Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Old Trump pops off

Wunschmädchen: Iréne Theorin as Kellyanne Conway and Thomas Mayer as President Trump in Andreas Kriegenburg's July 2012 staging of Die Walküre for the Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich, via Likely Impossibilities.
Poor old Rex, patiently bearing the cross God and Mrs. Tillerson gave him, as reported with tons of literary color commentary by Erin McBride for Independent Journal Review, whose editors apparently don't believe in cutting, or possibly don't exist, but innocently revealing, as has been widely noted this morning, that he doesn't really want his new job:
So why, then, did he want the gig?
“I didn’t want this job. I didn’t seek this job.” He paused to let that sink in.
A beat or two passed before an aide piped up to ask him why he said yes.
“My wife told me I’m supposed to do this.”
After watching the contortions of my face as I tried to figure out what to say next, he humbly explained that he had never met the president before the election. As president-elect, Trump wanted to have a conversation with Tillerson “about the world” given what he gleaned from the complex global issues he dealt with as CEO of Exxon Mobil.
“When he asked me at the end of that conversation to be secretary of state, I was stunned.”
When Tillerson got home and told his wife, Renda St. Clair, she shook her finger in his face and said, “I told you God’s not through with you.”
I want to say straight out, I totally believe this story, and all its implications: in particular, the implication that there was no conspiracy to install Tillerson in Foggy Bottom on Putin's behalf. He may have been summoned to Trump Tower to manipulate the president-elect's views on the energy industry on Putin's behalf, or Exxon's, if there's any serious difference between the two, but nobody thought of making Tillerson secretary of state until Trump had listened to him for half an hour and said to himself, "This guy has sure been to a lot of different countries, and he looks just like a secretary of state too!" He may be the most honest person in the administration, though certainly not one of the ablest.

Well, maybe. From November 30 to December 4, the transition had identified just four potential secretaries: Romney, Giuliani, Corker, and Petraeus. Then, that Sunday morning, Conway went on TV to say the list had suddenly expanded:
"It's a big decision and nobody should rush through it," Conway said during a 9-minute press gaggle at Trump Tower.
When asked why the list is being expanded, Conway said, "There's many qualified people who have expressed an interest in serving."
"I think one thing that really strikes us, and this is not unique to this president, who is unique, but there are a number of people that we may not have thought wanted to leave their very lucrative private industry positions to go and serve the government and they are coming forth now and expressing interest and it's exciting, frankly, to at least get their counsel," she added.
She didn't identify any of the competitors, but some balloons arose in the course of the day: anonymous sources continued to pitch former ambassador to China Jon Huntsman and West Virginia senator Joe Manchin, Mike Pence named crazed neoconservative John Bolton on ABC, and the Wall Street Journal named Tillerson. One of those four, you'll note, held a much more lucrative private industry position than the others ($24.3 million salary as Exxon CEO in 2016).

I think Trump met Tillerson sometime between the 30th and the 4th, said "that's my guy" and offered him the job without permission from his minders. Mainly because he had never offended him (as Romney has and I'm sure Giuliani, and probably Corker), worked for Obama or Democrats (like Huntsman, Petraeus, or Manchin), or worn a grotesque mustache, and came right out of central casting with his Texas bearing and white hair.

Then there were formal interviews for the four new candidates, and the staff spent the next week trying to talk him out of it, because of Tillerson's total lack of qualification, not to mention that Russia connection, which would make the burgeoning scandal of Trump's actual Russian connections worse. Except for Conway, who may see herself as the emperor's Wunschmädchen, there to realize his every whim and desire. But they couldn't do it, because an emperor's word is his bond, as long as he feels like keeping it, and he'd made the offer at that first meeting, out of the blue, just as Tillerson says.

So now we're stuck with somebody Trump thinks has proved himself as a Real Leader by jetting around from meeting to meeting and drawing an 8-figure salary, an incompetent secretary who's afraid to travel with journalists, instead trusting himself to someone who writes like a 14-year-old Anne of Green Gables fan for a wingnut outlet so dysfunctionally managed as to be a topic of hilarious industry gossip
three reporters involved in a recent story about former President Barack Obama have been suspended by the publication. IJR retracted the piece, which embraced a conspiracy theory that claims Obama traveled to Hawaii to compel a judge to rule against President Donald Trump’s travel ban. As a result, IJR suspended the author of the piece, Kyle Becker, as well as his supervisor, content editor Becca Lower and Chief Content Officer Benny Johnson — who was fired from BuzzFeed after it was revealed he plagiarized at least 41 articles.
—and blows off crucial meetings from Seoul to Brussels (skipping the NATO summit is a really catastrophically wrong decision, though Jens Stoltenberg was loyally spinning it as excusable on NPR this morning) for no reason that can be revealed, or at least no reason that makes any sense:
Erin McPike: First of all, let me just ask you since the South Korean newspaper reported that you cancelled dinner because of fatigue, and then they said you spent more time with the Japanese than the South Koreans. What happened?
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson: They never invited us for dinner, then at the last minute they realized that optically it wasn’t playing very well in public for them, so they put out a statement that we didn’t have dinner because I was tired.
EM: So are you saying they lied about it?
RT: No, it was just their explanation.
EM: Ok.
RT: I had dinner last night.
We'll never know for sure how much of the Trump presidency consists of the old man popping off to do fairly big things, like naming a cabinet secretary, without any preparation or consultation, and everybody else scrambling to make excuses for him, just like with the tweets, but I think there will be a huge amount of it, and it's narratologically identifiable.

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