The story sounds apocryphal, but it's true. As the Washington Post confirmed several years ago, in 1974, an upstart magazine called New Times published a rather brutal piece on Congress' 10 dumbest members. Then-Sen. William Scott (R-Va.) was ranked #1 -- which is to say, the dumbest of the dumb on Capitol Hill.
The smart move, of course, would've been for Scott to ignore the article. Instead, the Virginia Republican hosted a press conference in his office in order to tell congressional reporters that he was not, in fact, dumb. Not surprisingly, this led to all kinds of mockery, and questions about the senator's intelligence became a popular topic of conversation.
And while Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's press conference yesterday wasn't quite as ridiculous, it was in the same vein. The Washington Post explained yesterday afternoon:
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson just delivered an unscheduled statement to reporters about "some news reports this morning that I want to address."
But while Tillerson went on to dispute one major contention in those "reports" -- that he considered resigning -- he directly and pregnantly declined to dispute another one -- that he called his boss, President Trump, a "moron."
The juxtaposition of those two things was striking, and it leads to basically one logical conclusion: He can't deny it ... because he said it.
The trouble started yesterday with an NBC News piece. At a July meeting at the Pentagon, Tillerson reportedly said in front of several officials that he thinks the president is a "moron." One of the NBC reporters later clarified that one of her sources specifically said the Secretary of State called Trump a "f***ing moron."
Trump administration officials pushed back against the story, but CNN soon after ran a story of its own, confirming with its own sources that Tillerson really did call Trump a "moron."
The cabinet secretary then held a press conference -- no doubt knowing what he'd be asked -- in which he dodged the question about whether he called the president a "moron."
I have no idea whose idea it was for Tillerson to call this press conference, and whether the White House had anything to do with it, but one of the driving conversations in the political world yesterday focused around two specific words: "Trump" and "moron."
William Scott would be proud.
As for the administration's future, the Post added that the relationship between the president and his chief diplomat will probably not recover.
...Tillerson's move on Wednesday to reassure Trump of his convictions may well be too little and too late for the long term, according to the accounts of 19 current and former senior administration officials and Capitol Hill aides, most of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to offer candid assessments.
The already tense relationship between the two headstrong men -- one a billionaire former real estate developer, the other a former captain of the global oil industry -- has ruptured into what some White House officials call an irreparable breach that will inevitably lead to Tillerson's departure, whether immediately or not. Tillerson's dwindling cohort of allies say he has been given an impossible job and is doing his best with it.
The article added that Trump has come to believe "his top diplomat often seems more concerned with what the world thinks of the United States than with tending to the president's personal image."