Walking fast Rex Tillerson enters the office of White House chief of staff John Kelly and says, “Tell the president I’m here and we need to talk.”
“You don’t have an appointment,” says the retired four-star general, rising to attention.
The secretary of state pivots, marches out, and turns toward the Oval Office.
Kelly from behind grabs Tillerson’s left elbow and pulls, and the stocky former oil executive whirls and right-hand slaps Kelly’s face.
Dazed, Kelly raises his left hand to console his cheek and does not reply. Tillerson moves through Trump’s open door.
“Please excuse us,” Tillerson says to Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.
“Jared needs to watch and learn. He could be the man who brings peace to Asia and the Middle East while he solves the opioid crisis.”
“He’s a busy boy. Close the door on the way out, Jared.”
Glancing at Trump, the young man rises and departs.
“I told you to let me know when you’re coming.”
“Listen, Mr. President, I’m sorry for questioning your foreign policy intelligence during that meeting at the Pentagon, but I won’t tolerate what you’ve just been quoted as saying, that your IQ is higher than mine.”
“Nothing personal. Mine’s higher than just about anyone’s.”
“Let’s settle it right here,” says Tillerson.
“What’s the capital of Vietnam?”
“No trick questions. My turn. How much per square foot is office real estate in Manhattan right now?”
“Irrelevant. How much was a barrel of oil the day you took office before that sparse crowd?”
“You don’t answer my questions, I won’t answer yours.”
“Here’s one you can’t avoid: what the hell were you alluding to when you said ‘only one thing will work’ when trying to convince the North Koreans to stop testing nuclear weapons?”
“What’s it sound like?”
“Like you’re conceding nuclear war is inevitable.”
“We either fight them now, before they can hit us, or we wait till they can,” says Trump.
“I’d get better diplomatic results if you’d quit tweeting that ‘I’m wasting my time trying to talk to North Korea.’”
“They lie, they intimidate, they murder Americans and others, and they never keep their promises. It doesn’t matter if you’ve ‘established direct contacts with North Korea to probe its willingness to negotiate.’”
“Surely you’re not going to just give up on diplomacy,” says Tillerson.
“Talking won’t stop them from developing and deploying missiles that can soon destroy our cities.”
“With the help of the Chinese and the Russians, I think our sanctions will influence the North Koreans.”
“Sanctions haven’t worked and never will. There’s only one solution…”
“Mr. President, you’re worse than a moron.”