Case Study: How The New York Times Gave Trump The Chance To Say “Fuck You” And Saved Rex Tillerson’s Job

“Once when I was reporting, Lyndon Johnson’s top guy gave me the word they were looking for a successor to J. Edgar Hoover. I wrote it and the day it appeared Johnson called a press conference and appointed Hoover head of the FBI for life… And when he was done, he turned to his top guy and the President said, “Call Ben Bradlee and tell him fuck you.” I took a lot of static for that–everyone said, “You did it, Bradlee, you screwed up–you stuck us with Hoover forever.” I screwed up but I wasn’t wrong.”

—-Washington Post Editor-in-Chief Ben Bradley (Jason Robards, Jr.) in “All the President’s Men.”

Surely I wasn’t the only one who immediately thought about this anecdote (apparently true) from the film version of the Woodward and Bernstein book about the Post’s Watergate investigation. All yesterday, the news services were following the New York Times “scoop,” based on anonymous leaks out of the Trump Administration, claiming that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was about to be canned within days, with CIA head Mike Pompeo, a Trump favorite, taking his place.

I know a little bit about leadership and the kind of people who get to the top of the heap, the Presidents of the United States. I also know how I would think if I disliked and distrusted a newspaper and someone betrayed me within my staff, resulting in a premature revelation of my plans. Unless I regarded a personnel matter as essential, I’d change course to discredit the leaker and make the newspaper look bad.

Sure enough, President Trump tweeted today,

The media has been speculating that I fired Rex Tillerson or that he would be leaving soon – FAKE NEWS! 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!

Good for him. Continue reading