Morning Joe: 'Sun King' Trump Is 'Dear Leader' of A 'Cult,' Making People 'Kiss The Ring'

In another shameless ‘Trump is a dictator’ segment on Friday’s Morning Joe, the panel were still reveling over the news that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reportedly called President Trump a moron in July. Unable to contain themselves, the gang compared Trump to famously flamboyant French King Louis XIV, Kim Jong-un, Vito Corleone, a “cult figure,” and, to top it all off, a sadistic fetishist.

The segments in question were generally a bit disjointed, but they all started off with some reference to the Tillerson-Trump kerfuffle. Heidi Przybyla, senior politics reporter at USA Today, was the first to make a remark about the story by trying to psychoanalyze Trump:

It's not that they can't get along. CEOs get along all of the time. Senior executives, boards, these relationships. But the key thing here is that Donald Trump, why does Donald Trump have this almost fetish with CEOs, generals, these very powerful men? He's attracted to that power. But once they are within his orbit and within his control, you see some very cutting and very unusual behavior behind the scenes and also in public with these tweets to kind of undercut them, emasculate them almost.

People insult one another all the time, but not every insult or negative comment is an indication of sadism or mental illness. If it was, then Joe Scarborough and the rest of the regular panelists probably all need psychiatric checkups right away.

About half an hour later in the broadcast, Joe and Mika brought on Eugene Robinson, associate editor and columnist at The Washington Post, to promote his latest op-ed, which Mika read parts of:

And Gene, you write in your new column: “Loyalty To Trump Isn’t Enough.” And in part you write this: “One of the most appalling aspects of the Trump presidency is the sycophancy that [sic] he requires [sic] officials who serve him. Trump demands not just loyalty but flattery, too. [...] Members of his Cabinet have made a humiliating bargain: humor him, suck up to him, and maybe — just maybe — he will leave you alone and let you make policy. Or maybe not. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has been working as best he knows how to address the issue of North Korea’s nuclear program through diplomacy. Trump undercut him with a tweet, saying Tillerson was ‘wasting his time.’ [...] Tillerson is no diplomatic genius, but he is no flunky, either. [...] It’s hard to imagine Tillerson being willing to take much more of this, but other Cabinet members have made their peace with the Sun King’s demand for unctuous deference. [...]  For now, I suppose they will continue telling Trump how strong he is, how wise, how special.” How pathetic!

If you really want to see what sycophantic praise looks like, look no further than this.

Not content to let the text of his piece do all his talking for him, Robinson decided to compare another leader with Trump:

Well, you know, it kind of is. It’s like, um, we're in the “Dear Leader” phase of American history, which is something that I never thought we would be here. [...] [T]here’s no leader but “Dear Leader.” There’s no time but now. And maybe they think he will be the, you know, our “Dear Leader” forever more. But it was, there just are these embarrassing moments. You know, I can’t  get the image out of my head of Steve Mnuchin going on the Sunday shows and trying to defend President Trump calling for NFL players to be fired. And, you know, clearly looking as if he were in physical pain, but something he had to do because it's something the President said, therefore, it must be right. And that sort of attitude on, you know, what can go wrong with that? Well, everything.

Putting aside Robinson’s strange inability to imagine anyone agreeing with Trump’s NFL comments, it really was rich to compare Trump, once again, to Kim Jong-un or any of the other leaders of North Korea. Trump does not execute his family members or government subordinates on a whim or put political dissidents in concentration camps where they are tortured, worked for slave labor, and sometimes just killed.

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At the top of the second hour, the morning show played an old June 12th clip of a handful of Trump’s Cabinet members and staff thanking the President or praising his leadership and followed that up with a short clip from Wednesday’s Tillerson press conference showing him reiterating his support of the President. But, what perhaps appeared to the casual viewer to be simple courtesies had much more ominous significance in Morning Joe’s eyes:

DEUTSCH: Wait, I’m confused, didn’t he call him a moron?

SCARBOROUGH: Well, I mean-

DEUTSCH: I’m confused, as I easily am.

SCARBOROUGH: You know, I mean, all the world’s a stage, and, you know, sometimes you're just in the, you know, stage, playing to the curtains. Sometimes you're holding a press conference at the State Department saying: he’s okay.

BRZEZINSKI: [interrupting] We should have seen it coming. New reporting that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was pressured into making that statement praising President Trump which reminded us a lot of that Cabinet meeting back in June that we just showed you where everybody had to suck up for thirty seconds around the table. What is this?

SCARBOROUGH: Oh my god, you know, Nic-, well, actually, General Mattis didn't. Nick, listen, I, I'm cutting the Secretary of State some slack in this last one here because he's got General Kelly, a guy that he's fought wars with, you know, not him, but guys that have fought wars together, General Kelly and General Mattis, coming to him saying: you know what? We've done a lot for our country. You're doing a lot for your country right now. We need you to stay where you are. And if that means going out and, you know, sucking it up and making a statement that General Mattis and General Kelly saying [sic] is in the best interests of America, I don't judge Rex Tillerson.

But then, Nick Confessore, a New York Times reporter, jumped in and said something sane that no one else on the panel appeared to be able to appreciate:

I would just point out though – Washington is full of suck-ups and flattery is a Washington art form. So this is not a new thing. And I think also it’s true the President is in fact entitled to the deference of his cabinet in public. The problem is, in private, he’s doesn’t have that deference.

Joe continued babbling on after this about how he didn’t blame Tillerson for his statements at the press conference, which was somewhat odd. In the past, Scarborough seemed very clear about the importance of executive branch officials respecting the President both in private and public given that he called for the firing of General Stanley McChrystal over purportedly insulting comments he made about President Obama that were published by Rolling Stone in 2010.

Regardless, David Ignatius, columnist at The Washington Post, apparently didn’t want to be the only kid on the playground without a jibe at the President:

IGNATIUS: Joe, I've said to you before, his, Tillerson's basic view is take this job and shove it. That's what he'd love to say, and he's not saying that because he feels that he has important work to do. Watching somebody go through this ritual humiliation that he went through this week is painful. I think we all felt embarrassed for him. He's a person of substance, and he's basically, as I, is [sic] kissing the ring is how we'll put it. You know, it’s like in The Godfather. Godfather, you bend down, kiss the ring, and then you go about your business. And, you know, if you didn't think that in the end Tillerson was a steadying factor, you'd say: leave right now. But it’s, it's extraordinary to watch. He’s, Donald Trump is not the first president who has humiliated people. It’s said that Lyndon Johnson, you know, tough guy, big guy president, used to [starts laughing] demand that people come in and talk to him while he was sitting on the can-

[Joe and others laugh, chuckle]

IGNATIUS: -really to, you know, to humiliate them, to show them who was the President. And so we have incidents like this. They're never attractive. You know, there's a kind of insecurity, I guess, that goes along with power at the very top where people have to inflict this on their subordinates.

SCARBOROUGH: [smiling, approving tone] Lyndon Johnson, now there’s a guy, let’s just say, multi-layered [trails off].

So, Scarborough was amused by Johnson’s crude behavior, but fine with characterizing Trump as a mafia boss, a monarch, and a communist dictator all because the President made Tillerson apologize, an action that Joe himself may have seen as too tame if an administration official had called Obama a moron.

Nearer to the end of the second hour, the panel brought on former Clinton Defense Secretary William Cohen, who, apparently oblivious to the irony, fretted that Trump was being worshipped as a dangerous religious leader and acting unpresidential:

DEUTSCH: Mr. Secretary, [...] as a former Cabinet member, and as you kind of watch the, uh, the dance of the current Cabinet that there's this constant obligation of them to fawn and to, you know, compliment and worship their boss, [...] how does it make you feel?

COHEN: It's embarrassing to watch. I looked at that meeting and Cabinet meeting where every official went around the circle praising the President as if he were a cult figure. To his credit, I saw Secretary Mattis indicate he was honored to be able to represent the men and women serving in our military. I thought that was the appropriate tone to take. This worship of the office or seeking to reinforce a gratification experience by the President, I think is, it’s certainly not consistent with what I have known and come to expect from a president. I want the President to act presidential.

See the full transcript of the relevant segments below:

6:03 AM EST

HEIDI PRZYBYLA: It's not that they can't get along. CEOs get along all of the time. Senior executives, boards, these relationships. But the key thing here is that Donald Trump, why does Donald Trump have this almost fetish with CEOs, generals, these very powerful men? He's attracted to that power. But once they are within his orbit and within his control, you see some very cutting and very unusual behavior behind the scenes and also in public with these tweets to kind of undercut them, emasculate them almost. And also, on the issues, why have a Secretary of State? It seems like he's undercut Tillerson on almost, go down the ledger of the issues, whether it be North Korea or Iran, all of the reporting that we have is that he undercuts him and he resents him when Tillerson prevails, such as in the instance of the increase in troops in Afghanistan. The reporting is that Trump resented that.

(...)

6:34 AM

BRZEZINSKI: And Gene, you write in your new column: “Loyalty To Trump Isn’t Enough.” And in part you write this: “One of the most appalling aspects of the Trump presidency is the sycophancy that [sic] he requires [sic] officials who serve him. Trump demands not just loyalty but flattery, too. [...] Members of his Cabinet have made a humiliating bargain: humor him, suck up to him, and maybe — just maybe — he will leave you alone and let you make policy. Or maybe not. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has been working as best he knows how to address the issue of North Korea’s nuclear program through diplomacy. Trump undercut him with a tweet, saying Tillerson was ‘wasting his time.’ [...] Tillerson is no diplomatic genius, but he is no flunky, either. [...] It’s hard to imagine Tillerson being willing to take much more of this, but other Cabinet members have made their peace with the Sun King’s demand for unctuous deference. [...]  For now, I suppose they will continue telling Trump how strong he is, how wise, how special.” How pathetic!

SCARBOROUGH: Or, if you are the Treasury Secretary, you talk about how he is genetically superior. His DNA.

EUGENE ROBINSON: Absolutely.

BRZEZINSKI: Oh my god! What?

ROBINSON: Exactly, and if you do that, he will let you take your bride and fly in a private jet to Fort Knox where you can stand on a pile of gold and watch a total eclipse of the sun. It seems like a fair trade-off.
                    
DONNY DEUTSCH: I think so.

ROBINSON: Well, you know, it kind of is. It’s like, um, we're in the “Dear Leader” phase of American history, which is something that I never thought we would be here.

SCARBOROUGH: [interrupting] What about that kid, and I’m gonna call him a kid, a couple of days ago talking about the purging, using Stalinist and Mao [sic] language. And Gene, do these people not understand? It's what I’ve been telling people at the White House now for a quarter century: your boss will be gone, he will leave Washington, he will be a gazillionaire, and you will be the one left cleaning up the mess that you did for him. Don't they understand that?

ROBINSON: No, they don't understand that. And, and, you know, it’s, there’s no leader but “Dear Leader.” There’s no time but now. And maybe they think he will be the, you know, our “Dear Leader” forever more. But it was, there just are these embarrassing moments. You know, I can’t  get the image out of my head of Steve Mnuchin going on the Sunday shows and trying to defend President Trump calling for NFL players to be fired. And, you know, clearly looking as if he were in physical pain, but something he had to do because it's something the President said, therefore, it must be right. And that sort of attitude on, you know, what can go wrong with that? Well, everything.

BRZEZINSKI: Yeah, pretty much everything.

(...)

7:00 AM

[playing clip from June 12th White House Cabinet Meeting]

TOM PRICE: What an incredible honor it is to lead the Department of Health and Human Services at this pivotal time under your leadership. I can't thank you enough for the privilege that you’ve given me and the leadership that you’ve shown. [...]

SEC. REX TILLERSON: Mr. President, thank you for the honor to serve the country. It's a great privilege you’ve given me. [...]

SEC. WILBUR ROSS: Mr. President, thank you for the opportunity to help fix the trade deficit and other things. [...]

SEC. ELAINE CHAO: I want to thank you for getting this country moving again, and also working again. [...]

REINCE PREIBUS: 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. And we're continuing to work very hard every day to accomplish those goals. [...]

[cut to clip from Tillerson’s press conference on Wednesday]

SEC. REX TILLERSON: Let me tell you what I've learned about this President, whom I did not know before taking this office. He loves this country. He puts Americans and America first. He's smart. He demands results wherever he goes and he holds those around him accountable for whether they've done the job he’s asked them to do. [...]

DEUTSCH: Wait, I’m confused, didn’t he call him a moron?

SCARBOROUGH: Well, I mean-

DEUTSCH: I’m confused, as I easily am.

SCARBOROUGH: You know, I mean, all the world’s a stage, and, you know, sometimes you're just in the, you know, stage, playing to the curtains. Sometimes you're holding a press conference at the State Department saying: he’s okay.

BRZEZINSKI: [interrupting] We should have seen it coming. New reporting that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was pressured into making that statement praising President Trump which reminded us a lot of that Cabinet meeting back in June that we just showed you where everybody had to suck up for thirty seconds around the table. What is this?

SCARBOROUGH: Oh my god, you know, Nic-, well, actually, General Mattis didn't. Nick, listen, I, I'm cutting the Secretary of State some slack in this last one here because he's got General Kelly, a guy that he's fought wars with, you know, not him, but guys that have fought wars together, General Kelly and General Mattis, coming to him saying: you know what? We've done a lot for our country. You're doing a lot for your country right now. We need you to stay where you are. And if that means going out and, you know, sucking it up and making a statement that General Mattis and General Kelly saying [sic] is in the best interests of America, I don't judge Rex Tillerson. And I know he’s breathing a heavy sigh of relief this morning because I don’t, [chuckling] I’m joking about that. But it’s a little different than the whole sucking up around the cabinet.

NICK CONFESSORE: I would just point out though–Washington is full of suck-ups and flattery is a Washington art form. So this is not a new thing. And I think also it’s true the President is in fact entitled to the deference of his cabinet in public. The problem is, in private, he’s doesn’t have that deference. In private, three or four of his Cabinet secretaries have a suicide pact to save the country by not leaving the administration and trying to limit damage within the administration. That is unprecedented in Washington.

SCARBOROUGH: Yeah, and David Ignatius, another thing, again, another mitigating factor, at least for me, with Rex Tillerson is Rex Tillerson would much rather be spending this weekend hunting with James Baker or some of his other Texas friends. He does not want to be in Washington D.C., a city he doesn’t like, a city he doesn't understand, a city that hasn't taken to him because he really doesn't give a damn whether they do or not. So,-

DAVID IGNATIUS: Joe, I've said to you before, his, Tillerson's basic view is take this job and shove it. That's what he'd love to say, and he's not saying that because he feels that he has important work to do. Watching somebody go through this ritual humiliation that he went through this week is painful. I think we all felt embarrassed for him. He's a person of substance, and he's basically, as I, is [sic] kissing the ring is how we'll put it. You know, it’s like in The Godfather. Godfather, you bend down, kiss the ring, and then you go about your business. And, you know, if you didn't think that in the end Tillerson was a steadying factor, you'd say: leave right now. But it’s, it's extraordinary to watch. He’s, Donald Trump is not the first president who has humiliated people. It’s said that Lyndon Johnson, you know, tough guy, big guy president, used to [starts laughing] demand that people come in and talk to him while he was sitting on the can-

[Joe and others laugh, chuckle]

IGNATIUS: -really to, you know, to humiliate them, to show them who was the President. And so we have incidents like this. They're never attractive. You know, there's a kind of insecurity, I guess, that goes along with power at the very top where people have to inflict this on their subordinates.

SCARBOROUGH: [smiling, approving tone] Lyndon Johnson, now there’s a guy, let’s just say, multi-layered [trails off].

(...)

7:48 AM

DEUTSCH: Mr. Secretary, it’s Donny Deutsch, as a former Cabinet member, and as you kind of watch the, uh, the dance of the current Cabinet that there's this constant obligation of them to fawn and to, you know,-

BRZEZINSKI: [interjecting] Compliment-
 
DEUTSCH: -compliment and worship their boss, as a former Cabinet member, just, as you watch that, how does it make you feel?

WILLIAM COHEN: It's embarrassing to watch. I looked at that meeting and Cabinet meeting where every official went around the circle praising the President as if he were a cult figure. To his credit, I saw Secretary Mattis indicate he was honored to be able to represent the men and women serving in our military. I thought that was the appropriate tone to take. This worship of the office or seeking to reinforce a gratification experience by the President, I think is, it’s certainly not consistent with what I have known and come to expect from a president. I want the President to act presidential.

(...)


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