BOSTON (CBS) — In his first interview since President Trump fired him last March, former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is pulling no punches in his account of life in the White House.
“That’s kind of the way Donald Trump is, he acts on his instincts,” said Tillerson in an interview with Bob Schieffer of CBS News Thursday night.
Early on in Mr. Trump’s term, skeptics called Tillerson one of the “adults in the room,” an experienced, cautious counterweight to an inexperienced, impulsive new president who — along with Secretary of Defense James Mattis and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly — was expected to reign in Mr. Trump’s worst instincts. Kelly and Mattis were even reported to have made a pact that one of them would “remain in the United States at all times to keep tabs on the orders rapidly emerging from the White House.”
And Thursday night, Tillerson gave the most graphic description to date of why that sort of caution seemed necessary.
“He’s a challenging individual, [it] was challenging to me coming from the disciplined, highly process-oriented Exxon Mobil Corporation, where everyone sang from the same hymn book or you got kicked out of the choir, to go to work to work for a man who is pretty undisciplined, doesn’t like to read, doesn’t read briefing reports, doesn’t like to get into the details of a lot of things,” he told Schieffer.
Compare that with Tillerson’s description of Russian strongman Vladimir Putin: “He’s one of the most strategic, tactical thinkers I have ever met. And he outworks every other world leader.”
With Kelly reportedly nearing the exit and a Mattis departure the subject of persistent speculation, a significant question is raised: who will help steer once the so-called adults in the room have all left it?
In a late-afternoon tweet, the President responded to Tillerson, writing in part: “He was dumb as a rock and I couldn’t get rid of him fast enough. He was lazy as hell.”
For Trump fans, an amusing comeback. For Trump critics, perhaps, proof of Tillerson’s point.