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How the Left and Right see the firing of Sec. Rex Tillerson

President Donald Trump announced the firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in a tweet Tuesday morning and the two sides of the political divide see the decision very differently.

Without actually uttering the words “you’re fired” the president used Twitter to announce a series of moves that put Tillerson out-to-pasture, moved his CIA chief over to head the State Department and gave the CIA it’s first ever woman director.

What the White House says

“We’ve been talking about this for a long time… We disagreed on things… The Iran deal… So we were not thinking the same,” the president said Tuesday morning. “I actually got on well with Rex but it was a different mindset.”

The White House said that the timing of the moves was due to the desire of the president to have his new team in place ahead of the upcoming talks with North Korea and as various trade negotiations reach critical points.

The president said he will be speaking to British prime minister Theresa May on Tuesday about the attack.

“I’m speaking to Theresa May today it sounds to me like it would be Russia based on all of the evidence they have,” the president said. “It sounds to me like they believe it was Russia and I would certainly take that finding as fact.”

How the left sees it

The New York Times reported that Tillerson seemed out-of-touch with the administration.

Mr. Tillerson has been out of favor with Mr. Trump for months but had resisted being pushed out. His distance from Mr. Trump’s inner circle was clear last week when the president accepted an invitation to meet with Mr. Kim, to Mr. Tillerson’s surprise.


His profound disagreements with the president on policy appeared to be his undoing: Mr. Tillerson wanted to remain part of the Paris climate accord; Mr. Trump decided to leave it. Mr. Tillerson supported the continuation of the Iran nuclear deal; Mr. Trump loathed the deal as “an embarrassment to the United States.” And Mr. Tillerson believed in dialogue to resolve the North Korean nuclear crisis, but Mr. Trump repeatedly threatened military options.


With his ousting, Mr. Tillerson joins a long list of Trump administration appointees who have left or been fired, including the president’s first national security adviser, chief of staff, chief strategist, press secretary, two White House communications directors and secretary of health and human services.

Vox is portraying Tillerson as one of the worst secretaries of state in U.S. history in a chaotic Trump administration

He was in office for a little over a year, one of the shortest tenures in modern history — and it was not, experts say, a distinguished one.

“Tillerson would be at or near the bottom of the list of secretaries of state, not just in the post-Second World War world but in the record of US secretaries of state,” says Paul Musgrave, a scholar of US foreign policy at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.


This can’t all be blamed on Tillerson: Even a skilled and experienced diplomat would have had trouble maintaining influence in the chaotic Trump White House, a place where foreign policy is often made over Twitter. As if to underscore the point, Trump announced Tillerson’s departure in a tweet — before the secretary himself could make a statement.


“I think he really will go down as one of the worst secretaries of State we’ve had,” Eliot Cohen, counselor to the State Department under President George W. Bush, told Axios’s Jonathan Swan. “He will go down as the worst Secretary of State in history,” tweeted Ilan Goldenberg, an Obama-era State Department official.

The Verge reported that Tillerson found out about his termination from Trump’s tweet.

Early this morning, the president announced via Twitter that Mike Pompeo, the current director of the CIA, would replace Secretary Rex Tillerson at the State Department. Steve Goldstein, a State Department official, told CNN that Tillerson found out via tweet this morning.

One of the more vociferous members of the liberal establishment, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, wasted no time in laying out the left’s position on Tillerson’s ouster.

“Secretary Tillerson’s firing sets a profoundly disturbing precedent in which standing up for our allies against Russian aggression is grounds for a humiliating dismissal,” Pelosi said in a statement. ” President Trump’s actions show that every official in his Administration is at the mercy of his personal whims and his worship of Putin.”

How the right sees it

The Washington Free Beacon reported that Tillerson was fired because he was trying to salvage the terrible Iran nuclear deal against the wishes of the president.

The abrupt firing Tuesday of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson follows months of infighting between the State Department and White House over efforts by Tillerson to save the Iran nuclear deal and ignore President Donald Trump’s demands that the agreement be fixed or completely scrapped by the United States, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the situation who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon.

The Hill reported that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly informed Tillerson on Friday about the termination.

A White House official told The Hill that White House chief of staff John Kelly called Tillerson on Friday night to tell him that Trump had decided to let him go. The official said the call was short and not testy, and that it was not focused on policy issues or differences.

Tillerson asked and Kelly agreed that an announcement would be held back until Tillerson’s return. Tillerson returned to the United States early Tuesday morning — hours before the Post story broke.

Axios reported that Pompeo has been sought as a Tillerson replacement for “many months.”

Axios’ Mike Allen and Jonathan Swan first reported that Pompeo was in the running to replace Tillerson in October. They noted that Pompeo personally delivers the President’s Daily Brief — making him one of the few people Trump spends a great deal of time with on a daily basis — and that the president is quite comfortable with Pompeo, asking his advice on topics from immigration to the inner workings of Congress.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell gave Tillerson praise in his parting statement.

“Rex took the depth of knowledge and experience formed of decades as one of America’s leading business executives and adapted it to the world of diplomacy, quickly learning the details and national security imperatives he pursued as Secretary of State. Our national security was enhanced through his service and I wish him well in the future.”

The Main Street View

It’s no secret that Tillerson and Trump did not see eye-to-eye on many foreign policy issues. Tillerson went rogue in a statement about the murder of a former Russian spy in Britain, the Paris Accords and the Iran nuclear agreement just as starters.

There are verified reports that while Tillerson was told on Friday by phone that he was being let go, he may not have been told why. Even The Hill’s account says that foreign policy differences were not discussed which is likely a central reason for his termination. Some news outlets ran the “he learned by Trump’s tweet” stories based on an account in a CNN story that the cable network has now deleted. Those stories were run without verifying the facts with the White House. That’s a no-no. Two sources. always verify, try to get both sides. Gotcha’ journalism is for clicktivists and fake news.

The Hill’s focus on the Iran nuclear agreement as the central reason for Tillerson’s departure seems a little tunnel-visioned. While the president himself only listed Iran in his tweet as a possible reason, their history says more is at play. The moron-debacle last year, the disagreement on the Paris Accord and many other differences of opinion likely played equal parts to the Iran policy.

The left’s criticism of Tillerson’s performance may be well-deserved, although “worst Secretary of State in U.S. history” might be a bit much – John Kerry anyone? Financial Policy wrote the most positive piece I could find on his accomplishments and only awarded him two: U.N. Sanctions on North Korea and getting the world to tighten trade restrictions on North Korea. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley deserves more of the credit for pushing the sanctions through – that leaves one.

Pelosi’s statement comes off a bit snarlish. She lambasted Trump previously when he went public and called things acts of terror shortly after the incidents. Pelosi said that he should wait to get more information and now she slams him for doing just that. She also portrays the firing as being solely about the U.K. attack, in all likelihood, that was the straw the broke the camel’s back – not the precipitating incident. She also complains that “every official in his Administration is at the mercy of his personal whims.” Surely she gets that everyone in the administration “serves at the pleasure of the President.”

My view is that Tillerson needed to go. His different foreign policy positions aren’t the reason though. Trump prides himself on choosing people who are effective even if they disagree with him. But Tillerson didn’t just disagree, he struck out on his own a few times too many and his effectiveness is a matter of dispute.

As with any employee-employer relationship, sometimes things just don’t work out and they must go their separate ways. This probably should have happened sooner.

Ed Craig

Ed Craig is an independent political commentator. With no allegiance to any party, he analyzes what's going in D.C. and points out what matters. His opinions are his own and not necessarily shared by The Main Steet Examiner, its staff or officers.

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