Rex Tillerson: Incompetence Better Than Chaos?

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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson
(Flickr/DonkeyHotey) Rex Tillerson Caricature
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Did Rex Tillerson call Donald Trump a “moron”? We may never know for sure.

When Trump named Tillerson as his Secretary of State, it initially inspired hope. He got faint praise from Republicans.

More importantly, Republican foreign policy giants like Condoleeza Rice and Robert Gates endorsed Rex Tillerson. He was not part of the extreme right-wing foreign policy wing of the Trump campaign.

On paper, Tillerson seemed like an excellent prospect for the Secretary of State position. He had been CEO of the global oil company, ExxonMobil. As such, Tillerson had experience negotiating globally and administering a giant organization.

A few Democrats joined the Republican majority in the Senate to confirm Tillerson. Still, he did receive the most opposition of any secretary of state in the last 50 years.

Misgivings about Tillerson have only increased during his time at the State Department.

Rex Tillerson: Worst Leader for State Department?

Most leaders take steps to protect their organizations. On the other hand, Rex Tillerson appears to be slavishly adopting the Trump plans for the State Department.

Tillerson backed the Trump budget cuts for his department. However, the cuts were so deep that even the Republican-controlled Senate pushed back.

A small group of people control the flow of information to and Tillerson in the State Department. None of them are foreign policy experts.

With leadership hostile to expertise, many State Department employees have left. Some were forced out, and others have left out of their own choice.

As a result, morale at the State Department is low. Since humans conduct diplomacy, the absence of both junior and senior personnel contributes to a less effective US foreign policy.

Apart from the tensions within the State Department, Tillerson and the Trump White House are also not on the best of terms.

Rex Tillerson: Undercut by Trump White House

Nearly a third of senior State Department posts are unfilled, according to one estimate. Tillerson got an early warning on how little his executive experience mattered to the Trump White House.

When Tillerson picked his No. 2 official early on in his term, Trump vetoed the appointment. White House and Tillerson’s tensions on State Department positions have continued.

In June, the tensions over filling State posts apparently led to a Tillerson White House outburst. He was particularly disturbed by younger White House personnel frustrating his choices.

Apart from personnel, Trump has also weakened Tillerson’s ability to conduct foreign policy. Most recently, this happened on North Korea and the Saudi-Qatar dispute.

Rex Tillerson: Better than Unhinged Extremists?

It is true we who are interested in foreign policy were slightly relieved when Tillerson was appointed as Secretary of State.

At least, Tillerson is not an extreme-right winger like John Bolton. Further, he had more experience than novices like Jared Kushner or Nikki Haley.

After the “moron” crisis, Rex Tillerson got the support of Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker. Corker described Tillerson as one of the Trump officials who “help separate us from chaos.”

I guess chaos is more scary than Cabinet incompetence and entitlement culture.


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