It started a week ago with an NBC News report on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's frustrations in the Trump administration. Among other things, we learned that Tillerson referred to Donald Trump as a "moron" after a July 20 meeting at the Pentagon with members of president's national security team and Cabinet officials.
Common sense suggests members of Trump World would want a story like this to disappear as quickly as possible. That's not quite the course they chose, however.
When the administration pushed back against the reporting, CNN confirmed that Tillerson did, in fact, call Trump a "moron" -- and NBC's Stephanie Ruhle added that, to be precise, the network's sources said the exact phrase was "f***ing moron."
The secretary of state tried to defuse the situation with a hastily organized press conference, at which Tillerson was careful to dodge a question about the language he used to describe the president, which only reinforced suspicions that the original reporting was fully accurate.
For some reason, Trump thought it'd be a good idea to keep the story going a little longer in a new interview with Forbes.
He counterpunches, in this case firing a shot at Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who reportedly called his boss a moron: "I think it's fake news, but if he did that, I guess we'll have to compare IQ tests. And I can tell you who is going to win."
Again, it's in the president's interest to end the chatter about whether he's a "moron," but Trump's sense of grievance overwhelms his judgment. The idea of letting this go doesn't seem to occur to him. If commenting like this renews chatter about the president's own secretary of state's low opinion of his intellect, so be it.
On a related note, have you ever noticed Trump's preoccupation with his IQ score?
Here, for example, was Trump's message to the public in May 2013: "Sorry losers and haters, but my I.Q. is one of the highest -and you all know it! Please don't feel so stupid or insecure,it's not your fault." Think about the smartest people in your life. Then try to imagine them making a public declaration along these lines.
A month later, sparring with some random person on Twitter, Trump again declared that his IQ score is "the highest, a**hole."
Two years later, as he rose to the top of the Republican presidential field, Trump had similar assessments of George Will and Karl Rove. "I watch these pundits on television and, you know, they call them intellectuals. They're not intellectuals," he said at a rally. "I'm much smarter than them. I think I have a much higher IQ. I think I went to a better college — better everything."
At No More Mr. Nice Blog, Steve M. this morning pulled together several other examples, including Trump's apparent interest in Jon Stewart's IQ score.
The scope of the president's profound insecurities continues to come into sharper focus.