These are dangerous times for the former CEO of Exxon Mobil, who took over as Donald Trump’s Secretary of State, and the New York Times is worried. The editorial staff wonders what he is doing to America’s place in the world. Trump has been dancing and dining with dictators and despots, making our world a very uncertain place. That makes Tillerson’s job even more important.
His boss, the president, openly admires the strong men leading North Korea, Russia, Egypt, Turkey, and the Philippines. At the same time, the president has created unnecessary tensions among our closest allies, like Canada, Germany, and even Australia.
Yet, Tillerson continues to leave vital top-level State Department positions empty with little chance of filling them until 2018, at least. The Times editorial said:
‘Even citizens who are deeply jaded about the government must realize that with the world in turmoil, it’s dangerous for one of the departments most responsible for managing the chaos to be treading water.’
Just because Tillerson learned how to make his way through the corporate jungle to reach the top of the huge energy company, that does not make him skilled in diplomacy. Donald Trump did not know Tillerson before he appointed him to Secretary of State. Possibly, his strong relationship with Russian Vladimir Putin was the only qualification he needed.
After three months on the job, he still has not nominated almost 200 State Department jobs for people who would still have to go through Senate confirmations, according to The Times‘ Gardiner Harris. That process of confirming any nominees could easily take many months.
The Times continued, Tillerson “has no plans to start selecting his choices for top jobs anytime soon:”
‘He told NPR that he first wants to embark on a departmentwide listening mission to hear what his diplomats and civil servants have to say. That effort will start Wednesday morning, when he has scheduled a general meeting with department employees.’
Little was said about the problem President Barack Obama’s sanctions created for Russia and Exxon Mobile. Should those sanctions be lifted, it would be a windfall for Exxon, Russian, and the new Secretary of State, if he retained any stock with his last employer.
Trump has promised draconian cuts to the State Department, that have left the employees on an emotional edge. Tillerson clearly did not handle his first quarter well. He did not meet with the staff at American embassies in other countries and dignitaries who came to visit the White House.
The secretary must work closely with his erratic boss, and The Times urged him to be careful:
‘…While Congress seems likely to reject the dangerous budget cuts Mr. Trump envisions, it makes sense for a new secretary to evaluate whether the department’s structure is the one needed to respond to current challenges.’
Then, The Times asked an important question of Tillerson:
‘…who’s watching out for Afghanistan or the Balkan region, which is showing signs of unraveling after two decades of American leadership helped restore some stability?’
The State Department does deserve better.
Featured Image via Getty Images/Eduardo Munoz Alverez.