So has Rex Tillerson been castrated or not?
It’s never good when that’s the question people are asking about you.
Republican Sen. Bob Corker was the one who first raised this painful possibility, charging that President Donald Trump had “publicly castrated” his own secretary of state over their differing approaches to North Korea. The alleged snip came after NBC reported that Tillerson had called the president “a moron” during a meeting at the Pentagon.
Ronald Reagan had sage advice for situations like this one. “Trust but verify,” Reagan liked to say. Well, Tillerson must have had the Gipper in his ear on Sunday. He went on CNN to assert that he had done a thorough investigation and found no evidence to support the proposition that he had, in fact, suffered any such anatomical realignment.
“I checked,” the normally low-key former Exxon-Mobil chairman told host Jake Tapper. “I’m fully intact.”
Beyond the firm denial, Tillerson also had two pieces of evidence on his side. One was his deep Texas drawl. He didn’t sound un-masculine. The other support came from character witness Lindsey Graham. The Republican senator from South Carolina said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that he didn’t believe the claims that Tillerson was suffering from the unkindest cut of all.
“No, I don’t agree with that,” Graham said straight out, though he didn’t explain exactly how he knew this. Were his inspections more or less hands-on than those, say, at the Iranian nuclear facilities?
Unfortunately, it was Tillerson himself who most undercut his own denial.
Despite Tapper’s badgering, the beleaguered secretary of state twice refused to answer whether he had in fact called Trump “a moron.” He wouldn’t admit it. He wouldn’t deny. He would only dodge.
“I call the president ‘Mr. President,’” he lamely asserted.
When Tapper pressed the point, Tillerson scrambled to the last refuge of all cornered castrati.
“Jake, I’m not going to deal with that kind of petty stuff,” he said. “I’m not dignifying the question with an answer.”
No, that didn’t sound macho at all.
Metro columnist Ellis Henican is the author of a dozen books including “Trumpitude: The Secret Confessions of Donald’s Brain,” which is being published next month. He is on Twitter @henican.