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Former White House Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney Talks Challenges of Governance at Harvard IOP Forum

Former White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, right, speaks to Institute of Politics Director Setti Warren at a forum on Tuesday.
Former White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, right, speaks to Institute of Politics Director Setti Warren at a forum on Tuesday. By Sachi Laumas

Former White House acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney spoke about the challenges of governing and his own leadership experiences at a Harvard Institute of Politics forum Tuesday evening.

IOP Director Setti D. Warren moderated the event, where he asked Mulvaney about issues ranging from growing political polarization to mental health issues among the nation’s youth. Mulvaney also served as a U.S. Representative for South Carolina from 2011 to 2017.

When asked by Warren about what current issues keep him up at night, Mulvaney cited his frustration at the lack of civil discourse and understanding across political aisles in America.

“We’re living in a world where it seems like no one wants to change their minds about anything,” Mulvaney said.

Though Mulvaney is a founding member of the House Freedom Caucus – a group representing a conservative wing of House Republicans – he critiqued the state of the group today.

“They are now a machine for outrage in many circumstances,” Mulvaney said. “They are raising a lot of money in Washington D.C now by being outraged.”

“The Freedom Caucus today is not the Freedom Caucus I remember when I was there,” he added.

In an interview with The Crimson following the forum, Mulvaney said that he would not be a member of the Freedom Caucus if he were in Congress today.

Mulvaney also spoke about flaws he sees in the goals of popular media outlets such as Fox and MSNBC.

“The market is for entertainment, not for education,” he said. “And I don’t know how to fix that.”

When asked to give advice to aspiring politicians, Mulvaney encouraged his audience to first “go and have real world experience.”

“The government is not the real world,” he said.

Mulvaney also discussed two major challenges raised by the IOP’s biannual youth poll – homelessness and mental health.

In response to the poll’s finding that 73 percent of youth agree with the statement that “being homeless can happen to anyone,” Mulvaney pointed to problems such as the “cost of housing” and the difficulty in building new homes.

“It’s just really hard to get permission to build places for people to live,” he said.

Mulvaney was also asked about growing mental health concerns among youth — a finding also supported by the Youth Poll — but he was unable to identify a specific cause for the growing crisis.

“I don’t understand that crisis. I really don’t. I didn’t go through it,” Mulvaney said.

“I don’t get what we’ve done to the younger generations to create this crisis, because it is a crisis,” he added.

Citing his own experience, Mulvaney shared his views on the role of a White House Chief of Staff.

“You’re not chief of the president. You’re chief of the staff,” he said. “And you’re there to make the President as successful as he or she can be.”

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PoliticsHarvard Kennedy SchoolRepublicans