CNN commentators still can’t believe what they saw during President Donald Trump’s cabinet meeting Monday where his panel of Secretaries praised him and thanked him one by one.
“I don’t think the president ordered that edict, maybe another person ordered that edict,” New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman, who noted that this kind of behavior is how Trump’s staff typically behaved with him at Trump Tower. “With everything, this is the seat of the U.S. government. This is a cabinet room, a somber meeting. Look, it is absolutely a privilege to serve as vice president. It is, absolutely. I thought Rex Tillerson was the most demure, ‘honored to serve your agenda. Thanks for giving me the opportunity.’ Everything else translated into what I thought The Washington Post captured, ‘dear leader’ language we don’t hear in this country. That was surreal.”
Legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin agreed, saying it “was very North Korean.”
“One of the things you tip to see with Donald Trump is he has a real difficulty distinguishing between the personal and the institutional,” Haberman. “So, he has — there is this weird sort of quality about how he runs this government. You saw [Gen. James] Mattis there as the only person who really didn’t join in that and made clear: ‘this is about something broader, this is about country, we are in shared sacrifice.’ This meeting is a distillation of the problems you see this president inflict upon himself repeatedly.”
Host Chris Cuomo cited a recent op-ed by Margaret Sullivan in The Washington Post, in which she explains we’re asking the wrong question when it comes to the dichotomy between whether or not the media is too unfair to Trump.
“The question is not whether or not you’re being nice to the president, it’s whether you’re being fair and whether you’re covering the things that matter,” Cuomo said. “There is this — this is perfect what just happened at the meeting. This is what the White House is saying. You have to be nice, too.”
CNN’s Chris Cillizza noted that many dismiss incidents like this because it didn’t have anything to do with policy and was nothing more than a photo-op.
“I think these sorts of moments or windows into Donald Trump’s psyche, how he views the world, him at the center of it and everyone else a helpful spoke in that wheel,” Cillizza said. “The idea you would have these people, billionaires, tremendously accomplished in the military, Reince Priebus, whatever you think of him, chairman of the committee, serious person, they would go around and each sort of lavish praise on him while he sat there. I was watching the video there. His role is remarkable in that. Just imagine if you guys had the ‘New Day’ staff all sitting around a table and they just went around and praised you. It would feel odd for you. You would almost certainly feel a little uncomfortable.”
Ultimately the conversation turned to the production and staging of this presidency like it was a television show. Toobin couldn’t understand why Trump would operate that way. Cillizza even said that Trump is leaving us with a cliffhanger in his comment about the “tapes.”
“I don’t understand why. What’s the political advantage of that?” he asked.
“Because that’s who he is,” said Cillizza.
“Because he is enjoying watching the show,” Haberman said.
Watch the full discusion below: