The sight of America’s secretary of state reduced to scraping and bowing to the president should not please any American or ally of America. That role is the most critical in the conduct of U.S. foreign policy, and seeing its occupant so diminished and disrespected signals that our foreign policy is entirely dysfunctional.
The Post reports:
“Secretary of State Rex Tillerson insisted Wednesday that he is not planning to quit, rebutting weeks of reports of policy disputes and personal clashes with the White House.
“’I have never considered leaving this post,’ Tillerson said at an extraordinary and hastily called news conference at the State Department.
“Tillerson did not directly respond to an NBC News report earlier Wednesday that he had referred to President Trump as a ‘moron.’
“‘I’m not going to deal with petty points like that,’ Tillerson said, adding that he does not understand what he called a Washington impulse to ‘sow dissension’ and undermine the administration’s work.
“He called Trump ‘smart’ and committed to American security and the accountability of those around him.”
Trump responded quickly on Twitter after Tillerson’s appearance: “The @NBCNews story has just been totally refuted by Sec. Tillerson and @VP Pence. It is #FakeNews. They should issue an apology to AMERICA!”
Where to begin? In refusing to deny calling the president a “moron,” Tillerson essentially confirmed that he had. And by coming out to address the issue personally, he ensured the big story would become a really big story. (In a written statement, the vice president carefully denied saying he had discussed Tillerson’s resigning. He chose to ignore the alleged reference to Trump as a “moron.”)
One can only marvel that someone with Tillerson’s interests at heart did not stop him from going out to grovel and affirm admiration for a president who has continually undercut, contradicted and diminished his secretary of state. Former State Department official Eliot Cohen via email dubbed the performance “servile.”
Former ambassador Eric S. Edelman concurs. “The press appearance was the most humiliating, degrading performance by a secretary of state that I have seen in my lifetime. He was clearly ordered by the White House to go out and lavish slavish praise on the president.” He points out that “Trump’s comment that Tillerson has refuted the story and NBC owes an apology is evidence” that Tillerson was ordered by the White House to go out there. Edelman adds, “His statement was actually the quintessence of the non-denial denial.”
One wonders why Tillerson is so desperate to hold onto his job, so oblivious to his own uselessness to the president. Trump not only humiliates Tillerson personally; he also signals in episodes like this that Tillerson is unimportant, without influence in his administration. Tillerson actually does his department, the administration and country harm by remaining in office, preventing someone with possibly more respect and stature from filling that spot. In short, if it was not essential for Tillerson to resign before this latest incident, it is now.