Politico reports: President Donald Trump is not happy with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Gary Cohn, director of the National Economic Council, for publicly criticizing his response to violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. But it appears there is little he is planning to do about it, according to people who have spoken to him.
The unusually direct challenges from a Cabinet secretary and senior administration official seemed to make little more than a surface ripple in the swirling melodrama of the Trump White House, even as the president fumed privately about it.
Tillerson, when asked over the weekend whether Trump represented American values with his comments, gave a succinct response: “The president speaks for himself.” When asked whether he was separating himself from the president’s comments, Tillerson noted that he gave a speech to the State Department denouncing hate.
Cohn’s comments last week, saying the president could do better, came after several days of weighing whether to leave his position, including writing draft resignation letters.
The repudiations by Tillerson and Cohn were not nearly as sharp as some other criticisms of the president, who publicly waffled for days on how to respond to neo-Nazis and white supremacists who marched in the streets of Charlottesville and clashed with opposition protesters.
Still, said Rich Lowry, editor of National Review, “In the normal course of things, a secretary of state would be fired an hour after saying such a thing on national TV.” [Continue reading…]
Aaron David Miller and Richard Sokolsky write: In a combined 50-plus years of working for Secretaries of State of both parties, we’ve never heard the nation’s top diplomat so economically and frontally distance himself from his boss. And rarely on such a critical issue of basic American values.
Secretaries of State just don’t do this, largely because a seamless interaction with the President is critically important to the success of the nation’s top diplomat.
Former Secretary of State James Baker used to describe himself as the White House’s man at the State Department, not State’s man at the White House, for precisely this reason. The easiest way to hang a closed-for-the-season sign on the State Department — at home and abroad — is to lose the President’s confidence. Tillerson wasn’t Trump’s first choice or probably second choice for the job; and in the odd bureaucratic landscape Trump has created on foreign policy, it’s doubtful he ever had the confidence of his boss.
One can argue that Tillerson should be applauded for standing up for his principles in the Fox interview. But clearly in doing so and implicitly criticizing the President on the values issue, the Secretary of State essentially relegates himself to the margins at the same time. [Continue reading…]