A day after President Donald Trump accepted praise from his Cabinet, media pundits can’t stop retching.
Tuesday on CNN and MSNBC, commentators struggled for the most extreme adjective — embarrassing, sickening, un-American. The leading lights of the media believed comparisons to dictators were fair game.
“People who do their jobs each and every day do not require adulation around the table,” commentator Mike Barnicle said during “Morning Joe” on Tuesday. “My God, that was embarrassing.”
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Barnicle and others were reacting to a Monday Cabinet meeting — the first since all of Trump’s officials have been confirmed. The leaders of the various agencies took turns thanking the president and praising his leadership.
“What an incredible honor it is to lead the Department of Health and Human Services at this pivotal time under your leadership,” Secretary Tom Price said in one typical example. “I can’t thank you enough for the privilege you’ve given me and the leadership you’ve shown.”
It might seem unremarkable that Trump would earn praise and respect from his own hand-picked advisers, but to “Morning Joe” co-host Joe Scarborough, it was enough to send him scrambling for Pepto-Bismol.
“It was sick. Sick is the word,” he said. “It is also deeply un-American to turn a Cabinet meeting to the president of the United States in the White House into a cheerleading routine where everybody is supposed to go around and praise him.”
Scarborough said he was glad Defense Secretary James Mattis simply praised the troops.
“And if you’re a Cabinet member, come on, you owe us more than that. We pay for your salary, too. Stand up for yourself. Have dignity.”
“What Donald Trump doesn’t understand is — so many things — but the first thing is he is serving the American people,” he said. “He is working for the people, not only that voted for him, but the people who didn’t vote for him.”
Scarborough said Trump should have orchestrated the Cabinet meeting around efforts to help the working- and middle-class voters who are struggling. He said it would even have been fine if Trump wanted to talk about his immigration agenda.
“But don’t make it a cheerleading session about yourself,” he said. “That’s not why Americans voted for this man. And if you’re a Cabinet member, come on, you owe us more than that. We pay for your salary, too. Stand up for yourself. Have dignity.”
On CNN, commentator David Axelrod contrasted it with the Cabinet meetings run by his boss, former President Barack Obama.
“It was embarrassing. I was thinking about, I sat in many Cabinet meetings when I was in the White House,” he said. “I think the president would have burst out laughing if a couple of people had gone down the row doing that because it was clearly orchestrated. It felt very North Korean. You know, everybody giving praise to the leader.”
Axelrod attributed the display to Trump’s low poll numbers and his need for a lift.
“The general narrative is bad about accomplishments, and he’s trying to create an alternative reality, and they’re trying to keep his spirits up,” he said. “And so what we get is this new reality show. But at the end of the day, only Gen. Mattis walked out of there with his dignity.”