Posted on 6/13/2017, 9:15:51 AM by shortstop
It smelled like North Korea.
Yesterday, at the “cabinet meeting,” as some of the most powerful people on earth went around the table competing to see who could kiss their boss’s ass the most lavishly.
It smelled like those propaganda videos that come out of North Korea, where insane smiles and frenetic clapping break out every time the nut job with the hairdo has a bowel movement.
By the time the meeting at the White House got to the chief of staff talking about being “blessed,” it had taken on the air of worship. It was a gimme to the late-night comics, an exercise in mockable stupidity. One more knock on a horribly battered administration.
And this one we did to ourselves.
I saw “we” because I am a Trump supporter and a Trump voter. Not yet five months in, I think the Trump Administration has done much good. From the Supreme Court to the cabinet appointments, from the executive orders to the new relations with Europe and the Muslim world, I’m liking where this president is going.
But I’m not liking how he’s getting there.
And in the face of a slow-motion progressive coup, in an administration being depicted in a partisan press as a train wreck, many of our wounds are self-inflicted. And most of those wounds arise from a president who knows no bounds.
A president who can’t be told “no,” who can’t effectively be given counsel.
And that leads to spectacles like the cabinet meeting.
Instead of giving people confidence in the nation’s senior leadership, it was an almost Stalinist display of obsequiousness. It was worship of the Dear Leader, akin to the demigod homage paid people like Mao and Castro and Hitler.
And Jim Jones.
It was the sort of thing that would make one imbalanced guy happy, but leave 321 million normal Americans scratching their heads. Or laughing. Or muttering, “We’re screwed” under their breaths.
And it points out two weaknesses – Donald Trump must like that sort of thing, and nobody can tell Donald Trump how stupid and damaging such displays are. That means his instincts are flawed – at least when it comes to ego – and no one in his circle has the stones to stand up to him and save him from himself.
Not his son-in-law, not his chief of staff, not his vice president, not even the secretary of State, who usually seems to be the grownup in the room.
How could a White House operation not know that such a fawning display would backfire, and how could a White House operation not keep it from happening?
Trump needs a peer. Somebody who can take his lips off the presidential backside long enough to give him unflinching advice, especially when it may not be what Trump wants to hear. The most successful leaders have many such people; the most brittle leaders have nobody. A network of strong and independent minds backstopping and debating – that’s what a cabinet is supposed to be, that’s who presidential advisers are supposed to be.
But that’s not what we saw yesterday.
Instead we saw a roomful of people from various walks and disciplines, people of extraordinary achievement and leadership in their own right, reduced to a bowing and scraping we would expect from a royal court, not a Republic of equals. Kowtowing is not the American way. Certainly, there is a deference to leadership, and everybody knows who’s at the top of the organization chart, but no man is lifted up by the bowing down of another, and no secure leader requires the debasement of his followers.
Events like the cabinet meeting raise the fear that Trump’s adult life – lived in a privately held business where his word was law – may have given him a god complex, some belief that his greatness is demonstrated by the quacking praise of sycophants. It makes you fear that he is socially retarded, that he may be the world’s oldest spoiled child.
I hope not.
For the sake of the agenda I want Trump to advance, for the good of our country and the world, I hope not. I hope that these kinks can be worked out.
And I hope that Trump has read enough history and organizational management to know that fawning courtiers are always scheming courtiers, that dysfunction at the head fosters dysfunction throughout. A roomful of advisers eager to tell you how good you are is a roomful of advisers who will lie to you about other things, too. The people who smile at your face are the ones who stab you in the back.
And I hope that Trump and his White House can soon learn that displays like that cabinet meeting ass-kissing session are as lethal to public support as anything the Democrats and news media are throwing at them.
I hope they realize that if you shoot yourself in the foot often enough, the wounds can prove politically fatal.