Odd to think, there was a time not long ago when disparagement of a president from his first secretary of state would have driven the news cycle for more than a day — especially if the president countered that his ex-appointee was "lazy as hell" and "dumb as a rock."
President Donald Trump would have faced a battery of questions about Rex Tillerson's latest charges, casually delivered in a charity speech in Houston.
“So often, the president would say, ‘Here’s what I want you to do, and here’s how I want you to do it," Tillerson said. "And I would have to say to him, ‘Mr. President, I understand what you want to do. But you can’t do it that way. It violates the law.’ ”
As many attested before him without fear of contradiction, Tillerson said Trump was "pretty undisciplined" and "doesn't like to read."
Presume for a moment that this assessment from Tillerson is untruthful. If so, whatever did Trump see in the former ExxonMobil head that prompted his selection in the first place? Was the appointment a mistake?
Or is this just candid talk from a chief diplomat who, by the way, didn't deny calling the president a moron long before being fired via Twitter?
Such instances are adding up from a growing band of White House exiles and emigres. Political adviser Steve Bannon called the famous June 2016 Trump Tower campaign meeting with Russians “treasonous” and “unpatriotic." Trump replied that Bannon was losing it.
Omarosa Manigault Newman, dismissed from her White House job doing, uh, something, came out calling Trump “a racist, a bigot and a misogynist" who is in "mental decline." Trump called her a "lowlife" and a "dog."
Trump's private sector lawyer-fixer Michael Cohen allegedly lied but then told tales of value to special counsel Robert Mueller. The bloom was off that rose, too, with Trump calling Cohen a "weak person.”
Future public testimony to Trump’s nonleadership might come from: Chief of Staff John Kelly, who reportedly took nasty abuse from the president; ousted Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who irked Trump with his ethical recusal from the Russia probe or former National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, who apparently didn't sufficiently attack Trump's political rivals.
Nobody should be surprised if these ex-aides also go public.
For Trump, the only real question seems to be whom to blame for what.
Who was at fault for hiring allegedly undocumented workers at his golf club in New Jersey? Who kept U.S. relations with Russia's Vladimir Putin from improving? Who forced the stock market to vacillate like a yo-yo — was it the Federal Reserve? Is the escalation of border crossings and arrests the fault of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen? Would someone else have served him better?
What only last year was considered outlandish public behavior in the upper reaches of the federal government has become the norm.