It should have been a banner day for Donald Trump’s opponents: former Exxon Mobil chief Rex Tillerson, a member of the global corporate elite against which the Trump campaign defined itself, called Russian President Vladimir Putin’s numerous military invasions international law violations but refusing to call Putin himself a war criminal.
Tillerson attempting to argue that sanctions on rogue, terror-supporting nations like Iran are going to harm American big business “by design” and that this concern should somehow be part of the moral conversation that leads to sanctions support in the first place, while attempting to shake off the reality that Exxon Mobil has lobbied against such sanctions in the past.
Tillerson repeatedly using the Soviet terminology “the Ukraine.”
America’s major news outlets – so hungry to promote any nugget of news that may have damaged President-elect Donald Trump during the campaign – should have gone wall-to-wall with Trump’s first major national embarrassment.
Instead, left-wing media were not content to let the situation play out on its own and made the most fundamental error in politics: interrupting the enemy while they make a mistake.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the front pages of the New York Times, Washington Post, CBS News, ABC News, and NBC News, among others, have surrendered precious homepage real estate to sexual perversion rumors, published by Reddit content aggregator BuzzFeed and breathlessly covered by CNN.
The scoop that was not accused Trump of being forced to pursue policy favorable to Russia because the Russian government had compiled damning intelligence on his personal life. CNN based its report on a supposed memo that detained what that intelligence was, which it initially refused to report on. Where CNN and other leftist outlets like Mother Jones and Newsweek declined to publish the details, BuzzFeed relished in diving right in. Donald Trump, BuzzFeed claimed, hired prostitutes to urinate on each other to exact revenge on President Barack Obama (???) in Moscow.
“Does anyone really believe that story?… I’m also very much of a germaphobe, by the way, believe me,” Trump said at his press conference on Wednesday. His denials have been corroborated by journalists being forced to waste time debunking the details of a story BuzzFeed never proved.
CNN added itself to the chorus of boos hurled BuzzFeed’s way this afternoon, after the President-elect referred to CNN as “terrible” and denied reporter Jim Acosta a question at his press conference. “CNN’s decision to publish carefully sourced reporting about the operations of our government is vastly different than BuzzFeed’s decision to publish unsubstantiated memos,” a statement from the media empire began. It gets harsher from there.
Fun as mud-slinging between CNN and BuzzFeed may be to read about, the news cycle is a zero-sum competition between a finite number of important news stories and the “golden shower” jokes that have largely deprived Americans of time to consume the much more complicated case of Tillerson’s attitudes towards Russia. While Trump supporters who support Tillerson have much for which to thank left-leaning American media today, the left that vowed to pick up the pieces after their devastating loss in November have much to reproach those who represent their interests in the media.
The first session of Tillerson’s confirmation hearing Wednesday morning was, in no uncertain terms, an alarming episode for conservatives and American patriots of all stripes. Tillerson had one job upon facing the Senate panel: prove that he was capable of putting moral obligation over generation profit.
Instead, he proved his skeptics correct, confirming that his understanding of international relations is inextricably linked to generating profit.
Tillerson opened with statements he hoped would be strong enough to diffuse tensions with the foreign policy hardliners on the panel. Russia had “disregarded America’s interests” by invading Ukraine/Georgia, agitating Russian fringe groups in Moldova, and supporting Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. Assad, he said, had “brutally violated the laws of war,” but for reasons unsaid, Russia had not done the same in marching side by side with Assad’s troops.
“America’s level of good will towards the world is unique,” he insisted in his opening, only to later imply that American business interests may have a say in the limits of that good will.
The Tillerson lowlight came at the hands of back-to-back questioning sessions with Senators Marco Rubio and Bob Menendez – one Republican, one Democrat, but consistent voices against rogue nations like Iran and Cuba in the Senate. Sen. Rubio asked Tillerson whether Vladimir Putin was a war criminal.
“I would not use that term,” Tillerson replied, after having said he believed Russia had “no legal claim” to Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and that Putin’s government had violated international legal norms in the context of war. Sen. Rubio pressed him, listing a variety of war crimes in which Putin has had a hand. Tillerson did not budge.
“It should not be hard to say. … I find it discouraging,” Sen. Rubio lamented.
Sen. Rubio then asked Tillerson about the dissidents Putin has reportedly had assassinated throughout his many years as head of state. “People who speak up for freedom in regimes that are repressive are often a threat, and these things happen to them,” Tillerson replied. If they wanted to live so badly, they shouldn’t have spoken up.
Sen. Menendez later noted that Putin had awarded Tillerson the Russian Order of Friendship for his “big contribution to developing cooperation in the energy sector.”
Tillerson fared little better against Sen. Menendez. Menendez got Tillerson to say that Russia violated international law, but he then refused to call the acts that violated international law “war crimes.” When asked if President-elect Trump agrees, Tillerson’s answer was a whopper: he had no idea.
“The President-elect and I have not had the opportunity to discuss this specific issue or this specific area,” he told the Senate panel.
On sanctions, as mentioned above, Tillerson argued that if Exxon lobbied against them (they did), “it is important to acknowledge that when sanctions are imposed, they, by their design, are going to harm American business; that’s the idea.” The implication is clear: businesses should put their profits over any guiding moral principles. Tillerson left unclear whether he thought governments had the same obligation.
President-elect Trump won the presidency by tapping into longstanding frustrations the American people had been harboring since President George W. Bush passed TARP: that an entrenched millionaire class had turned the federal government into their own personal cash cow at the expense of the middle and lower classes. With the Tillerson nomination, Trump has largely betrayed his voters–Republican and Bernie Sanders defectors alike.
Luckily for Trump, BuzzFeed, CNN, and the establishment media appear committed to sweeping his real troubles under the rug, peddling their fabricated schoolyard gossip in desperation to feed the traffic beast instead.