It's been described as a ring-kissing ceremony, the opening scene from King Lear and the type of standard fare from dictators like Kim Jong Un. Glen Thrush described it as “one of the most exquisitely awkward public events I've ever seen.” This may all be quite true and amusing, but I think there's a better explanation for what went down in the White House Cabinet Room on Monday.
It was a group gratitude exercise intended to lift the cloud hanging over Trump's presidency. You know, the one that James Comey so callously refused to do away with. Doing this exercise together as a group killed two birds with one stone since the orange man has a voracious need for praise and cabinet members needed some bucking up.
In an effort to create a more welcoming feeling within this article, lets proceed on a first-name basis. Perhaps Reince dreamt this up. He's going through a hard time with the persistent rumors that say he might get fired. Someone needs some happy vibes! Jeff is also facing a similar challenge in his professional life, so perhaps they tag-teamed it and brought in Mike since we see him bravely kicking off the session on the video. He's in such a good place right now doing what veeps do: keeping his head down and his fingers out of the many presidential scandals. Patience, Mike, patience.
And who doesn't know the benefits of gratitude these days what with all the psychologists, celebrities and celebrity-psychologists extolling its virtues. It was just a matter of time until the trend hit Washington. Perhaps Ivanka or one of their therapists suggested it. No matter, gratitude is a scientifically proven way to increase happiness and health and as the Harvard Business Review concludes “positive teams are more productive.” (OK, this last bit is snark-free, practicing gratitude is truly transforming.)
It's easy to see why Trump's poor beleaguered team needed some uplift. He tried to offer some encouraging words, but unfortunately, they didn't match with the truth: “I will say that never has there been a president, with few exceptions — in the case of F.D.R. he had a major Depression to handle — who’s passed more legislation, who’s done more things than what we’ve done.”
It sucks to not have any legislative accomplishments when your party controls everything, but the workplace stress of reporting to a delusional man who improvises policy, doesn't listen to experts and tweets at all hours, must be deeply affecting his team's morale. Who's dealt with an impulsive boss? Come on, show of hands! Or, the kind who has you walking on eggshells because you never know what kind of a mood they'll be in. It's an incredibly stressful work situation.
Also, they are working for a man who's famous for saying “you're fired!” And it's not all talk, in addition to the ongoing chatter about Reince and Jeff, the Donald fired Jim. That might just be a warm up of his axe-swing skills since the latest gossip centers around the possible firing of Mueller as special counsel (ok, this guy just has way too much gravitas to call him by his first name.)
On top of all that, there's the ongoing Russia investigation, Jim's testimony, the bad vibes from European leaders, the tweets and the polling, man oh man, the polling. The Donald's approval ratings have not once reached 50%. They've mostly languished below 40% and currently sit at 36%. This is just a point off from the lowest registered since he was inaugurated in January. Cabinet members have barely begun their new jobs and they're already shellshocked. These guys needed a group hug and lets just feel grateful that they were open enough to do it in front of the cameras, for all the world to see.
In all seriousness, White House staff already have their hands full keeping Trump's ego fed with positive news coverage. While full cabinet meetings are not much more than photo opps and video clips, using one to hold a public pep-rally is not only a first, but is also a pathetic attempt to change the media narrative. More importantly, it speaks volumes about the distress and insecurity going on within the team tasked with no less than running the United States of America. We’re all going to need to need a hug.