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Cabinet Members Heap Praise On Trump


This next story is amazing. I mean, it's incredible, the most fantastic story from any news source in decades. OK, that's an overstatement, but it is a story filled with praise. Our spectacular White House correspondent Tamara Keith reports on a Cabinet meeting.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: On a day when President Trump's travel ban was blocked by another appeals court, and the attorney general agreed to testify in public on the Russia investigation, the gathering of Trump's Cabinet was a chance to project an image of business as usual...



KEITH: ...To talk about his administration's accomplishments...


TRUMP: We have much great news to share with the American people today as we continue to deliver on our promises.

KEITH: ...And in a departure from past presidents' Cabinet meetings, to bathe in the adulation of department heads.


ALEXANDER ACOSTA: Mr. President, my privilege to be here, deeply honored.

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 enough for the privilege that you've given me.

RICK PERRY: Mr. President, an honor to be on the team.

RYAN ZINKE: It's an honor to be your steward of our public lands and the generator of energy dominance. I am deeply honored.

KEITH: The president didn't explicitly ask for the praise but that's the way it worked out after he asked Cabinet members to introduce themselves. Vice President Mike Pence went first and set the tone.


VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: Thank you, Mr. President, and just the greatest privilege of my life is to serve as vice president to a president who's keeping his word to the American people.

KEITH: The conservative-writer-turned-Trump-critic Bill Kristol has described this sort of language from Pence in the past as akin to the way North Korean dictators are referred to as dear leader, quote, "unprecedented, undignified, un-Republican and un-American." Brendan Nyhan is a professor of government at Dartmouth.

BRENDAN NYHAN: I don't want to make too much of one Cabinet meeting.

KEITH: But he said the display at yesterday's Cabinet meeting, broadcasted in full on cable, was unusual in the extent of the adulation, at least in American presidential politics.

NYHAN: That's a more common occurrence in nondemocratic regimes which are trying to portray themselves as being popular.

KEITH: A review of President Obama's and George W. Bush's early Cabinet meetings turned up no similar parade of praise. Rather, the presidents thanked the agency heads, discussed the work ahead and took a few questions from reporters, but this is the Trump administration. White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, long on the list of administration officials rumored to be most endangered, was most effusive.


REINCE PRIEBUS: 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.

KEITH: Now, not every Cabinet member praised President Trump yesterday. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis used his turn to express gratitude for the sacrifices of the men and women of the military. Tamara Keith, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF THOMAS PRIME'S "FOREVER ETERNAL") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.