Tillerson reins in president's 'bully pulpit', tells Fox the POTUS speaks only for himself on American values

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Tillerson reins in president's 'bully pulpit', tells Fox the POTUS speaks only for himself on American values

Post by jserraglio » Sun Aug 27, 2017 1:29 pm

The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson, addressing President Trump’s blaming of “both sides” in the racially charged violence in Charlottesville, Va., declined to say on Sunday whether Mr. Trump’s response represented “American values.”

“The president speaks for himself,” Mr. Tillerson said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Asked by the host, Chris Wallace, about a United Nations statement condemning the president’s words, Mr. Tillerson said that “I don’t believe anyone doubts the American people’s values” or the government’s commitment to them.
Mr. Wallace then inquired about Mr. Trump’s own values. After Mr. Tillerson’s pointed response, Mr. Wallace asked whether he was separating himself from the president on the issue.
Mr. Tillerson answered: “I have spoken. I have made my own comments as to our values as well in a speech I gave to the State Department this past week.”
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On Aug. 12, a 32-year-old woman, Heather D. Heyer, who was protesting a rally of white supremacists in Charlottesville, was killed when a car driven by a man who had professed admiration for Nazi ideology slammed into her and other demonstrators. During a wild news conference at Trump Tower three days later, Mr. Trump blamed “both sides” for the deadly violence.
In the weeks since Ms. Heyer’s death, Mr. Trump has alternated between singling out neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan for condemnation and asserting that what he called the “alt-left” was also to blame for the Charlottesville violence.
A group of United Nations experts, without naming Mr. Trump, criticized a “failure at the highest political level of the United States of America to unequivocally reject and condemn” racist violence.
Mr. Tillerson’s remarks on Sunday stood in stark contrast to those of another cabinet member, Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, who defended Mr. Trump’s response. In a statement on Aug. 19, Mr. Mnuchin said that “the president in no way, shape or form believes that neo-Nazi and other hate groups who endorse violence are equivalent to groups that demonstrate in peaceful and lawful ways.”
The day before, Mr. Tillerson responded to the national backlash to Mr. Trump’s comments in a talk to State Department interns and young staff members. “We do not honor, nor do we promote or accept, hate speech in any form,” Mr. Tillerson said at the event. “Those who embrace it poison our public discourse, and they damage the very country that they claim to love.”
The strongest criticism of Mr. Trump inside the administration has come from Gary D. Cohn, the director of the National Economic Council, who was so upset by the remarks that he drafted a resignation letter. Mr. Cohn, who is Jewish, told The Financial Times in an interview last week that the Trump administration “can and must do better” to condemn hate groups.
Gary Cohn, Trump’s Adviser, Said to Have Drafted Resignation Letter After Charlottesville Aug. 25, 2017
Steven Mnuchin Defends Trump’s Reaction to Charlottesville Violence Aug. 20, 2017
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Last edited by jserraglio on Mon Aug 28, 2017 5:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Tillerson reins in president's 'bully pulpit', tells Fox the POTUS speaks for himself on American values

Post by jserraglio » Mon Aug 28, 2017 5:15 pm

Analysis by two CNN contributors

August 28, 2017

CNN Editor's Note: Aaron David Miller is a vice president and distinguished scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and author of "The End of Greatness: Why America Can't Have (and Doesn't Want) Another Great President." Miller was a Middle East negotiator in Democratic and Republican administrations. Follow him @aarondmiller2.

Richard Sokolsky is a non-resident senior Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. From 2005-2015, he served as a member of the Secretary of State's Office of Policy Planning.

The views expressed in this commentary are their own.

Diplomacy is by nature a get-along business; and that applies in spades to a relationship between a president and his secretary of state. If there's any arguing to be done or daylight demonstrated, it takes place in private — behind closed doors.

In the Trump administration, however, tradition and convention have given way to a new normal where not only the Secretary of State adopts positions on issues from Qatar to North Korea that differ from those of the President, but other Cabinet officials often do so as well.

Even in Trumpland, though, this weekend's comments by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson are breathtaking in their implications. In so many words, the nation's top diplomat, occupying the most prestigious post in the Trump administration, pointedly chose not to defend the "values" of the President of the United States in a stunning interview with Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday."

Tillerson: I don't believe anyone doubts the American people's values or the commitment of the American government or the government's agencies to advancing those values and defending those values.

Wallace: And the President's values?

Tillerson: The President speaks for himself, Chris.

Wallace: Are you separating yourself from that, sir?

Tillerson: I've spoken — I've made my own comments as to our values as well in a speech I gave to the State Department.

Here are some takeaways:

Shadow of Charlottesville
The President's words blaming both sides in the wake of the Charlottesville violence have not only compromised his moral authority at home, but they have also stained the nation's image abroad and created a situation where Trump's own Secretary of State — the nation's putative top voice on foreign policy — will not defend him in Washington or before the world.

Tillerson was drawn into this fix because Chris Wallace asked him about the UN human rights expert panel condemning the US (without mentioning Trump's name) in the wake of Charlottesville. And instead of defending the President (see Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin), Tillerson delivered the fatal line about Trump speaking for himself, in what could have been his own declaration of independence from Trump.

In fact the Secretary then went further and referred Wallace to a talk he recently gave at the State Department on diversity, which contained a strong condemnation of racism and bigotry. Add to this National Economic Director Gary Cohn's remarks and those of the heads of the military services all condemning racial hatred in Charlottesville, and you have a cohort of top Trump advisers who are telling the American people to "pay no attention to the man behind the curtain."

But Tillerson's stark and brief rejoinder about Trump speaking for himself is quite extraordinary. 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.

Who does Tillerson speak for?
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.

Why listen to anything Tillerson has to say if the most powerful man in the country — if not the world — has his own view that departs from and contradicts his own?

The Secretary of State could have gone the Mnuchin route and not drawn this distinction and separation. But he chose not to, which is a testament to his own character and refusal to accept something he knows is wrong. Given Trump's sensitivity, that may have not been the most prudential move; but it was the right one.

It should be evident by now that on a variety of foreign policy issues, Tillerson and Trump do not agree. But Tillerson took on Charlottesville, the premier issue roiling American politics. And he may well pay a price for it.

Is Tillerson done?
We argued in this space not long ago that Tillerson should not resign.

We said that no matter how withering the criticism or unfriendly the environment, eight months into an administration — even one as peculiar as this — was an insufficient period of time to make a judgment on departing. That's still our view.

His replacement might be worse; and the impact of such an early departure would only add to an image of an administration in chaos and harm the nation's credibility abroad.

Besides, apart from the question of whether Tillerson is the right man for the job, the fundamental challenge isn't who's the designated Secretary of State. The challenge lies with the President and the way he has chosen to operate and conduct foreign policy.

Trump could have an American Bismarck as his secretary of state, or bring back Henry Kissinger or James Baker, and it wouldn't matter as long as Trump, in the immortal words of former Secretary of State Alexander Haig, is the "vicar" of American foreign policy.

Assuming his comments are not walked back or re-interpreted, Rex Tillerson stood up for what he believed in on the issue of American values, reflecting the tradition and philosophy of his beloved Boy Scouts. Let's hope he won't pay a price for doing so.

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Re: Tillerson reins in president's 'bully pulpit', tells Fox the POTUS speaks only for himself on American values

Post by jbuck919 » Mon Aug 28, 2017 7:31 pm

By your own admission, you only make all these political posts because you detest Trump. If you do not see that Tillerson is equally monstrous, I strongly suggest that you reconsider your basic interest in politics.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
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Re: Tillerson reins in president's 'bully pulpit', tells Fox the POTUS speaks only for himself on American values

Post by lennygoran » Mon Aug 28, 2017 7:40 pm

The relationship between President Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has seemed rocky for some time, and it appears tensions continue to escalate.

Axios reported Sunday, citing inside officials, "Trump is getting more and more fed up with Tillerson."

As an instance of Trump’s growing frustration, the publication notes, "one time recently, after Trump had returned from a meeting on Afghanistan, a source recalled Trump saying, ‘Rex just doesn’t get it, he’s totally establishment in his thinking.'"

https://www.aol.com/article/news/2017/0 ... /23188253/

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Re: Tillerson reins in president's 'bully pulpit', tells Fox the POTUS speaks only for himself on American values

Post by jserraglio » Tue Aug 29, 2017 7:20 am

Thanks, Len. Tillerson has been called monstrous, but he strikes me as a decent guy with a strong moral compass. He is no trimmer like so many others around this president. We shall see how matters shake out.
In any event, here's another take on the friction between Tillerson and Trump; Cohn and Trump:

Trump unusually silent after aides challenge him
Some close to the president, who has seen his approval ratings plummet, say he needs Tillerson and Cohn more than they need him.
The New York Times 08/28/2017.Updated 08/29/2017

http://www.politico.com/story/2017/08/2 ... nge-242119

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.”

The president, whose approval ratings have dropped into the 30-percent range and who has lost a raft of senior staff members, is loath to get rid of anyone right now, one adviser said. Some close to Trump note that he needs Cohn and Tillerson, seen as stabilizing forces in his administration, more than they need him at this point.

But he has stewed, this person said, as the comments from his own staff have dominated the news. Trump has repeatedly said that he doesn’t feel that others on his staff and Republicans on Capitol Hill are defending him enough.

“He feels like when you back down, people will just keep coming at you,” the adviser said. “Even if he knew he was wrong, I don’t think he’d back down.”

Longtime observers of Trump say he makes it difficult for others to defend him. He often makes incendiary comments, only to ratchet up the rhetoric after coming under criticism. Advisers and aides are then in an untenable position — having to decide whether to agree with him and face the backlash, or to artfully distance themselves, dodge or deny.

The president could still lash out and publicly criticize Cohn or Tillerson, something Cohn told others wouldn’t have surprised him in the immediate aftermath of his interview last week.

Tillerson visited the White House early Monday, and several senior administration advisers said he was involved in responding to the hurricane in Texas, his home state. He was seen in the front row of a news conference at the White House on Monday afternoon and laughing with Vice President Mike Pence afterward. And Cohn told associates that he hadn’t heard a word from the president about his supposed anger — and that he didn’t regret one bit having made his comments.

Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Monday, “The president has confidence in his team, and we are working hard to accomplish our goals and make America great again.”

A State Department spokesman declined to comment.

Matt Schlapp, a conservative activist close to the White House, said that Tillerson’s comments were “perfectly valid” and that some were reading too much into his words. “They came from the heart,” he said.

“‘The president speaks for himself’ is a response I’ve given multiple times,” Schlapp said. “The president is his own best spokesperson.”

Tillerson has told people he has no plans to depart the administration immediately. Cohn is working on a tax-reform speech that Trump is expected to give Wednesday. “If Trump wants to fire him, he will, or he won’t,” one person familiar with the president’s thinking said. Or, this person said, Trump will say something “crazy” and Cohn will quit.

Cohn has told people he will have plenty of options should he leave the White House.

Ryan Williams, a GOP consultant who worked for Mitt Romney, said: “It’s highly unusual for senior aides and Cabinet officials to openly critique the president. To some degree, they were likely fed up with the current situation and don’t fear the consequences. What’s the worst that can happen? He fires you.”

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