When US secretary of State Rex Tillerson was sacked by Donald Trump Tusday, the move shocked the world. Yet, it didn’t come as a surprise to many analysts.
Tillerson’s sacking appears to be the biggest shakeup in the Trump Cabinet so far. And he is one of five of top officials in the Trump administration that has either resigned or been fired in the last two weeks. This exodus all had one thing in common: loyalty. Trumps presidency is all about Loyalty
Trump Presidency Is All About Loyalty
Trump has only been in power for 14 months, and has made loyalty key to his appointments and dismissals. This mobster tradition was at play in removal of Tillerson and the four other top officials.
Mike Pompeo, Director of the CIA, will become our new Secretary of State. He will do a fantastic job! Thank you to Rex Tillerson for his service! Gina Haspel will become the new Director of the CIA, and the first woman so chosen. Congratulations to all!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 13, 2018
Trumps top economic adviser, Gary Cohn, resigned his post as National Economic Council Director last week. Cohn disagreed with Trump’s new tariffs on steel and aluminium. Trumped dismissed his long time personal aide, John McEntee and had him escorted from the White House. Hope Hicks, another one of Trumps to confidante and communications director, resigned her last month. And Josh Raffel, a senior spokesperson for Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump, also left his post recently.
Tillerson thus was just another “disloyal” personnel under Trump who needed to go. And the hammer had been dangling over his head since last year. In a divided White House with different caucuses, Rex Tillerson appeared to be running a foreign policy approach that was at odds with the President’s. To Trump this was a sign of being disloyal.
Tillerson, “Disloyal” from the Start
Tillerson began started his job disagreeing with Trump on a number of issues, ranging from trade, climate change, Russian interference in the 2016 election, European affairs and Iran policy. And he faced challenges from the President who publicly contradicted him on a number of occasions.
Trump also undermined some of his policies such as using diplomacy to reduce tensions with North Korea. In a tweet about this, Trump said “I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man”. Trump also downplayed Tillerson’s push to resolve disputes in the Middle East between Gulf allies, among many others.
Competition From Others
At the same time, Tillerson also had a tight competition from the US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley. Haley seemed capable of using threats and rhetorics that Trump is known for. For example, after nations had voted overwhelmingly in favour of the climate agreement at the UN, Haley promised that there would be “consequences”.
Tillerson’s departure became inevitable when an NBC report claimed he had called Trump a “moron”. And his follow-up public statement did not deny that report. “I’m not going to deal with petty stuff like that,” he said.
So the sign of trouble was already too glaring. And just last week Tillerson appeared out of the loop when Trump announced he would meet with North Korea’s leader and become the first sitting U.S. president to do so.
So Tillerson had it coming, rather unfortunately. “Rex and I have been talking about this a long time”, Trump told White House reporters Tuesday.
Tillerson seemed to have been one of few individuals that truly understood US national security interests. Analysts believe that Tillerson, along with Defense Secretary, James Mattis, and National Security Adviser, H. R. McMaster, are seen as serious defenders of US interests. They are more experienced and less ideological than the Trump loyal officials.
“I think Rex will be much happier now”, Trump told reporters. And said he respected Tillerson’s intellect. But in the end, he said “we were not really thinking the same.”
Pompeo On the “Same Wavelength” With Trump
Replacing Tillerson as Secretary of State will be CIA Director, Mike Pompeo, who has been nominated by Trump.
Trump told reporters Tuesday that he and Pompeo are “on the same wavelength” and “the relationship has always been very good and that is what I need.”
But In the end, it is now clear to everybody, the Trump presidency is all about loyalty. And as the United States braces up for turbulent trade negotiations and North Korea talks, it would need competent and pragmatic individuals to help stabilize things. But with a rancorous White House fraught with loyalty issues, it may be tough.
Even important individuals like Mattis and McMaster may find themselves disagreeing with Trump if his approach to trade compromises US relations with European allies. Or if the North Korea talks falls apart.