Is Secretary of State Rex Tillerson going to be the next person to be ousted from the Trump administration? A new report says that he's "alienated" his allies, and suggests that his departure is a possibility.
According to Axios, Tillerson "has managed to alienate nearly every constituency that matters." This includes President Trump himself, who is reportedly irritated at Tillerson's "establishment" thinking; the President has fought with Tillerson over "Qatar, North Korea and Iran," the report claims.
The White House, as a whole, is allegedly irked at having to deal with Tillerson's chief of staff, Margaret Peterlin. Not much detail is given about her in the report, other than to say that there are "Margaret stories" circulating in the White House, like how "she reportedly vetted Condoleezza Rice's request for a phone conversation with Tillerson."
Both Republicans and Democrats in Congress — as well as the foreign policy establishment — are critical of how Tillerson has managed the State Department; Congressional Republicans are particularly enraged at Tillerson's reported efforts to wrestle back $75 million in aid from Israel.
Additionally, the Axios report lists the media as among those whom Tillerson has alienated, as the Secretary of State has stubbornly refused to allow reporters to travel with his delegations.
The report then proceeds to explain what caused Tillerson to alienate all these important people:
- A former top Bush administration official sums it up most pithily: "He's got no support from the left on management and no support from the right on policy."
- What the official means: Tillerson alienated his natural constituency — moderates who view him as a restraining influence on Trump — by what he's done, or failed to do, managerially at the State Department. He's surrounded himself by a tiny circle and hasn't sought much advice from outsiders. And he's got no ideological constituency on the right because he doesn't embrace the forward-leaning posture on human rights, or the aggressive stance on Russia, that Republicans typically expect of their top diplomats.
- With the media, Tillerson simply didn't try. The New York Times' influential foreign policy columnist Tom Friedman told me he twice asked Tillerson's spokesman whether he could come in for a briefing. He said he was ignored both times. "When I want to think about or discuss U.S. foreign policy today I go to people in the Pentagon," Friedman said.
The report did find some people who are willing to defend Tillerson for quietly building relationships, and admitted that it's difficult to work with the Trump White House. There are also indications that Tillerson is thawing to the media. But will it be enough, given that he has already alienated so many important figures, including the president himself?
Tillerson has been a dissapponting Secretary of State so far, given that he recently reached a deal to become more closely aligned with Qatar despite its reported financing of Islamic terrorism, is supportive of the Iran deal and has a record of anti-Israel sentiment. It's as if John Kerry is still heading the State Department.
President Trump can certainly find a better person to run the State Department than Tillerson.