by William P. Kiehl
It was long rumored that T-Rex was ripe for replacement in Trump world. The disagreements on key policy issues—Iran sanctions, climate change, NATO’s role vis-s-vis Russia, Charlottesville and American values, Middle East peace, the location of our Embassy in Israel, even strategy on North Korea—probably would have been enough to sink the Secretary even without that unconfirmed remark he made in July 2017 about President Donald Trump being a “moron.”
A Secretary of State needs two things in order to succeed—the support of the rank and file of the Department and the confidence of the President—and sadly Tillerson had neither.
Perhaps nothing proved the latter more than the way in which Mr. Tillerson was let go. He did not just ride off into the sunset.
According to his spokesperson, Steve Goldstein (who has since been fired for his unbridled honesty), the Secretary of State learned that his services were no longer needed via the same Tweet that greeted the world on Tuesday morning.
Of course this President, like any President, is entitled to surround himself with a team of his choosing. The Cabinet and White House staff should be people who enjoy the confidence of the President and are “in tune” with his thinking on matters great and small. Apparently CIA Director Mike Pompeo is such a person and his deputy, Gina Haspel, who will fill his shoes at CIA is another. Pompeo and the President pretty much agree on everything.
Now that we have seen more than a year of President Trump in action, we can confidently predict that Rex will not be the last cabinet member to have an un-ceremonial departure nor will the revolving door on White House aides stop turning. There are already rumors about the NSC Advisor and a couple of cabinet secretaries that could be the next to go. That is the new reality and we may have no choice but to make the best of it.
As Mr. Trump tirelessly reminds us, he is the only one who matters. Until or unless the American public tire of our current reality, we will continue to have more of the same. No matter what our opinion of what this “new reality” may be, we can only hope that one way or another this unique experiment can achieve some degree of success on those big foreign and domestic issues that are just too important to fail—Iran, North Korea, China, Russia, Trade, the Economy, Infrastructure etc.
The complexities of these issues are such that I suspect we will have to examine them in some detail in the months to come no matter who is among the cast of characters in the Administration.
William P. Kiehl is a retired Foreign Service officer who served 35 years with the U.S. Information Agency and U.S. Department of State in Europe, Asia and Washington. He was also a diplomat-in-residence at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle. He resides in Lancaster County.