Rex Tillerson makes veiled attacks on Trump in speech | Spanlish

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Friday, May 18, 2018

Rex Tillerson makes veiled attacks on Trump in speech

Getty/Alex Wong

Getty/Alex Wong

It's hard to listen to former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's commencement speech at the Virginia Military Institute and not conclude that he was talking about his erstwhile boss, President Donald Trump.

Consider this passage:

If our leaders seek to conceal the truth or we as people become accepting of alternative realities that are no longer grounded in facts, then we as American citizens are on a pathway to relinquishing our freedom.

In addition to taking a swipe at Trump's penchant for playing fast and loose with the facts, Tillerson's speech seemed to reference an infamous line from Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway about "alternative facts." Consequently Tillerson's description of respect for the truth as a "central tenet of a free society" seemed to imply that dishonesty is not only wrong, but a threat to freedom.

Tillerson also had this to say:

When we as people, a free people, go wobbly on the truth — even on what may seem the most trivial of matters — we go wobbly on America.

He added:

If we do not as Americans confront the crisis of ethics and integrity in our society and among our leaders in both public and private sector — and regrettably at times even the nonprofit sector — then American democracy as we know it is entering its twilight years.

To be fair to Trump, the reference to the nonprofit sector makes it unlikely that this section was meant to refer to the president. On the other hand, it is hard to imagine that the man who just finished working with a president under a cloud of scandal wasn't at least thinking of his commander-in-chief when he commented that "without personal honor, there is no leadership."

Tillerson went on to say:

But a warning to you as you leave this place — a place where the person sitting on either side of you shares that understanding. You will now enter a world where, sadly, that is not always the case. And your commitment to this high standard of ethical behavior and integrity will be tested.

Tillerson left the White House with a speech that took a hard line toward Russia, something that Trump has been unwilling to do, perhaps foreshadowing his speech at the Virginia Military Institute. Tillerson was also reported to have privately referred to the president as a moron last year and to have been tempted to resign after the president made a politically charged speech to a Boy Scout convention.

On the other hand, Tillerson's tenure as Secretary of State was tainted by the fact that he left numerous positions unstaffed, a decision that many foreign policy experts believe weakened the department. He also took a softer approach toward protecting human rights than many of his critics would have liked, contradiction the philosophical approach of many of his predecessors.

All of this means that, while Tillerson's words about his former boss may ring true, this last statement could have an uncomfortable meaning for himself as well as the president.

Blessed is the man who can see you make a fool of yourself and doesn’t think you’ve done a permanent job. Blessed is the man who does not try to blame all of his failures on someone else. Blessed is the man that can say that the boy he was would be proud of the man he is.

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