President Donald Trump just fired his embattled secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, via Twitter this morning, replacing him with former Tea Party Congressman and current Central Intelligence Agency chief Mike Pompeo.
Apparently, it’s completely normal (under the current administration) to announce major policy decisions and staffing changes that impact national security and international diplomacy alongside exhortations to “get out the vote” and lavish self-praise for the state of the economy.
That tweet immediately preceded Tillerson’s ignominious departure from government service. And the announcement of Tillerson’s ouster was followed by a return to the regularly scheduled publicity tour to showcase the Mexican border wall boondoggle.
Tillerson, who has had a rocky tenure as secretary of state nearly from the outset, was first informed of is imminent ouster with a heads-up call from White House chief of staff John Kelly (also on shaky ground). The New York Times is reporting that Kelly asked Tillerson to cut short his trip to Africa and advised him last Friday that he “may get a tweet.”
It seems that Twitter is now the preferred medium of communication among all White House and cabinet-level staff these days. The undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and affairs took to the service to issue what is, so far, Tillerson’s only response.
By any measure, Tillerson’s turn at the helm of the State Department was an unmitigated disaster, according to most observers. His policy positions on everything from nuclear proliferation to dealing with Syria, Qatar and the Kremlin were undermined or overturned by the White House.
Here’s a good synopsis from Vox:
The US bombed Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad in early April — just days after Tillerson suggested the administration would be fine with Assad staying in power. On June 9, Tillerson called on Saudi Arabia and its allies to end their isolation of Qatar; less than two hours later, Trump sided with the Saudis by labeling Qatar “a funder of terrorism at a very high level.”
On July 20, after a meeting in which the president reportedly asked for a major expansion of America’s nuclear arsenal, Tillerson told aides that the president was a moron — or, according to some reports, a “fucking moron.” One time, Tillerson tried to open the door to negotiations with North Korea — and Trump slapped him down in a tweet.
Under Tillerson’s tenure, the State Department was also hollowed out. Political appointees were never approved to leadership roles and the rank and file staffers fled the increasingly hamstrung department.