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The Tillerson-Trump Rift

Despite Tillerson’s denials [1] yesterday and Trump’s denials [2] today, the rift between him and the president is impossible to ignore. The Post reports [3]:

For months now, Trump has been piqued by rumors of disloyalty that have filtered up to him from Foggy Bottom, the home of the State Department. In private meetings, the president has also been irked by Tillerson’s arguments for a more-traditional approach on policies, from Iran to climate change to North Korea, and by Tillerson’s visible frustration when overruled. Trump has chafed at what he sees as arrogance on the part of an employee.

And as Tillerson has traveled the globe, Trump believes his top diplomat often seems more concerned with what the world thinks of the United States than with tending to the president’s personal image [bold mine-DL].

If Trump thinks the Secretary of State’s job is to burnish the president’s personal reputation instead of promoting the interests of the U.S. (and I have no difficulty believing he thinks that), it is little wonder that he and Tillerson are such a poor fit. Tillerson may already be widely regarded as one of the worst Secretaries of State in modern times, but even he seems to understand that boosting Trump’s personal image isn’t part of his job. Even if it were part of his job, Trump would make it impossible for him to do that because he is constantly gainsaying Tillerson in public. The president chose Tillerson for the position, but can’t keep himself from second-guessing and contradicting his own appointee and thus guaranteeing his irrelevance in the eyes of other governments.


Tillerson can’t help but be frustrated by not being allowed to do his job without constant interference, and I can’t believe he is any less frustrated by having to go out and pretend that the rift isn’t as great as it plainly is. Aaron David Miller and Richard Sokolsky comment [4] on Tillerson’s statement from yesterday:

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made a remarkable statement on Wednesday, rejecting reports he had considered resigning and reaffirming his commitment to the President’s domestic and foreign policies. This was both stunning and unprecedented. It was not quite a hostage video, but it seemed awkward that a secretary of state felt compelled to defend himself in response to a press report.

It is more than awkward that Tillerson felt the need to do this. More likely, he was told to do this by the president. Either way, it is hard to take Tillerson’s denial seriously, if only because it is in his interest to be seen as having enough self-respect to be infuriated by the way Trump has treated him this year. If Tillerson was telling the truth yesterday, he is admitting he doesn’t have much self-respect and will allow himself to be humiliated again and again without doing anything about it. If he wasn’t, then he is shredding whatever remains of his credibility to bat down a story about how infuriated he was with the president’s behavior. Regardless, Tillerson managed to come off looking worse than he did earlier, and the perception of the rift between him and the president hasn’t gone away.

17 Comments (Open | Close)

17 Comments To "The Tillerson-Trump Rift"

#1 Comment By Dan Green On October 5, 2017 @ 10:38 am

I continue to believe a CEO from the prior largest US corporation by market cap simply is a non fit with the comparison how corporate America operates compared to the dysfunctional Swamp. Add a irradict personality like Trump and if I were Tillerson I would turn in my badge and retire to his ranch.

#2 Comment By Grumpy Old Man On October 5, 2017 @ 10:42 am

It might be he’s staying for patriotic reasons, urged on by Mattis <email et al. Captain Queeg needs a sane first mate.

#3 Comment By Grumpy Old Man On October 5, 2017 @ 10:43 am

I meant to italicize. I blame autocorrect. And Obama.

#4 Comment By Ollie On October 5, 2017 @ 12:05 pm

Keep hoping that one day soon we all wake up in the morning and have a good laugh because in November 2016 John Kasich was elected the president and the country (which watches too much TV) turned out to be momentarily mesmerized by a retro episode of the “Twilight Zone” with the impossible premise of a Donald Trump presidency.

#5 Comment By Office of Special Plans On October 5, 2017 @ 12:27 pm

The important thing is that all opponents of Israel’s order to scuttle the Iran deal and confront Iran militarily should be purged from the administration. And one by one those opponents are going down.

Pretty soon we’re going to have an all-AIPAC cabinet and staff!

#6 Comment By Hyperion On October 5, 2017 @ 12:52 pm

Eventually he will quit. Because Trump will never stop cutting him off at the knees.

And who among us has not thought the current CiC is a moron.

#7 Comment By Xenia Grant On October 5, 2017 @ 1:10 pm

President Trump wants what Kim Jong Un wants and that is undying worship from his populace, no interference in how he governs and juche.

#8 Comment By Uncle Billy On October 5, 2017 @ 2:04 pm

In the early days of we had strong Secretaries of State, who went on to become President, such as Jefferson, Madison, Monroe and Quincy Adams.

Trump does not want such a man. Trump wants a weak boot lick who will flatter him and kiss his ass.

This egomaniac will accomplish little.

#9 Comment By Lex Rossano On October 5, 2017 @ 2:15 pm

When the Secretary of State speaks, the world has to believe it is in direct coordination with the President. That our country is unified on our international front. Sadly this doesn’t seem to be even remotely close.

#10 Comment By Steve Naidamast On October 5, 2017 @ 2:51 pm

Why Tillerson is considered the worst Secretary of State in history is beyond me after having the likes of Hillary Clinton in that job.

Despite Tillerson’s lack of credentials for the job along with his downsizing of the entire Department of State, from what I have seen in most of the reporting on him, he is trying to do the right thing in his relations with the leaders of other countries.

I am also not saying that Tillerson is perfect, because he is far from it. However, he does not strike me as a person who wants to initiate warfare with anyone Clinton did…

#11 Comment By GregR On October 5, 2017 @ 3:09 pm

I would point out something that has gotten zero coverage so far in this issue. Were Tillerson to leave before February 2 2018 he would be subject to an immediate Capitol Gains tax on the entirety of his Exxon holdings that he had to sell to comply with ethics rules. Since his stake was in the $55 million dollar range, it would put him as risk of up to about $11 million tax bill.

It could be more or less depending on his other holdings and the valuation of the stock he held, but somewhere in that range. Based on this I expect his resignation to be filed January 15 to be effective February 2.

#12 Comment By Fools Rush In On October 5, 2017 @ 6:24 pm

The MSM want Tillerson out and are fomenting as much fog and suspicion as possible to make that happen.

Once all the adults are gone, Trump will be alone with the same kind of creeps who brought us the Iraq War, the $40 billion check to Israel, and the Syria, Yemen, and Libya interventions.

#13 Comment By Who’s Next? On October 6, 2017 @ 10:19 am

@Fools Rush In – The MSM want Tillerson out and are fomenting as much fog and suspicion as possible to make that happen.

I agree. Pushing Trump’s buttons is child’s play. It’s like the articles about Bannon being “Trump’s brain”. That was the end of Bannon. Now they’re doing something similar to Tillerson.

#14 Comment By rayray On October 6, 2017 @ 11:49 am

@Xenia Grant
I’d never thought of that…but there is an interesting thematic connection between Trump’s version of “America First” and the NK meaning of “Juche”.

#15 Comment By rayray On October 6, 2017 @ 11:51 am

@Steve Naidamast
And those emails too! I mean, am I right people?

Those darn emails…

#16 Comment By One Guy On October 6, 2017 @ 7:24 pm

“The MSM want Tillerson out and are fomenting as much fog and suspicion as possible to make that happen.”

Riiight. And the MSM fired Mooch. And Flynn. And Preibus. And Bannon. And Spicer. Poor Mr. Trump is trying desperately to keep his guys together, but that darn MSM keeps showing them the door.

#17 Comment By B ruceB On October 6, 2017 @ 10:07 pm

Give it a rest with Clinton already. She lost, you won…months ago. Time to get something done other then alienate allies and praise dictators. Oh, and threaten countries like Brazil, another grave threat to our national interests.