Secretary of State Rex Tillerson hasn’t been the kind of target for Donald Trump’s public ire the way AG Jeff Sessions has. Trump doesn’t think he’s undermining Tillerson’s diplomatic work when he publicly tells Tillerson not to “waste his time” trying to smooth relations with North Korea and “Little Rocket Man,” as Trump has fashioned the missile-testing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. (Could be a good cop-bad cop ploy, some have speculated.) As Trump rhetoric goes, his Tillerson advice was almost fraternal, whereas Trump utterly dressed down Sessions saying he’d never had hired him if he knew how Sessions would ultimately conduct himself on the job.
I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man…
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 1, 2017
Still, “wonderful” Rex Tillerson felt compelled to answer that he was still on board with Trump’s agenda after some called for Tillerson to resign rather than work under Trumpian conditions inhospitable to real diplomacy. NBC News reported that Tillerson called Trump a “moron” last summer after Trump’s strange speech to the Boy Scouts — reports that Tillerson, a former president of the Boy Scouts, wouldn’t talk about during a press conference to assure people he’s staying on the job. Asked directly whether he’d called the president a moron, Tillerson characterized the “moron” accusation as gossipy and “petty,” saying “I’m just, I’m not going to deal with petty stuff like that.” Tillerson said: “my commitment to the success of the president and our country is as strong as it was the day I accepted his offer to serve as Secretary of State.”