Alan Zendell, June 14, 2017
David Axelrod said, “Frankly, it was embarrassing.” Stephen Colbert suggested that it made Kim Jong-un seem classy. A broad spectrum of commentators called it bizarre, with the most often heard comment being, “I’ve never seen anything like this before.” I felt shocked, disbelieving, and nauseated, in that order.
By now you’ve figured out that I’m referring to the awkward, artificial, and wholly inappropriate Cabinet meeting that Trump conducted on live television a couple of days ago. In his most narcissistic act yet, like a medieval king, he required every member of his Cabinet to proclaim fealty, perform obeisance, and generally embarrass him or herself before the world. It was as staged as a Chinese election, and I’m honestly torn between hoping it was just the repulsive puppet show it seemed to be and being terrified that it wasn’t.
Trump began the show with cheap shots at Democrats, all of whom are nothing but worthless obstructionists followed by hollow, exaggerated praise for the people he somehow convinced to serve in his Cabinet. Then we were treated to a surreal summary of all his wonderful accomplishments that have never been matched by any other president in our history. Finally, our pompous, self-important president basked in the glow of the forced adulation he required as the price of admission to his administration, as one by one, every member of his Cabinet soiled themselves on live television. The fact that this occurred in the wake of James Comey’s testimony that Trump inappropriately demanded a loyalty pledge from him made this display even more outrageous, but then, this is Donald Trump we’re talking about.
Anyone who expected to see a real Cabinet meeting had those hopes dashed when the television cameras were turned off as soon as this latest episode of reality television concluded with Trump praising himself for presiding over a completely transparent administration. All this, after Trump had spent the night tweeting that James Comey was the worst possible leaker, while one of the Donald’s good friends, who claimed he’d never spoken with the president, began leaking…errr…I mean floating the rumor that Trump was considering firing Robert Mueller.
On the same day, the media was full of speculation over whether Attorney General Sessions, the first Senator to pledge loyalty to Trump, would claim executive privilege before the Senate Intelligence Committee or if he might be willing to shed light on the possible existence of taped conversations. Remarkably, in a Cabinet which is a model of transparency, Sessions’ memory seemed to fail him every time he needed it
So Trump once again demonstrated how well he had learned to practice distraction, obfuscation, and misdirection, while in his typically unsubtle manner, having no idea that when he does these things repeatedly everyone begins to see through them. Oh, I get it – that’s what he meant by running a transparent administration.
I wish the media would stop grabbing at every bit of bait Trump throws them. Did we need yet another rehash of the Saturday Night Massacre? Did anyone actually believe Trump would fire Mueller with people in both parties (except our old buddy Newt Gingrich) screaming that he’d better not? Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein effectively told the world he’d resign if Trump ordered him to fire Mueller, and currently Rosenstein is viewed by most Americans as the Department of Justice’s standard bearer of integrity.
I’m a big fan of loyalty, especially today, Flag Day. But I spent thirty-seven years in the federal government, and in all that time I never witnessed a politician demand blind loyalty from a career civil servant. And every time I observed political pressure to commit an illegal action, it was rebuffed out of hand. That’s the way it’s supposed to work.
After ten years of living in this country as a legal permanent resident, one of my daughters-in-law is about to become an American citizen. Since her country of origin is currently under the yoke of one of the wannabe dictators Trump has been cozying up to, she understands better than most of us how dangerous a corrupt administration can be. When she is asked to pledge allegiance to the United States of America, she will do so with joy and pride. But the only other loyalty pledge she ever has or will sign was her marriage contract. No wonder I love her.