News from Tim Howe – Tue 5 Dec, 2017

Political Assassins covering Washington D.C.

 Timothy says: “This editorial  clearly states the obvious.
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SPECIAL TO MCCLATCHY

How D.C. political assassins use media to oust Tillerson

BY ANDREW MALCOLM

Picture

SAIT SERKAN GURBUZ AP

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson participates in a conversation with Wilson Center President and CEO Jane Harman at the Wilson Center in Washington.

Fans of Robert Ludlum’s thrillers easily recognize his protagonists as calm, canny, determined and worldly fellows quietly fighting sinister forces out to get rid of them in stealthy ways.

No one characterizes Rex Tillerson as thrilling. But he could otherwise fit that role. President-elect Donald Trump took the advice of Robert Gates and met with Tillerson, a career oil executive who spent years successfully running one of the globe’s larger corporations in Exxon Mobil and driving it through three massive mergers.

Soon after their meeting, Trump named Tillerson the 69th official Secretary of State in U. S. history, a long line of distinguished names such as Thomas Jefferson, Daniel Webster, William Seward, George Marshall and Henry Kissinger.

Tillerson is one of the few secretaries with no formal diplomatic experience and soon may become one of that office’s shortest-serving which, by the way, is fourth in line of succession to the presidency.

The latest bold bid by nameless administration sources to oust Tillerson by leak in collusion with cooperative media members is a classic D.C. maneuver full of intrigue, ambition and malevolence. It is also illustrative of the fetid field of play that so many millions of Americans disdain and chose Trump to drain.

Indeed in a recent Gallup Poll, respondents listed “Government” as the nation’s worst problem, actually a two-way condemnation since voters themselves selected the members of that government.

If several major media outlets are to be believed, at least two senior administration officials say Chief of Staff John Kelly has drawn up a plan to replace Tillerson with CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who would be replaced by Sen. Tom Cotton by year’s end or soon after.

The Washington media lap up these anonymous leaks like starving kittens. Personnel contests, like shallow election horse race stories, are easy to do, appear to contain drama and inside info and elevate the reporter to someone-in-the-know.

The fundamental problem with these self-serving reports is the sources are unknown, so news consumers cannot judge their trustworthiness and motivations. Which, of course, is the point of hiding their identities. Consumers must trust the reporters and media outlets, a dubious act in this era of rampant Trump antipathy. The New York Times started this latest Tillerson-is-agoner meme.

Select reporters are handed a litany of alleged Tillerson failures to repeat, including bureaucratic lethargy and behind-the-scenes disagreements.

Some leaks, of course, are benignly promotional. FDR cleverly invented this media manipulation. Recognizing newspapers’ need for news and the lack of it for Monday editions, he filled the void with his own Sunday night messages.

Today’s unidentified leak sources, however, could also be rogue troublemakers with a grudge against the secretary. They could be deep-state operatives seeking to stoke the Trump narrative of operational chaos. Or as in a Ludlum novel, they could be authorized to do this by a shadowy higher-up with his own devious motivations, possibly to undermine and embarrass Tillerson so he resigns voluntarily.

During my days as a government and campaign information operative, a politician once handed me some info to leak anonymously, saying with a wink, “See that you suppress this widely.”

In this time of competitive 24/7 news cycles in Washington, it’s not all that hard for skilled political operatives to play hungry reporters, especially if the leaked info reflects negatively on Trump or his team.

One advantage is the hidden sources get the initial burst of coverage, often labeled “Exclusive,” and then a second wave of reinforcing coverage as other outlets play catchup. Third and fourth news cycles likely feature stories of predictable reactions from:

The Target: Leaving, said Tillerson, “has never been a consideration in my mind.”

From Congress: “It’s been evident to me for some time, somebody is seeking to undermine his presence here,” said Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

And from Trump himself: “He’s not leaving and while we disagree on certain subjects, (I call the final shots) we work well together and America is highly respected again!”

Of course, Trump vowed firm support previously for Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus, Sean Spicer, Tom Price, Jim Comey and Mike Flynn, all of whom ended up departing soon after.

At some point, of course, all Cabinet members leave their posts. After the colossally-botched Obamacare roll-out and website collapse of 2013, Barack Obama didn’t fire Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. He kept her on for six months, then sent her off on a flood of praise.

Dumping Tillerson now would not be smart. He’s on a week-long European trip loyally delivering Trump advocacy to allies. And another firing would drown out the trumpets heralding Trump’s anticipated first legislative victory of tax reform.

Year end could be a good time to send the former oil executive back to his comfortable Texas retirement. Fewer people pay attention to news over holidays. And if, as has occurred during all previous Tillerson firing boomlets, the secretary doesn’t depart then, no one can point fingers at the sources. They’re still anonymous.

Malcolm is an author and veteran national and foreign correspondent covering politics since the 1960s. Follow him@AHMalcolm


Comments:
  1. On December 5, 2017 at 9:51 am,
    CFS says:

    FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — A German business newspaper is reporting that former FBI director Robert Mueller has subpoenaed Deutsche Bank seeking records as part of his investigation into allegations that Russia helped Donald Trump win the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

    The report in the Handelsblatt newspaper cites only “informed circles.” A bank spokesman said Tuesday that Deutsche Bank had no comment.

    Handelsblatt said it was not clear whether the records demand sought information on the U.S. president or on other members of his circle.

    Deutsche Bank has been one of the few major banks willing to regularly lend to Trump, who alienated large banks in New York with his past financial troubles. Over the years, the bank’s cumulative loans to Trump added up to billions, and loans originally worth $300 million remain outstanding.

  2. On December 5, 2017 at 10:09 am,
    CFS says:

    Unbelievable……

    https://www.scribd.com/document/366081794/Senate-GOP-tax-bill#from_embed

    I know the tax bill has to go through reconciliation, but the cronyism and pork makes me sick.

  3. On December 5, 2017 at 10:17 am,
    Big Al says:

    Did you read the whole thing, Professor?

  4. On December 5, 2017 at 10:57 am,
    CFS says:

    I’m getting thru’ it slowly.

    479 pages long, but it is the cross-references that really slow one down.

    • On December 5, 2017 at 12:16 pm,
      Big Al says:

      When you get a chance please direct me to the cronyism and pork.

      Thanks

      • On December 5, 2017 at 7:23 pm,
        CFS says:

        I have slowed down to await the reconciliation bill.

        The senate bill may be summarized properly as primarily a tax break for big corporations.
        The lobbyists for big corps clearly have won out, leaving small/nothing for the average citizen.

        Stefan Molyneux on the Flynn fiasco:
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3YjhUegs64

        Very interesting.

  5. On December 5, 2017 at 11:44 am,
    CFS says:

    Remember Strzok, Mueller’s highly biased anti-Trump assistant, who got fired?
    His real bias was discovered in emails Strzok wrote to his “mistress”.

    One has to wonder just how much the FBI and NSA look at !!!
    (and how Trump heard about it)

    The inquiry into Mr. Strzok is being conducted by the Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, who is leading a broad examination of how the F.B.I. handled the Clinton email investigation. It is not clear whether Mr. Horowitz will make the text messages public as part of his report in the inquiry. Mr. Horowitz, who announced the beginning of his investigation in January, declined to characterize his findings but said that he hoped to have a copy of his report released by March or April.

  6. On December 5, 2017 at 1:05 pm,
    CFS says:

    Russia just banned from next year’s winter Olympics in S. Korea, on doping charges.

    (and I thought Olympics were started up to re-create peace!)

    • On December 5, 2017 at 3:11 pm,
      GH says:

      And let’s not forget what happened during the Sochi Olympics–the ZioCon coup in Ukraine, orchestrated by Vicky Nuland.

  7. On December 5, 2017 at 3:58 pm,
    CFS says:

    I hear Mueller is asking for Trump’s tax returns.

    Since if Mueller may have not been 100% honest in his own tax dealings, which could potentially open him yo blackmail, I wonder when Mueller will be releasing his tax returns.

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