The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018


In yet another classless and unnecessarily clumsy move, Donald Trump fired Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State via Twitter. Like many things that Trump does, the end result was probably correct, but the style in which it was done was off-putting. Trump and Tillerson disagreed on too many issues for their relationship to continue. But Tillerson was a class act, served the president well, and should have been treated with greater respect.

The editors of the Wall Street Journal write:
President Trump’s decision to replace Rex Tillerson with CIA director Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State looks like a trade up for the Administration and perhaps for U.S. foreign policy. Mr. Tillerson deserved better than the shabby way he was fired, but Mr. Pompeo shares more of the President’s views and is likely to carry more clout with Mr. Trump and foreign leaders.

Mr. Trump was initially attracted to the former Exxon CEO’s status and business success, and boosters like former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice hoped he’d mesh with a businessman president. But foreign policy isn’t made in flow charts, and Mr. Tillerson squandered political capital by trying to reorganize the State Department.

The most successful recent Secretaries— Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, James Baker —used the department’s assets to serve their agendas. They put allies in key jobs to manage the biggest issues, while letting the career staff run lesser portfolios. But more than a year into the Trump era, most senior State posts remain vacant, as do key ambassadorships to the likes of South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Mr. Tillerson relied on too many diplomats who served the bureaucracy’s agenda.
During Tillerson's tenure, U.S. foreign policy accomplishments improved by an order of magnitude when compared to the previous administration. During those years, the past-president allowed first- and second-term Secretaries of State to do their thing and the result was disastrous—chaos in the Middle East, Russia invading the Ukraine, North Korea rampaging toward an even more warlike posture, Venezuela going down the tubes, China asserting its military in the Asian region, the "Iran Deal," antipathy toward Israel, to name only a few foreign policy failures—but yeah, that president didn't fire his diplomats via Twitter. Nah, he believed in leading from behind.

In that context, it's worth noting that style matters, but accomplishment matters a lot more. In style, Trump gets an F, but in foreign policy accomplishment (not to mention domestic achievements), his administration gets an B+.