Trump in a Nutshell
Sorry for turning this into Donald Trump Week here in Limbo. Limbo, properly speaking, is the realm of those who failed to accept Christ as God, which would make Trump, who believes he is God, a visitor from a much lower circle who has long overstayed his welcome. Nevertheless, if you’ll bear with me, I’ll keep this one short and sweet.
Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson outlined the nature of his differences with his old boss in an interview, focusing not on policy disagreements but on the frustrations of working for a man lacking basic competence or ordinary intellectual curiosity:
“It was challenging for me coming from the disciplined, highly process-oriented ExxonMobil Corporation to go to work for a man who is pretty undisciplined, doesn’t — doesn’t like to read, doesn’t read briefing reports, doesn’t — doesn’t like to get into the details of a lot of things but rather just kind of says, look, this is what I believe and you can try to convince me otherwise, but most of the time you’re not going to do that.”
The two continued to clash when Trump would test the limits of his executive power and would grow frustrated when Tillerson would inform him that he didn’t have unilateral authority to do something. Tillerson, who once reportedly referred to Trump as a “moron” behind his back, said his downfall may have been his directness with the president in such instances.
“When the president would say, ‘Here’s what I want to do, and here’s how I want to do it,’ and I’d have to say to him, ‘Well, Mr. President, I understand what you want to do but you can’t do it that way. It violates the law, it violates the treaty, you know,’” Tillerson explained. [Emphasis added.]
The upshot of Tillerson’s account is that one of Trump’s chief failings, a pretty fundamental one, is that he neither knows nor cares what the U.S. presidency is. That is to say, he does not understand that he is supposed to be the chief executive of a limited republic, and that that is a good thing.
More specifically, Tillerson says Trump repeatedly demanded that his appointees do things that were illegal — not because he wanted to commit crimes, but because he lacked the intellectual seriousness and political principle to try to understand the constitutional limits of presidential authority.
Every U.S. President, especially one who is not a lifelong statesman, will have to go through a learning curve, gradually figuring out what the executive branch can and cannot do. That’s why a president needs experienced appointees to guide him as he learns the proper limits of his authority. Tillerson’s point, again, is not that Trump was trying to commit crimes per se, but that he never tried to learn his legal parameters, and refused to digest the education his appointees were giving him.
That description hardly seems inconsistent with everything we have all seen from Donald Trump over the past thirty years.
As for the deeper question of what kind of man would rise to the presidency of his country without ever entertaining even a passing interest in what that job entails, legally — i.e., apart from “power” — I give you President Trump’s immediate public reply to Tillerson’s assessment (you knew there had to be one, right?):
Mike Pompeo is doing a great job, I am very proud of him. His predecessor, Rex Tillerson, didn’t have the mental capacity needed. He was dumb as a rock and I couldn’t get rid of him fast enough. He was lazy as hell. Now it is a whole new ballgame, great spirit at State!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 7, 2018
Question from a future U.S. History Quiz:
Fill in the blanks:
_____ said “_____ didn’t have the mental capacity needed. He was dumb as a rock and I couldn’t get rid of him fast enough. He was lazy as hell.”
(a) Donald Trump, Rex Tillerson
(b) The Ghost of America Past, Donald Trump
Now, back to more serious concerns, I promise! (Yes, there really are more serious concerns than the final moments of a great civilization being presided over by a megalomaniacal moron. If there weren’t, life would be quite meaningless, in fact, since it seems likely that civilization always ends under the cloud of human stupidity — which would make existence awfully futile, if there were no concerns higher than mere human civilization.)