Feehery: The long game
'Moronic' name-calling is the least of the GOP's worries
Thursday afternoon, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson addressed the nation after rumors and reports of rising tensions with President Trump took over every major news network in America. In an impromptu press conference, Tillerson addressed a report that he nearly resigned this summer but was ultimately persuaded to remain secretary of State by Vice President Mike Pence.
"To address a few specifics that have been erroneously reported this morning: The vice president has never had to persuade me to remain as secretary of State because I have never considered leaving this post," said Secretary Tillerson. For those keeping score, Tom Price's resignation as secretary of Health and Human Services on Sept. 29 brings the Trump administration career casualty count to 14.
What Secretary Tillerson did not address in the press conference were reports that he called the president a "moron." State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert denied the claims, however. "The secretary does not use that type of language. The secretary did not use that type of language to speak about the president of the United States," said Nauert. "He did not say that."
He said, she said speculation will remain, but the response from the media has been puzzling. After all, the "mainstream media" that Trump continually gripes about on Twitter isn't exactly a big fan of the president or the administration. So why, all of a sudden, are folks like Chris Matthews of MSNBC so concerned with the possibility of a Rex Tillerson resignation or dismissal? Certainly not because they disagree with the possibility that Trump may in fact be moronic.
Those feigning surprise over an insult as tame as "moron" must have an idealist vision Washington. It's not right, couth, or kind, but it's regrettably commonplace. After the 2016 election, how is anyone batting an eye at this?
There are two camps of people surrounding the matter - those saying Tillerson should resign immediately and those who are saying Trump should fire Tillerson immediately. Either is a possibility, but both are rash decisions.
It was not long ago that President Trump berated Attorney General Jeff Sessions in the Oval Office and rejected Sessions' subsequent resignation letter. Sessions' decision to recuse himself from the mounting Russia investigation led by the State Department was seen as disloyal by the president, predictably sending him into a tirade.
But is Rex Tillerson calling his boss a moron enough to elicit the same reaction?
Criticizing the president, or even publically holding him accountable, is a symptom of a problem that does not seem to be going away for the Republican Party. Many congressional Republicans have remained tight lipped on their criticisms of the president. In an article from this past August, Dan Balz of the Washington Post mentioned "however personally upset they are by Trump's remarks, many lawmakers believe they must maintain a working relationship with the president if they are to accomplish their legislative goals."
Balz continued by painfully, albeit accurately, stating, "So far, they have little to show for their work this year and see progress on that agenda as crucial to keeping grassroots conservatives and Trump loyalists energized ahead of the 2018 elections."
But is the party actually accomplishing their legislative goals? Republican efforts are perpetually stymied as party infighting continues to cannibalize its own. The halls of the Capitol are ringing with the sound of wallets snapping shut as influential Republican donors are growing exasperated. "You're never going to get a more sympathetic Republican than I am. But I'm sick and tired of nothing happening," said one donor.
The reality is that lawmakers, cabinet secretaries, and everyone in between have personal opinions on the president and that shouldn't matter so long as work gets done. As far as name calling and insults are concerned, President Trump hasn't exactly set high standards. For the meantime, the president seems to be keeping a lid on it, issuing just one tweet on the Rex Tillerson media frenzy addressing only the resignation rumors.
Maybe, just maybe, this is an instance where Trump doesn't blow his top over a bruised ego. But don't hold your breath.
If you can't take the heat, stay out of the White House.
Taylor McCarty is a communications strategist in Washington, DC.