The meeting did sound truly appalling, utterly icky. But then I started to think … wait a minute. If the story was that every cabinet member was puckering up for Trump in public, why did the CNN reporter illustrate the point with a quote from Priebus, the chief of staff, who’s not a cabinet member? And I thought some more. Most of these cabinet secretaries are pretty self-possessed people, proud of their achievements in life, and cravenly kissing up to a boss, even when he’s president of the United States, doesn’t fit the profile.
And so I did what I, as a proud consumer of the mainstream liberal press, am not supposed to do. I second-guessed the mainstream liberal press. I watched the video of the cabinet meeting, all twenty-damn-five minutes of it, and I discovered that every story I had read or heard or seen that morning about the cabinet meeting was, as a whole, wrong or misleading, and in many particulars, just wrong.
For instance: Nobody showed signs of reading from a script. Priebus’s comment was made explicitly on behalf of the “senior staff,” not the whole cabinet, as CNN implied. The Times to the contrary, no one praised Trump’s “integrity.” Neither Priebus’s sycophancy nor Pence’s set the tone of the meeting. General Mattis did not “stand alone”; the sentiment he expressed was expressed by most of his colleagues. And so on and so on and so on.