Why Trump’s sycophantic Cabinet meetings seem so oddly familiar

Donald Trump.

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Donald Trump.
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Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

  • President Donald Trump has now held a pair of Cabinet meetings that have drawn scrutiny for how much Cabinet members have praised him.
  • They sound familiar to the boardroom meetings on Trump’s past reality TV show “The Apprentice.”
  • “Yet another Trump Cabinet meeting devolves into Dear Leader heaping of praise,” a former Obama official tweeted after the latest meeting.

President Donald Trump again enjoyed a praise-filled Cabinet meeting earlier this week, and it was reminiscent of another setting that featured Trump prominently at the head of a boardroom-like setting – his reality TV show, “The Apprentice.”

The gathering of his Cabinet, the ninth meeting of Trump’s first year in office (by comparison, President Barack Obama held 19 through his first full term), featured Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson thanking God for a “courageous” president.

Vice President Mike Pence, meanwhile, lavished praise on Trump for “seeing, through the course of this year, an agenda that truly is restoring this country.” He said he is “deeply humbled … to be able to be here.”

For his part, Trump too offered effusive praise for the “fantastic team” surrounding him at the meeting, which took place after Congress passed the Republican tax package, promising to “go onto really some amazing things” in 2018.

But it paled in comparison to the words his officials offered him.

“You said we could make this economy great again, and you promised to roll back regulations, and you’ve signed more bills rolling back federal red tape than any president in American history,” Pence said.

He went on: “Mostly, Mr. President, I’ll end where I began and just tell you, I want to thank you, Mr. President. I want to thank you for speaking on behalf of and fighting every day for the forgotten men and women of America. Because of your determination, because of your leadership, the forgotten men and women of America are forgotten no more.”

Donald Trump.

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Donald Trump.
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Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images

Trump thanked Pence for his “very nice” comments, turning to Carson and asking him to lead a prayer. He made sure to let the assembled press know that they “need the prayer more than I do,” adding, “maybe a good solid prayer and they’ll be honest, Ben. Is that possible?”

Carson then began the prayer.

“Our kind Father in Heaven, we’re so thankful for the opportunities and the freedom that you’ve granted us in this country,” he said. “We thank you for a president and for Cabinet members who are courageous, who are willing to face the winds of controversy in order to provide a better future for those who come behind us. We’re thankful for the unity in Congress that has presented an opportunity for our economy to expand so that we can fight the corrosive debt that has been destroying our future.”

This wasn’t the first time Cabinet officials heaped praise on Trump

It was reminiscent of an earlier Cabinet meeting in June, in which Trump’s Cabinet went around in a circle singing his praises.

That meeting, the first full meeting of his Cabinet, featured officials such as Pence, former chief of staff Reince Priebus, and former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price each trying to one-up each other with their praises of Trump.

“On behalf of the entire senior staff around you Mr. President, we thank you for the opportunity and the blessing that you’ve given us to serve your agenda and the American people,” Priebus said.

Pence, who was first to speak, called his role in the administration “the greatest privilege” of his life.

Price, who went on to resign in September, said, “I can’t thank you enough for the privileges you’ve given me and the leadership that you’ve shown.”

‘Yet another Trump Cabinet meeting devolves into Dear Leader heaping of praise’

Those meetings seemed familiar – eerily similar – to anyone who watched Trump’s longtime NBC show “The Apprentice.”

It was on “The Apprentice” that contestants would face Trump in the “boardroom” – which is the name Trump uses for the room where Cabinet meetings are held – to plead their cases, win over Trump, and learn of their fate.

As The New Yorker’s Emily Nussbaum wrote of “The Apprentice” in July after having rewatched the program, the show “departs radically from reality” in one particular way: “No one criticizes the boss.”

“Instead, the Trump of ‘The Apprentice’ receives endless praise, even behind his back,” she wrote. “All scandal and debt are erased; Trump’s combative streak is alchemized into Daddy’s tough love. Celebrities who sign up for reality shows often agree to be made fun of. On ‘The Apprentice,’ while Trump is outrageous, he’s rarely ridiculous: if he insults people, they deserve it (and often love it). He’s a family man and a business genius. Contestants are grateful for his attention, even negative attention, since he could be off doing deals.”

That theme has clearly carried over from one “boardroom” to another.

And the Cabinet lovefests quickly found themselves the subject of scorn and mockery for attendees’ over-the-top displays of affection for Trump.

Chris Lu, former deputy secretary of Labor under Obama, tweeted after the June meeting that Obama’s Cabinet “was never told to sing Obama’s praises.”

“He wanted candid advice not adulation,” Lu added, noting that he ran 16 of Obama’s Cabinet meetings during his first term.

On Wednesday, he resurfaced the tweet following the latest praise-filled gathering.

“Re-upping this tweet as yet another Trump Cabinet meeting devolves into Dear Leader heaping of praise,” he wrote.

MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, the host of “Morning Joe” and a figure whom Trump has both been close to and engaged in nasty feuds with, lambasted the rosy display when it first happened in June.

“Don’t make it a cheerleading session about yourself,” Scarborough said. “That’s not why Americans voted for this man.”

He added the members who effusively praised Trump “owe us more than that,” should “stand up” for themselves, and “have dignity.”

The meetings also spawned parodies, including from a top Democrat.

Following the June meeting, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer sat around a table with top aides and asked them “how’d we do on the Sunday show yesterday” and “how’d my hair look coming out of the gym this morning?”

“You have great hair,” one aide responded. “Nobody has better hair than you.”

A third aide cut in, grabbing Schumer’s arm.

“You know, before we go any further, I just want to say thank you for the opportunity and blessing to serve your agenda,” he said.