North Korea, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, Hugo Chavez and Venezuela… all of these nations know what it’s like to live under a tin pot despot.
They also know the importance of propaganda and pledging loyalty to “dear Leader.”
We aren’t there, yet (Thank God), but there was something so disquieting about the video from Trump’s first full Cabinet meeting this week, that it warrants attention.
The meeting began harmlessly enough, with President Trump asking everyone to introduce themselves. He began with Vice President Mike Pence, and then it got… strange.
Pence didn’t just introduce himself. He beamed across the table at Trump and absolutely gushed over the Manhattan billionaire, calling it the “greatest privilege” of his life to serve next to a president who was keeping his word to the American people, as well as bringing “real change, strength, and prosperity” back to the people.
I doubt any general in Kim Jong-un’s army could have said it any better, or with more passion.
If we overlook the fact that Trump has gone back on more campaign promises than he’s actually kept – whether it was building the wall, cutting funding to Planned Parenthood, or repealing Obamacare – then sure, let’s say he’s kept his promises to the American people.
The line of otherwise accomplished and serious men and women continued on, one after the other, each doing their part to heap praise on Trump.
Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta – “my privilege to be here, deeply honored.”
Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price – “an incredible honor, under your leadership, can’t thank you enough for the privilege…”
Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, however, may have outdone them all, with “We thank you for the opportunity and the blessing you have given us to serve your agenda…”
The normal course of a Cabinet meeting is to have the press take a few pictures at the beginning, and then they leave. That President Trump held the press and allowed them to witness this breathtaking show of fealty was not without purpose, nor did anything about it seem normal, or unrehearsed.
It actually had the very real feel of authoritarian propaganda, and nobody should be comfortable with it.
President Trump has been having a rough start to his presidency. His disapproval ratings are at record highs for a president who has only been in office for five months. He needs a boost. Assembling Cabinet members and the media to shoot an agitprop piece for public consumption is likely not the way to get that boost.
It came across as creepy, excessive, and dark.
If you’ve ever heard about the subjugation of the North Korean people and wondered how they could let themselves get to that place, but watched this video and saw nothing wrong with it, then wonder no more. You’re there.