Another day, another ultimately futile effort from Trump officials to walk back angry presidential tweets.
The most amusing thing about the entire Rex Tillerson “moron” saga was that the NBC story came just days after Trump undermined his own Secretary of State on social media.
Less than 24 hours after Tillerson told reporters in Beijing that the U.S. is in direct contact with Pyongyang via “a couple, three channels” potentially opening the door for a peaceful resolution to the crisis, Trump tweeted this:
That is as unequivocal as unequivocal gets. That is Donald Trump, from his verified Twitter account, telling Tillerson that negotiating with North Korea is a “waste of time.” The only ambiguity comes in the second tweet as it’s not entirely clear what it is that “has to be done.” But because the first tweet rules out diplomacy, the second tweet by definition is a reference to a military solution.
Following that, administration officials scrambled to “explain” why Trump didn’t actually mean what he said, and those efforts were undercut by the NBC story which revealed that Tillerson once called Trump a “moron.”
The notion that Trump understands how catastrophic military action would be in this situation was debunked further when, in a followup to the original story, NBC reported that Tillerson’s “moron” remark came after Trump suggested that the U.S. should increase its nuclear arsenal “tenfold” in order – and I can’t even believe I’m saying this – to ensure that Trump’s name isn’t at the lower right-hand corner of a “downward sloping” line chart.
Well fast forward to today and Tillerson showed up on CNN’s “State of the Union,” where he said this:
Tillerson says Trump wants diplomacy in North Korea: "Diplomatic efforts will continue until the first bomb drops" https://t.co/TuRBJ51eeJ
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) October 15, 2017
Just to drive that home, when asked directly if Trump “thinks it’s a waste of time” to negotiate with Kim, Tillerson said “no sir, he has made it clear to me to continue my diplomatic efforts.”
Someone is lying here. Either Tillerson is lying or Trump is lying on Twitter. Because again, Trump said this just 14 days ago:
There’s no getting around that. Tillerson can’t untweet it. That’s what Trump said. So either Trump was lying two Sundays ago by posturing on Twitter or Tillerson is lying this Sunday. That’s all there is to this.
But it got better, here’s what Rex said when asked (again) about the “moron” comment:
.@jaketapper: Did you call Trump a moron?
— CNN (@CNN) October 15, 2017
Do you see why this is problematic? Tillerson is trying to spin this as something that isn’t important – as something that’s “petty.” It’s not. If the Secretary of State called the President a “moron” after a meeting in which the President suggested building up the nation’s collection of nuclear weapons, that is a “bigly” deal. It’s the exact opposite of “petty.”
Finally, getting back to North Korea and the first clip shown above, someone needs to work with Rex on his PR skills because “until the first bomb drops” doesn’t inspire much in the way of confidence.