xml:space="preserve">
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during a news conference in Cairo, Egypt, on Feb. 12, 2018. President Donald Trump fired Tillerson on March 13, 2018, and is replacing him with Mike Pompeo.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during a news conference in Cairo, Egypt, on Feb. 12, 2018. President Donald Trump fired Tillerson on March 13, 2018, and is replacing him with Mike Pompeo. (Xinhua / TNS)

Rex Tillerson’s term as secretary of state, which came to an abrupt end today, was notable mainly because it displeased pretty much everyone. Donald Trump wasn’t happy with him because Tillerson favored staying in the nuclear deal with Iran and because of their bad personal chemistry. State Department employees weren’t happy with him because he imposed a hiring freeze, proposed budget cuts and showed no appreciation for the work they do.

Sixty percent of top-ranking career diplomats have retired since he arrived. “In nearly 300 embassies, missions and consulates around the world where State Department officials work to promote and defend America’s interests, diplomats complain about not just a dearth of resources but also a lack of guidance,” the New York Times reported in October. Applications for the Foreign Service have plunged.

Advertisement

Foreign governments were bewildered by the obvious conflicts between the president and his top diplomat. It was never clear if the secretary had any power or influence in this administration. Tillerson couldn’t have been pleased to see a grossly unqualified novice, Jared Kushner, being given a major say on the Middle East, Mexico and China.

Trump claims he hires the best people, but he doesn’t keep them. This should be the time in a new administration when Cabinet officers and other key advisers are hitting their stride, having learned what they need to know to do their jobs as well as possible. Instead, many of them have been felled by scandal, run afoul of their mercurial president or burned out by the nonstop turmoil and confused direction of the past 14 months.

Tillerson was an able oil executive used to dealing with heads of government all over the world. But he could never figure out how to establish trust and rapport with Trump.

“He makes decisions differently,” Tillerson told the Times, obviously choosing his words carefully. “I’ve had to learn how he processes information and how I can help him process the information and how I can give him good advice that makes sense to him. So for both of us there’s a communication to be worked out.” In private, Tillerson called Trump a “moron,” using an adjective I can’t repeat here.

Nothing Trump says can be taken at face value. But when he said this morning, “I think Rex will be much happier now,” we can be confident he was telling the truth.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement