Is Rex Tillerson headed for the revolving door already?
In the Trump administration there’s always some hot rumor about a new staff firing or resignation, initially denied then ultimately often confirmed.
Think Sean Spicer, Reince Priebus, Anthony Scaramucci, Steve Bannon and, most recently, Sebastian Gorka, among others.
Next up, perhaps: A Rexit with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson departing.
We’ve heard the rumors before and stories of the frustrated former ExxoMobil CEO blowing up at White House personnel over blocking his political appointees. Tillerson is said to have said he’s stymied by Trump aides constantly stalling his major initiatives sent to the White House.
This, of course, is no new story in presidential administrations. In his memoir, “Duty,” Robert Gates, who ran the CIA and then the Defense Department for both the Bush and Obama administrations, candidly describes the internecine power struggles that go on in such situations, not to mention double-dealing congressmen. And, don’t forget Washington media, whose priorities look for trouble, not what officials regard as progress.
It’s really quite depressing and makes you wonder why anyone would agree to serve or put up with it for long. Fortunately, some do.
You’ll remember the 65-year-old Texas native did not seek a job with the new administration. In one of those many pre-inaugural conversations with Trump at Trump Tower, Gates suggested the new president consider the oil executive with years of high-powered international experience around the world, including Russia, where he knew Vladimir Putin.
Tillerson thought he was summoned for a tour du monde conversation with the new chief executive, that he was stunned when the president asked him to join the team and that he was looking to retire to his ranch. Tillerson said his wife urged the multi-millionaire to accept.
One everlasting rule of journalism: Seek out the aggrieved party for your next story. Apparently, many in Trump’s White House are aggrieved because it leaks like a hurricane named Harvey.
We’ve heard grumbling about Tillerson moving like an armadillo on appointments and his reluctance to schmooze pols on the Hill who can make life unbearable for bureaucrats. Tillerson, some say, insufficiently defended State against deep Trump budget cuts and he’s also driving a major department reorganization that has some old hands pondering their own departure.
Tillerson’s disinclination to use or have much of anything to do with Washington media has also helped isolate him.
“I’m not a big media press access person,” says Tillerson, who took his first foreign trip with one reporter. “I personally don’t need it. I understand it’s important to get the message of what we’re doing out, but I also think there’s only a purpose in getting the message out when there’s something to be done.”
Although he did not run to the media with his policy differences, Tillerson is said to have disagreed with Trump’s decision to impose sanctions on Venezuela, among other items.
And then last weekend came this, which could be interpreted as a gap with Trump: On Fox News Sunday, Tillerson was asked about Charlottesville.
“I don’t believe anyone doubts the American people’s values,” the secretary said, “Or the commitment of the American government, or the government’s agencies to advancing those values and defending those values.”
OK, what about President Trump’s values? “The president speaks for himself,” said Tillerson.