My opinion of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has bordered somewhere between a kind of aggravated curiosity, as I’ve tried to figure out if he’s just another Russian shill, to total indifference.
Quite the expanse, I know.
Today, however, I have an odd new respect for the man.
According to a new report from NBC News, Tillerson is clinging, at best, to his patience with Donald Trump, and I can understand why.
NBC is reporting that numerous senior officials within the administration are saying Tillerson was so enraged with the president that he was ready to walk in late July, but was talked out of it by Vice President Pence and several others, who feared how it would look to have a high ranking Cabinet member resign.
The tensions came to a head around the time President Donald Trump delivered a politicized speech in late July to the Boy Scouts of America, an organization Tillerson once led, the officials said.
Just days earlier, Tillerson had openly disparaged the president, referring to him as a “moron,” after a July 20 meeting at the Pentagon with members of Trump’s national security team and Cabinet officials, according to three officials familiar with the incident.
Pence allegedly spoke with Tillerson about keeping his cool and being respectful of the president, at least in public. Any disputes, Pence insisted, should be worked out privately.
Tillerson, who was in Texas for his son’s wedding in late July when Trump addressed the Boy Scouts, had threatened not to return to Washington, according to three people with direct knowledge of the threats. His discussions with retired Gen. John Kelly, who would soon be named Trump’s second chief of staff, and Defense Secretary James Mattis, helped initially to reassure him, four people with direct knowledge of the exchanges said.
After Tillerson’s return to Washington, Pence arranged a meeting with him, according to three officials. During the meeting, Pence gave Tillerson a “pep talk,” one of these officials said, but also had a message: the secretary needed to figure out how to move forward within Trump’s policy framework.
Kelly and Mattis have been Tillerson’s strongest allies in the cabinet. In late July, “they did beg him to stay,” a senior administration official said. “They just wanted stability.”
Several State Department employees have since denied that Tillerson had considered resigning, or that he called the president a moron.
The alleged tensions between the president and Secretary Tillerson stem from disagreements on policy, such as Qatar’s dispute with other Persian Gulf states, or certifying that Iran was in compliance with the nuclear deal (which Tillerson is exactly wrong about).
Tillerson also has a problem with Trump publicly undermining him (as he’s done with other Cabinet members).
With that in mind, he surely had a few words besides “moron” to say behind closed doors after Trump’s comments about North Korea on Twitter this past weekend.
After Tillerson revealed that the State Department as a direct line of communication open with North Korea, and were attempting diplomatic talks, the president quickly slammed his ridiculous, floppy Twitter clown shoes all over that, by declaring, “…Save your energy Rex, we’ll do what has to be done!”
Trump has already seen an unusually high level of turnover in his administration, with the departures of his national security adviser, deputy national security adviser, his chief of staff, press secretary, communications director — twice — his chief strategist, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the acting head of the Justice Department. Last Friday Trump accepted the resignation of Tom Price, the Health and Human Services secretary.
It should come as a shock to absolutely no one if Tillerson decides to be the next one to pile out of the clown car.
Nicholas Burns, former undersecretary of state for political affairs under President George W. Bush, said Trump “completely undercut Tillerson” with his tweets.
“This was a direct public, I thought, repudiation of what Tillerson said,” Burns said. “It feeds the perception that Tillerson does not have a trusting relationship with the president, and that’s very harmful.”
I think a lot of people signed up for a chance to be power players on the world stage, not realizing what a balancing act it would be, taking on very sensitive – sometimes volatile issues, when the so-called leader of the administration’s capabilities are best described as “chaos.”
Good luck, Mr. Tillerson.