I just heard Rex Tillerson making his exiting statement to the media in the State Department briefing room. Tillerson was obviously supremely pissed, but he also dropped a couple of ten gallon hints in his speech.
First, Tillerson directly referred to Trump a grand total of once, when he stated that he spoke to the President on Air Force One by phone, after he had already been fired by tweet. But when he closed his remarks, he thanked the State Department, and the American people for the opportunity to serve, but glaringly declined to thank the President for appointing him in the first place.
But to my ears, if Tillerson’s refusal to refer to Trump at all was telling, what he did refer to incessantly was even more jarring than his omission. I literally cannot count the number of times that Tillerson referred to “our allies,” and “strong bonds with our allies.” Tillerson also took a veiled swipe at Trump’s slobbering bromance with China, but but a reference to “our allies” peppered almost every sentence.
To my simple mind, there was one reason for this. This was not meant for Trump, Tillerson knows better than anyone his former boss’s feeling about our allies, it was a carefully veiled warning to the GOP. Remember, Tillerson was still Secretary of State yesterday when he voiced public approval for British PM Theresa May’s contention of Russian involvement in the chemical agent attack, and he advocated for a robust response. I don’t find it unreasonable to think that PM May may have contacted Tillerson, to thank him for his support, to try to gauge the depth of that support, and quite possibly to discuss with him some of the options she is considering in the government’s response to the Russian aggression.
If she so much as mentioned article 5 as a possible response, this would have flashed a clear red light in Tillerson’s mind, realizing that Trump would be strongly inclined to turn his back on the UK and NATO. I think that his constant hammering about “allies” and “alliances” in his speech today was a subliminal warning to congress that they may soon have an existential crisis on their hands with Trump.
Rex Tillerson is gone. But the impending crisis that I believe directly led to his ouster is just beginning. Strap in, this ride may get very bumpy.