It was supposed to be a regular cabinet meeting. Instead, it turned into one of the most bizarre spectacles some have ever witnessed during their time in Washington DC. Cabinet meetings are a fixture in DC, and typically they start off with the President making a few remarks, and then some images get captured for press reports, and that’s it. The media leaves and the President conducts his meeting with his cabinet and staff.
Donald Trump first extolled the virtue of his administration through the first five months, laughably claiming he’s gotten more accomplished than any president since Franklin D. Roosevelt (he hasn’t). As the press readied themselves to leave, Trump asked everybody around the table to introduce themselves and say something about the “administration.” Of course what Trump meant is, “Speak nicely about me.”
His underlings didn’t disappoint:
“The greatest privilege of my life is to serve as vice president to the president who’s keeping his word to the American people,” Mike Pence said, starting things off.
“I am privileged to be here — deeply honored — and I want to thank you for your commitment to the American workers,” said Alexander Acosta, the secretary of labor.
Sonny Perdue, the agriculture secretary, had just returned from Mississippi and had a message to deliver. “They love you there,” he offered, grinning across the antique table at Mr. Trump.
Reince Priebus, the chief of staff whose job insecurity has been the subject of endless speculation, outdid them all, telling the president — and the assembled news cameras — “We thank you for the opportunity and the blessing to serve your agenda.”
I had a conversation with a friend who said that Trump going around the table is not any different than what exists in the corporate world. Normally, that might be a plausible explanation. Based on the slobbering replies given by those around the table, that reason doesn’t hold water. I’ve been in plenty of those corporate meetings and what happens is you tell people your name and role in the company. Never once did I lavish praise on the boss in front of other people.
Make no mistake, that’s precisely what Trump wanted. As absurd as they sound and taking into account they may not have meant what they were saying, they certainly knew what Donald Trump wanted to hear. I’ve never witnessed a more nauseating display of fealty and ego-stroking as I did when watching intelligent and respected grown men and women transform themselves into the equivalent of love-struck teenagers at a boy band concert while the president sat there with a big dopey grin on his face.
It goes directly to Trump’s condition where he thinks the rules don’t apply to him. He thinks being president gives him free reign to act in a manner unbefitting the office. He still thinks it’s ‘The Apprentice’ and all his underlings are subjects, not people entrusted with a job to do that they’ll retain wholly on the merits. Trump wants the adoration above all else. “We thank you for the opportunity and the blessing to serve your agenda.” Have you ever heard such mindless drivel? Does that sound like a professional doing their job? Or a hack, doing his part to keep the president feeling warm and fuzzy?
It struck me that this is what he expected of James Comey and Comey didn’t deliver in the form of a public announcement that Trump was not personally under investigation. And so Trump fired him.
I suspect some people are watching what unfolds in this administration and smart people have to be thinking, “There’s no way I work for that guy.” What does Trump do when prominent cabinet officials resign, and they can’t find replacements who want anything to do with him? He’ll wind up having to settle, and we’ll all be worse off in the long run.
People are sure to offer reminders of President Obama and his narcissism, and they’re right. President Obama had similar issues of wanting to be liked and respected as well as the center of attention. Who can forget all of the historical remembrances where the Obama made himself the focus (Remembering Rosa Parks by having a picture of himself taken on the bus that Parks boarded and refused to sit in the ‘colored’ section)? All of that is true.
So why on earth would anybody defend the same in a Republican president?