Have we already reached the stage where President Trump could lose a Cabinet member over his, uh, different management style?
It’s only been 160 days — just 11 % of a first term — yet, according to Politico, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently erupted in an uncharacteristic outburst at a White House patronage aide who could be his grandson over resistance to his would-be appointees. Perhaps worse, according to the Politico story, this happened in front of Trump Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and official administration son-in-law Jared Kushner, among others.
Tillerson has come under criticism for slow staffing in Foggy Bottom. But many of his selections have been vetoed by the White House as Democrats or, worse, Republicans who opposed Trump. Johnny DeStafano is in charge of the clearing operation, which is standard procedure for any president.
Last Friday Tillerson’s frustrations apparently came to a head during a White House meeting in Priebus’ office, according to four unidentified Politico sources. Tillerson, the 65-year-old former emperor of the Exxon empire, blew up at the 38-year-old one-time aide to John Boehner questioning the secretary’s judgment and opposing his picks.
According to Tillerson, Trump promised him autonomy in his department appointments
Frictions between Cabinet members and young political pipsqueaks in the White House are not unusual. In his memoir “Duty,” Robert Gates, one of several experienced D.C. hands who advised Trump to pick Tillerson, chronicles in telling detail the interference he witnessed and experienced while serving in Cabinets and staff jobs.
Cabinet secretaries are almost by definition high-powered executives accustomed to running their own show, often by edict. Oh, look! So is this president.
Not all cabinet members fit easily into even larger teams. Many White House aides are almost by definition young and full of themselves. It’s a recipe for frictions, some of which can be patched over with the specter of involving the chief executive.
Tillerson also reportedly has accused White House aides of spreading negative stories about him and his management style to D.C. media.
On his long global trips, Tillerson might want to take along a copy of his friend’s “Duty.” Somehow, Gates managed to succeed working for eight different administrations, including as Secretary of Defense in wartime for both George W. Bush and Barack Obama.