Opinion Longtime diplomat: Tillerson's public firing makes my head explode
Tillerson heads to Africa with explaining to do for Trump
As far as Africa's concerned, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the Trump administration have some explaining to do.President Donald Trump's description of "s******e countries" in January was greeted with a mix of horror and outrage in Africa, where many don't know what to think about the U.S. president — or what he thinks of them. He's rarely spoken about priorities for the continent, which garnered a mere seven paragraphs on the very last pages of Trump's National Security Strategy.
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U.S., South Korean intelligence probe reports of Kim Jong Un health woes
There's speculation that the North Korean leader may suffer from a range of conditions.While there is little hard medical evidence, according to sources, Kim's family history, physical appearance and behavior in recent years have led to speculation he may suffer from a range of conditions, including gout, diabetes, high blood pressure, a sexually transmitted disease and psychological issues.
Tuesday'sof Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, by presidential tweet no less, is a bizarre and veritable head-exploder.
Having worked for half a dozen secretaries of state, I thought I'd seen most everything when it came to bureaucratic intrigue and soap opera politics, particularly regarding relations between the White House and State Department. Well, welcome to Trumpland.
Here are my takeaways from Tuesday's announcement:
Unprecedented decision: If you needed further evidence that the Trump administration is the most idiosyncratic of any in the modern period, this decision should remove all doubt. The firing of a secretary of state on social media is both humiliating and without precedent. Two have resigned over principle -- William Jennings Bryan over Woodrow Wilson's policies toward the war in Europe and Cyrus Vance over Jimmy Carter's failed rescue mission of the Iranian hostages. And one, Alexander Haig, left because of rivalries within the Reagan administration. But none, since 1945, has been fired. And this is all the stranger given Tillerson's desire to stay.
Planning Begins for Kim Jong-un Meeting Some Trump Aides Believe Will Never Happen
The administration is already deliberating over the logistics and location of the meeting, which has still not been officially confirmed by North Korea.WASHINGTON — A day after President Trump accepted an invitation to meet Kim Jong-un of North Korea, the White House began planning on Friday a high-level diplomatic encounter so risky and seemingly far-fetched that some of Mr. Trump’s aides believe it will never happen.
Yet also inevitable: It is likely that Tillerson's days were numbered almost from the beginning. Trump considered any number of candidates, including Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney and others, before settling on Tillerson. And Tillerson was never a major influencer of Trump's thinking, even once he had been appointed -- and perhaps it's because they differed on major policy issues from Iran to North Korea to Russia. It's no surprise that Trump blindsided Tillerson on the North Korean summit just last week. If anything, it was a reflection that Tillerson had already been completely marginalized by this administration.
But Tillerson didn't help himself. He was critical of Trump -- after the latter's response to violence last year in Charlottesville, Virginia, Tillerson, "The President speaks for himself," and several months later, reports surfaced that Tillerson had called Trump a " ." Tillerson also chose to focus on State Department reform, which created huge morale problems internally and painted him as more of a CEO than a committed foreign policy player. Worse yet, he made himself barely visible in the public conversation.
Trump ordered Tillerson to eat salad during dinner in China: report
President Trump ordered Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to eat a salad served to U.S. diplomats during a trip to China last year, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.The Chinese leaders had reportedly included Caesar salad on the menu for a dinner wi th Trump, Tillerson and other top U.S. officials in November. The event was held in China's Great Hall of the People during Trump's tour of Asia.Trump grew worried that the Chinese officials might be offended if the U.S. leaders didn't eat the salad, the Journal reported."Rex, eat the salad," Trump told his top diplomat, according to the newspaper.
The reality is that with this President, Tillerson never had a chance. As early as last fall, reports circulated that Trump was considering replacing Tillerson with CIA Director Mike Pompeo.
Was a planned summit with North Korea the reason for the firing? What precipitated the decision to fire Tillerson is unclear. Trump has said they disagreed on key foreign policy issues. But it may well be -- and we can only speculate -- that the approaching summit on North Korea played a role. The summit will require coordination and seamless planning, not strong suits of this administration. And it would have required a point person to lead and to prepare the President.
There was no one in the administration well-positioned to play this role, and I'm certain that Trump cringed at the thought of having Tillerson -- someone he neither likes nor trusts -- assume such responsibility. But Pompeo kills both birds with one stone: He is a Trump loyalist and confidant and someone whose views on dealing with North Korea reflect Trump's harder line approach. It was Pompeo, after all, whoabout regime change in Pyongyang.
Cabinet chaos: Trump's team battles scandal, irrelevance
One Cabinet member was grilled by Congress about alleged misuse of taxpayer funds for private flights. Another faced an extraordinary revolt within his own department amid a swirling ethics scandal. A third has come under scrutiny for her failure to answer basic questions about her job in a nationally televised interview.And none of them was the one Trump fired.President Donald Trump's Cabinet in recent weeks has been enveloped in a cloud of controversy, undermining the administration's ability to advance its agenda and drawing the ire of a president increasingly willing to cast aside allies and go it alone.
Will Pompeo make a difference? That depends. The real issue is this: Will the President empower him publicly to be the sole repository of authority on foreign policy and to speak for the President? Trump certainly didn't do that with Tillerson. And will Pompeo be able to influence Trump in a way Tillerson could not? Clearly the two share similar views. But when they don't, will Pompeo speak forcefully in private or just enable Trump's worst impulses?
Clearly, Tillerson's firing is a cautionary tale. Pompeo likely won't cross Trump publicly. But perhaps their affinity for one another will allow Pompeo to make counter-arguments when they disagree.
If Pompeo doesn't challenge Trump at all, it may make the foreign policy trains run more smoothly, but it will do little to serve the national interest. The President will be denied what he needs most: someone whom he respects and who can offer him honest counsel and alternative solutions -- and most importantly, someone who will tell him when he's wrong.
The big lesson of the Tillerson firing .
What surprised Washington foreign policy and political gurus was not Rex Tillerson’s dismissal as secretary of state, which had been rumored for months, but how it was done. President Trump fired his secretary of state in a tweet. It was the Washington equivalent of breaking up with your romantic partner with a Post-it.“Mike Pompeo, Director of the CIA, will become our new Secretary of State,” the president tweeted at 8:44 a.m. Tuesday. “He will do a fantastic job! Thank you to Rex Tillerson for his service!”The dismissal stunned Washington. It shouldn’t have.
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