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Should Tillerson Resign?

Dan Drezner calls [1] for Rex Tillerson’s resignation:

In less than seven months in the job, Tillerson has proven to be a feckless manager of his organization and a poor handler of the president of the United States. To be fair, even the savviest secretary of state would have his or her hands full with a president like Trump. The sharp contrast between Tillerson’s fumblings and the more nimble footwork of Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis shows that Tillerson is the opposite of a good secretary of state. Most of Trump’s private-sector cabinet officials have been dreadful, but Tillerson is the worst of the lot.

Tillerson has been presiding over the wrecking of the State Department ever since he was confirmed, and he has very little else to show for his tenure. It’s safe to say that the demoralization and hollowing out of the department will just keep getting worse the longer he is in charge. The trouble is that replacing Tillerson probably won’t change any of that, because the gutting of the State Department has been and continues to be an administration priority. The person Trump chooses to replace Tillerson is likely to have the same disdain for diplomacy and diplomats that he has.

So while I am inclined to agree with the call for Tillerson’s resignation, I can’t agree with Drezner when he says “I am no longer worried about who Trump would pick to replace him.” This is exactly what we should be worrying about. Tillerson got the job at State in part because all of the other people Trump was considering were so fanatical, ethically compromised, or otherwise awful that he seemed the best of a bad lot at the time. That may have been true, but that process produced one of the least effective Secretaries of State in modern times. Now imagine Trump going through a similar process a second time. Is he likely to choose someone more capable than Tillerson? Considering the state of Trump’s administration after just seven months, would anyone who fits that description be willing to take the job? If there is someone willing, I am concerned Trump would end up choosing another former general on account of his fascination with military officers, and that would be at least one too many in this Cabinet.

Tillerson reportedly never wanted the job, so it shouldn’t take much to persuade him to leave. That said, the damage already done to the State Department isn’t going to be repaired anytime soon, and as long as Trump is president we should assume it will continue regardless. I have been very critical of how Tillerson has been running his department, but as one his critics I think we should acknowledge that his successor could still be even worse.

13 Comments (Open | Close)

13 Comments To "Should Tillerson Resign?"

#1 Comment By Marshall MacDougall On August 31, 2017 @ 9:59 am

Yeah, I think the important thing to remember is that he isn’t John Bolton.

#2 Comment By Dan Green On August 31, 2017 @ 10:07 am

Tillerson was a CEO of for the longest time head of the US largest corporation by market cap. His problem or problems no doubt reflect his tenure in the corporate world. A world where you have to get things done some work out some don’t. Point is he is a non fit in the Swamp where dysfunction is implanted. Can readers recall how an experience career politician like John Boy ran all over the world and in the end was manipulated by the Russians to their advantage. Hillary logged millions of miles obviously to the benefit of the Clinton foundation. So until the prior ruling class gets back in office a new diplomat will have to wait.

#3 Comment By icarusr On August 31, 2017 @ 10:15 am

Looks like what’s good for Exxon is not necessarily good for the United States.

#4 Comment By Seven Months In 2017 On August 31, 2017 @ 10:47 am

“I am concerned Trump would end up choosing another former general on account of his fascination with military officers, and that would be at least one too many in this Cabinet.”

And you should be concerned. Even setting aside the critical matter of civilian control of the government and military in a democratic society, these days our military isn’t exactly a by-word for competency, success, or even sound judgment.

It has failed to win on multiple battlegrounds. Judging by the recent Three Stooges performance of the Pacific Fleet, there are basic competency issues at the highest levels of command. And now we learn that both Gens. Mattis and McMaster strongly urged Trump to double down in Afghanistan, one of the worst examples of judgment and decision-making in recent memory.

So far as I know, Tillerson had nothing to do with that idiocy, so I’d leave him where he is and pray that Trump will eventually be disabused of the instinct to defer to (or rather cringe before) his generals.

#5 Comment By collin On August 31, 2017 @ 11:20 am

TBH, I can’t figure out exactly why Tillerson has been so bad but I assume his lack of experience of the State Department makes him a very poor choice for President Trump. Judging by the Trump’s administration G&G (General & Goldman) cabinet is very experience expertise with Job-like patience is needed to work with President Trump. Basically, it fits Drezner’s toddler comments that Mattis works well with Trump because Mattis knows a lot more than the President and is willing to allow Trump to throw two hour tantrums for his policy. It is to the point that we almost need Mattis to be Secretary of State as at least we know that he can work with the President. (Dear God is wrong to state that an ex-General be our chief Diplomat.)

However, one area where Tillerson does work well is he truly dislikes taking media oxygen away from Trump so he may last awhile.

#6 Comment By JEinCA On August 31, 2017 @ 11:28 am

Why doesn’t everyone resign and we’ll make little “Billy” Kristol of the Weekly Standard the official Emperor of United States? Tillerson is the last voice of reason (and bulwark against the psychotic war mongering neocons) lefy in Trump’s Administration.

#7 Comment By Viriato On August 31, 2017 @ 12:46 pm

@collin: We’ve had at least two generals serve as Secretary of State before: George Marshall and Colin Powell. And those are just two examples that I can name off the top of my head. I would not be surprised to find out that there have been other generals who served as our nation’s Chief Diplomat.

#8 Comment By Viriato On August 31, 2017 @ 12:54 pm

Personally, I think Tillerson has been doing reasonably well at State. He seems to be a very articulate, thoughtful person. Certainly I much prefer Sec. Tillerson’s ineffectiveness to Sec. Clinton’s deadly effectiveness in Libya.

As to the gutting of the State Department. Tillerson recently stated that the hiring freeze was temporary and indeed announced a major hiring initiative: [2]

#9 Comment By MB On August 31, 2017 @ 12:56 pm

There’s probably an easily identifiable formula out there for who Trump might chose as a Tillerson replacement, based on who donated to his campaign, who has more money than Trump himself, and/or who has suspicious ties to Russian interests. Rohrabacher? Royce?

#10 Comment By Cynthia McLean On August 31, 2017 @ 1:31 pm

Tillerson should probably resign to retain his integrity and save his soul.

#11 Comment By Swami On August 31, 2017 @ 4:36 pm

Rumor is that Hillary Clinton is currently between gigs.

#12 Comment By James Hartwick On September 1, 2017 @ 6:17 am

It is to the point that we almost need Mattis to be Secretary of State as at least we know that he can work with the President.
Out of curiosity, does that seven-years-out-of-uniform rule that had to be waived for Mattis to become SecDef also apply to SecState?

I opposed Mattis as SecDef on the grounds that we shouldn’t waive that rule. But I think he has overall done well. Maybe Mattis as SecState and a non-ex-general as SecDef? I agree another ex flag officer in the cabinet would be too much.

#13 Comment By Taras77 On September 2, 2017 @ 11:22 pm

Tillerson should not resign! He seems to be the more thoughtful and mature of a bad lot of military hard chargers.
The admin is infested with neo cons, throughout the personnel depts. It is not a stretch that they would come up with elliott abrams or nuland as a replacement-that idea gives me nightmares