Back in the days of print and paper, or roughly 27 years ago, I was talking…okay, arguing with a guy who was in charge of printing Prime, a Music-Plus contract monthly about music and movies that I was the senior editor of. He got off the line for a bit, and a second or two later I murmured to a friend nearby that the guy I was squabbling with was a moron. The printer heard me. Our conversation proceeded as follows:
Printer: You just called me a moron.
Me: I did?
Printer: I heard you! You just said “he’s a moron.”
Me: Well, okay, but I wasn’t describing you in an altogether sense. What I meant — I’m sure you’ve done this yourself — was that my impression of you at that particular point in time was that you were a moron. A moment in time. Two minutes later you could say or do something that would totally change my mind. Just a figure of speech.
Printer: Well, here’s another figure of speech. You’re a judgmental shit.
Me: Not really. I’m apologizing and trying to build bridges here.
Printer: You’re apologizing?
Me: Well, yeah. I mean, I said it, okay, but it was like I said, a brief, transitional impression. Speaking here and now in the present tense, I’m not calling you a moron. I’m just trying to work with you.
Same thing with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. I don’t think he mutters “Donald Trump is a moron, Donald Trump is a moron” on a 24/7 basis. He said it once in a meeting last July. It slipped out because he was thinking that at the time, but once he’d said it he moved on to other things. And that was that.