In 2005, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin won a Pulitzer for her book “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln.” It masterfully told the story about how Lincoln assembled a cabinet containing many of his formal political rivals because he wanted people who could offer him different viewpoints and stand up to him. Barack Obama later said that was the inspiration of how he created his cabinet.
Now we get President Donald Trump’s Team of Sycophants. Not all, but Twitter was burning up today with Tweets about how — in something never seen before in American government, but common in North Korea and in historical authoritarian regimes that are thankfully long- gone — Trump went around his cabinet and gave them all time to hail The Great Leader (him). Just watch the video for yourself. And note that Secretary of Defense Gen. James Mattis did n-o-t do a loyalty pledge to the guy who insisted he would never ask for a loyalty pledge after fired FBI chief James Comey said Trump wanted one.
Have we seen that with FDR? Dwight Eisenhower? George HW Bush? Gerald Ford? Richard Nixon? Barack Obama? Ronald Reagan? There is always a certain amount of praise a Vice President and/or cabinet officials give their boss. But we haven’t seen this since watching old films of the Stalin regime, North Korea, Benito Mussolini and you-know-who-who-looked-like Charlie Chaplin.
The cliche is always “it can’t happen here,” or “it can happen here” or “it is happening here.” And it muddies the water:
Why? Because that automatically suggests or conjures up metnal images of Nazism with all of the accompanying horrors — concentration camps, mass shooting, genocide, mass assassinations or execution of political foes.
That is NOT the issue:
The history of authoritarian regimes shows that they take over a country by shattering norms, and the shattering is accepted as the new norm. They take over countries where there are are gutless members of the establishment who underestimate the authoritarian threat, or enable it, or go along with it for their own political gain — and are often gobbled up by their decision to utter words they know are bilge and to remain silent to actions that they know run counter to how their country was set up.
Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer immediately put out his own parody of Trump’s many cabinet members shedding their dignity and displaying for all that they’re political jellyfish that will go along with anything The Great Leader suggests:
You know that SNL writers are already working on something.
If the gushy, praise for The Man Who Walks On Water Who Doesn’t Have the Initials JC wasn’t enough proof that words don’t have meaning in the Trump administration and that this is not “spin” but propaganda, Trump’s description of himself before letting his
toadies cabinet once again was fact free stated as fact. CNBC’s Jon Harwood:
Since taking office in January, President Donald Trump has displayed various reactions to the pressures of his job, from angry tweets to effusive exaggerations to self-defeating candor.
On Monday, Trump tried something new: bathing in praise from his Cabinet in front of TV cameras.
After a weekend dominated by discussion of whether he had committed obstruction of justice, the president called in reporters for what he billed as his first full Cabinet meeting. He began with an opening statement laced with the sort of wild, self-congratulatory boasts that are his trademark.
“Never has there been a president, with few exceptions … who has passed more legislation, done more things,” Trump declared, even though Congress, which is controlled by his party, hasn’t passed any major legislation.
He hailed his plan for the “single biggest tax cut in American history,” even though he hasn’t proposed a plan and Congress hasn’t acted on one. He said “no one would have believed” his election could have created so many new jobs over the past seven months (1.1 million), even though more jobs (1.3 million) were created in the previous seven months.
Typically, a president’s initial comments mark the end of on-camera coverage of White House Cabinet meetings, with administration aides then escorting members of the small press “pool” out of the room. But Trump invited reporters to remain as he called on his senior-most advisers to “go around, name your position” and say a few words about the administration’s work.
Truly, madly, deeply un-American. https://t.co/AUh79xIFV2
— Paul Krugman (@paulkrugman) June 12, 2017
— Michael Kruse (@michaelkruse) June 12, 2017
— Margot Sanger-Katz (@sangerkatz) June 12, 2017
This interminable cabinet spray, where everybody pays tribute to Trump, is one of the most exquisitely awkward public events I've ever seen.
— Glenn Thrush (@GlennThrush) June 12, 2017
— Polly Sigh (@dcpoll) June 12, 2017
Apparently trump cabinet meetings are a circle jerk of old white guys & a couple women heaping praise on the petulant child in chief
— Josh Murr (@ArnoldPaulMurr) June 12, 2017
Trump cabinet celebrates the President's successes. pic.twitter.com/b34OlpvFyd
— Orange Leader (@OrangeLeaderUSA) June 12, 2017
THIS IS ACTUALLY THE START OF KING LEAR. https://t.co/LpUWP54xYo
— Tracy Ur (@tracyurq) June 12, 2017
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