Unlike, say, James Mattis advising Trump on defense matters, this is not a professional guiding an amateur; it’s another amateur trying to school an amateur. Is it any wonder that it hasn’t gone well?
Recent Republican secretaries of state provide two models for how to operate. There’s the Colin Powell approach of attending to the needs of “the building,” i.e., the civil service, and neglecting your relationship with the president. Then there’s the Condi Rice approach of tending to your relationship with the president and ignoring the building. Tillerson has done neither.
In a nationalist administration, he is a man without a country. He doesn’t have a constituency in the foreign policy establishment, in the media, in Congress or in the bureaucracy. He and his top aides are a thin layer spread atop the org chart to little effect.