. Finance can be a dry subject, that may be a huge plus.
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