The relationship between Donald Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is becoming a spectacle, and one that Trump will not likely abide for long.
The real fun started when Tillerson had a chat with Chris Wallace of Fox on Sunday morning:
Asked how the United States could claim the mantle of moral leadership with Donald Trump as the face of America, Tillerson said, “We express America’s values from the State Department.” Pressed on whether it wasn’t the president rather than anyone from the State Department who speaks for the United Stated and its values, Tillerson said, “The President speaks for himself, Chris.” The word only after speaks was merely — but clearly — implied.
Later, a Tillerson aide said “that President Donald Trump speaks for himself when it comes to American values ‘because the Constitution speaks for the country.'” The implied only again. They’d might as well just say it.
One marvels that a secretary of state would so explicitly throw his boss under the proverbial oxcart, but certainly Tillerson is coming from a righteous place here, even if he is an ignominious oil tycoon. Unfortunately, however, he’s dead wrong, and the American people should not be absolved so easily of their recklessness and ignorance.
Here is an excerpt from a US Supreme Court case from 1936 called US v Curtis Wright:
In th[e] vast external realm [of foreign policy], with its important, complicated, delicate and manifold problems, the President alone has the power to speak or listen as a representative of the nation. He makes treaties with the advice and consent of the Senate; but he alone negotiates. . . . As [our first Chief Justice, John] Marshall [once] said[,] “The President is the sole organ of the nation in its external relations, and its sole representative with foreign nations.” . . . The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations . . . very early . . . in our history . . . reported to the Senate, among other things, as follows:
“The President is the constitutional representative of the United States with regard to foreign nations. . . . For his conduct, he is responsible to the Constitution. . . .”
It is important to bear in mind that we are here dealing . . . with . . . the very delicate, plenary and exclusive power of the President as the sole organ of the federal government in the field of international relations — a power which . . . must be exercised in subordination to the applicable provisions of the Constitution.
Put simply, the Constitution does not “speak for the country”; it empowers and constrains the president, and makes him the voice of the country.
Lawyers call this the “one voice” or “sole organ” doctrine, and although some commentators believe it’s flawed, nobody seriously denies that it’s the prevailing norm — not just legally, but historically and politically as well.
We can’t escape that Donald Trump, although he does not speak for each of us individually, does speak for all of us collectively. His face is the face of America to the world. So Trump’s voters have not just made fools of themselves; they’ve made fools of us all .