President Donald Trump opened the first meeting of his full Cabinet with characteristic humility.
"Never has there been a president, with few exceptions,” he announced to the reporters assembled, “who has passed more legislation, done more things."
So, Trump sings his own praises on occasion, despite having few legislative accomplishments to boast of. But the event became more unnerving when he invited each member of his executive team to sing his praises.
The suck-uppery grew and grewMike Pence was the first up. “It’s the greatest privilege of my life is to serve as vice president to a president who is keeping his word to the American people.”
“With your direction we were able to also focus on the forgotten man and woman who are paying those taxes,” Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney enthused.
“Thank you for keeping your commitment to the American people,” Labor Secretary Alex Acosta said, with a bit of trepidation.
The praises grew grander as they went. “It’s a joy,” “a great honor,” “deeply privileged.” “Thank you,” “thank you,” “thank you!”
It all seemed so Kim Jong-un.
In Cabinet meetings past, former presidents talked about their agenda for a few minutes, let the press grab a few minutes of B-roll, then hustled them out of the room. Not the Trump White House.
Granted, the Cabinet members were in a tough situation. If you want to placate a hot-headed guy most famous for yelling, “you’re fired,” flattery is the safest path.
“I can't tell you how excited and enthusiastic folks are about the United States leadership," HHS Secretary Tom Price offered.
"I want to congratulate you on the men and women you've placed around this table.… These are great team members and we're on your team," Labor Secretary Sonny Perdue said, somewhat recursively.
The champion of oleaginous suck-uppery was Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, saying, “We thank you for the opportunity and blessing to serve your agenda." Maybe he’s taking the pink slip rumors seriously.
Garden-variety narcissists would blush at the spectacle. Even if they wanted to bask in the unearned compliments, at least they’d have the awareness to know how bad it all looked. And any politician familiar with American institutions would know the most successful leaders are viewed in their time as public servants, not Indispensable Men of History.
When the founders set up our grand experiment, they inverted the org charts of the Old World. Power flowed from the citizens to the leaders, not the other way around. They highlighted this fact with the first three words of the Constitution.
We the People established our system to “secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.” We the People hire elected officials to do our bidding and when they fail, We the People are the ones who say “you’re fired.” Politicians aren’t our bosses, they are our employees. And be it a two-, four-, or six-year term, they’re on permanent probation.
Mr. President, we’ve heard enough about how great you are, how you hire the best people, and that you’re the richest, smartest, toughest leader ever, believe me.
The American people should hear how great they are. How they’ve triumphed over bigger problems in the past. How they’ve expanded freedom and liberty at home and abroad. How they transformed a few ragged colonies into the greatest nation the world has ever seen.
Thankfully, one Cabinet official wasn’t willing to play ball. Sitting next to the president, Gen. James Mattis redirected his praise to far more worthy recipients. “We are grateful for the sacrifices our people are making in order to strengthen our military.”
It’s time We the People saw a lot more service and sacrifice from our employees in Washington. Otherwise, you’re fired.