I had a lot of fun with my first post about Trump’s Secretary of State: Tea for the Tillerson. It’s time for a variation on that theme and meme. The above meme reflects the fact that Rex Tillerson is an empty suit with neither power nor influence. It’s fascinating that a man who wielded *real* power at Exxon/Mobil is under the thumb of a 35-year-old real estate developer and his sloppy neo-Fascist pal. This is no way to run a railroad, let alone a country.
At times, the president seems to be actively undermining the secretary. While Tillerson was in China over the weekend, taking an approach so conciliatory that he was even dropping Beijing’s favorite diplomatic buzzwords into his remarks, Trump was on Twitter complaining that China had “done little to help!” deter North Korea’s bad behavior—an accusation the Chinese have bristled at.
This is the second time Trump has said disparaging things about a country while Tillerson was visiting it. When Tillerson visited Mexico in February, trying to smooth over Trump-era differences as the natural disagreements of “two strong, sovereign countries,” the president was proudly telling a crowd in Washington about his administration’s work to get “bad dudes” out of the United States and predicting that Tillerson would have a tough trip. Those inclined to give this administration points for strategic acumen might see this as a kind of good cop, bad cop scenario, but it looks more like incoherence to me.
Tillerson is the most disrespected and undercut Secretary of State since William Rogers way back in the Nixon administration. Nixon ran foreign policy out of the White House and Henry Kissinger was a skilled bureaucratic knife-fighter. They at least had a coherent foreign policy even if much of it was appalling. Trump hasn’t a clue and neither do his key advisers. Jared and Steve know as much about foreign policy as Oscar the cat.
The administration’s recent saber-rattling on North Korea was not only shitty policy, it was poorly timed. Tillerson was in the Republic of Korea and issued a threat while the Korean government was in crisis after the impeachment and removal from office of President Park Geun-hye. Note to the Trumpers: the ROK does not like being referred to as South Korea. What’s next? Calling the PRC, Red China?
I remain mystified as to why the head of a massive multi-national corporation traded real power for playing second-string to Kushner and Bannon. I’m not sure where the new National Security adviser fits into this equation, but at least he’s not crazy or a Russian pawn like Flynn. It’s unclear, however, if he’ll prove to be McMasterful…
Team Trump’s next foreign policy trick is for Tillerson to skip the upcoming NATO summit, then travel to Putinville shortly thereafter. Way to send a signal to our friends where they rate, y’all. Whatever its flaws, NATO has helped keep the peace in Europe for the last 68 years. The Russians want to undermine and divide NATO in favor of chaos and right-wing nationalism. The Trumpers are playing along because the president* thinks foreign policy is a protection racket, and Bannon wants to provoke some kind of Armageddon that will bring on his new world order. I have no idea what Tillerson thinks about any of this. Repeat after me: he’s an empty suit.
There was a swell opinion piece in the Guardian that posed this question: Is Rex Tillerson the Weakest Secretary of State of All-Time? In a word: Yes. It’s an office that’s been filled by a long line of distinguished Americans: Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, William Henry Seward, John Hay, Charles Evans Hughes, Henry Stimson, George Marshall, Dean Acheson, George Schultz, Madeline Albright, Colin Powell, Hillary Clinton, and John Kerry to name a few. It’s a long list and Rex Tillerson’s name doesn’t fit. He’s starting to make JFK and LBJ’s mild-mannered, long-suffering Secretary of State Dean Rusk look masterful.
Presidents have long tried to run foreign policy out of the White House. But it’s particularly unnerving with these bozos in charge. They don’t have a clue as to what they’re doing and their main talent seems to be fighting with our closest friends in the world: Australia, Mexico, Germany, and Great Britain. How is it possible for a Republican administration to fight with center-right governments in Australia and the UK? It’s a rare talent and the Trumpers have it.
Some GOPers insist that Tillerson is lying low and will emerge as a force to be reckoned with. I believe that’s called whistling past the graveyard. Hopefully, the Trumpers won’t provoke a war somewhere in the world to distract attention from their ineptitude and corruption. That’s where I see this heading, especially with a weak Secretary of State whose main qualification for the job is that he looks like a diplomat. And that’s the weak tea about the Tillerson.
Finally, I have a theme song suggestion for Tillerson’s State Department:
UPDATE: REX SPEAKS- The ineffectual Secretary of State has this to say:
“I didn’t want this job. I didn’t seek this job,” he said. “My wife told me I’m supposed to do this.”
After a conversation with President Donald Trump that Tillerson described as “about the world,” the President offered him the position.
“I was supposed to retire in March, this month. I was going to go to the ranch to be with my grandkids,” he said, adding later: “My wife convinced me. She was right. I’m supposed to do this.”
Sounds like a Fifties sitcom to me: My wife made me do it. Take this job, please.