Yesterday, word started to leak out about the seven-hour session that former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had with the staff of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. This committee has had something of a monomania about Trump’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and the fact that the White House inexplicably won’t share information with the people trying to destroy Trump’s presidency.
This was the key takeaway from the leaks:
Former secretary of state Rex Tillerson told members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee that Russian President Vladimir Putin out-prepared President Trump during a key meeting in Germany, putting the U.S. leader at a disadvantage during their first series of tête-à-têtes.
The U.S. side anticipated a shorter meeting for exchanging courtesies, but it ballooned into a globe-spanning two-hour-plus session involving deliberations on a variety of geopolitical issues, said committee aides, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss Tillerson’s seven-hour closed meeting with the committee.
“We spent a lot of time in the conversation talking about how Putin seized every opportunity to push what he wanted,” a committee aide said. “There was a discrepancy in preparation, and it created an unequal footing.”
Just a couple of observations, the fact that a meet-and-greet mushroomed into a two-hour discussion is something of a staff failure and the fact that Tillerson chose not to try to head it off–I’m assuming that if he’d tried and been overruled by Trump we would have heard about it–doesn’t speak well of him. And while Putin might have pushed for a lot of things, I don’t see what he got. This is just one of those stories that have become part of the Washington landscape since the leaks of Trump’s personal calls to world leaders started landing on the nation’s front pages. It is the flipside to #OrangeManBad, which is #OrangeManStupid.
Tillerson doesn’t like Trump and, from the story, seems like he did everything short of skywriting to send the message that he didn’t think Trump was up to the task short of actually saying so. And the feeling is mutual:
Rex Tillerson, a man who is “dumb as a rock” and totally ill prepared and ill equipped to be Secretary of State, made up a story (he got fired) that I was out-prepared by Vladimir Putin at a meeting in Hamburg, Germany. I don’t think Putin would agree. Look how the U.S. is doing!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 23, 2019
This is the side of Trump that really grates on me. I don’t have a problem with him telling Pelosi and Schumer that they can take a hike in light of the petty and vindictive actions of the House. I think that was useful and I think most Americans would rather see this kind of open conflict rather than the false and hypocritical glad-handing between politicians who obviously loathe one another. The nation, after all, didn’t think less of Andrew Jackson for potting a few dozen guys who pissed him off. But this kind of personal insult, particularly when it is manifestly untrue, directed at a guy who, worst casing it, couldn’t resist trying to settle a score in the media hurts Trump more than it does Tillerson. When he does this, it automatically reduces the impact of him actually stripping the hide off an opponent because there is no sense of proportionality in the attacks.
In the big scheme of things, this is a zero. I don’t think this revealed anything new about Trump. I’m pretty sure that it doesn’t change the fact that he’ll be running against an Democrat in 2020. But I really wish he’d knock it off.