Archive for Saturday, March 17, 2018

Opinion: Tillerson’s insubordination meant he had to go

March 17, 2018

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Washington — There are many reasons Rex Tillerson’s tenure as secretary of state was a failure, from his notorious isolation from his subordinates to his failure to help quickly staff the political appointment positions at State with competent Republicans. But it was his insubordination to the president that assured that he wouldn’t be long in his position. With a summit with North Korea in the works, President Trump’s decision to oust Tillerson and replace him with CIA Director Mike Pompeo could not have come at a better moment.

Tillerson was completely out of step with Trump’s hard-line stance on North Korea, which ultimately brought Kim Jong Un to the bargaining table. Instead, Tillerson’s North Korea strategy seemed to be to beg Pyongyang for talks. Speaking at the Atlantic Council in December, Tillerson delivered this embarrassing plea: “Let’s just meet. And we can talk about the weather if you want. ... But can we at least sit down and see each other face to face?” He might as well have added: “Pretty please, with sugar on top?”

Trump’s critics were constantly griping that the president was undermining Tillerson’s diplomatic efforts with North Korea, when in fact the opposite was true. Trump’s strategy has been to achieve a peaceful solution by getting Kim to understand that the United States is ready to use force to stop him from deploying a nuclear intercontinental ballistic missile capable of destroying an American city. This is the message Trump was trying to send during his address to the South Korean legislature, when he told Kim in no uncertain terms: “The weapons you are acquiring are not making you safer. They are putting your regime in grave danger. Every step you take down this dark path increases the peril you face.”

By projecting weakness to Pyongyang, Tillerson was undercutting Trump’s message of strength — and thus making war more likely. The fact that Tillerson could not seem to grasp this or get on the same page as his commander in chief made his continued leadership of the State Department untenable.

Pompeo, by contrast, is in lockstep with Trump in sending Kim a clear message that, should diplomacy fail, the United States will not hesitate to act. “The president is intent on delivering this solution through diplomatic means,” Pompeo told me during a recent conversation at the American Enterprise Institute. “We are equally, at the same time, ensuring that ... if we conclude that it is not possible, that we present the president with a range of options that can achieve what is his stated intention.”

The failure to deliver those options is yet another reason Tillerson’s tenure at State had to end. Tillerson was working with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to slow-walk the delivery of military options to the president, apparently out of fear that the president might actually act on them. According to The New York Times, after a conference call about North Korea organized by national security adviser H.R. McMaster, Tillerson stayed on the line with Mattis and, unaware the other participants were still listening, complained about a series of meetings the National Security Council had set up to consider military options — “signs, Mr. Tillerson said, that (the NSC) was becoming overly aggressive.”

No one elected Tillerson to make these decisions. They elected Trump. With Tillerson gone and Pompeo at State, McMaster will now have an ally at State who shares his belief that for Trump’s warnings to North Korea to be credible, he must have well-developed and credible military options on the table.

As Trump put it, Tillerson had to go because “we were not thinking the same. With Mike Pompeo, we have a similar thought process.” Having a trusted adviser at State will be critical to the success of the biggest diplomatic gamble of Trump’s presidency: his upcoming talks with Kim.

At AEI, Pompeo told me that the CIA assesses that Kim is a rational actor — which means that, given accurate information about the president’s intentions, Kim should make a rational decision that will not lead to the destruction of his regime. “We’re taking the real-world actions that we think will make (it) unmistakable to Kim Jong Un that we are intent on denuclearization,” Pompeo said. “We’re counting on the fact that he’ll see it. We’re confident that he will.” With Pompeo in office, Trump now has a much better chance of getting that message across to the North Korean dictator.

— Marc A. Thiessen is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group.

Comments

Kendall Simmons 1 month ago

Marc Thiessen...do you seriously believe it was Trump's "hard-line stance" who brought Kim to the table???

And do you really believe that Kim is afraid/worried we'll nuke North Korea?

Frankly, Pompeo supporting Trump in these utterly inappropriate beliefs is a LOT bigger problem than Tillerson.ever was. After all, it wasn't like North Korea was actually DOING anything about their bluster. And, no. Unarmed missiles, many of which crashed, and pontificating bluster doesn't mean much in real life. Unless you're Trump and you take it as a personal "attack".

Gary Stussie 1 month ago

What was it that brought him to the table? At least 5 Presidents, that I'm aware of, have kissed his butt and paid massive bribes ... all to no avail. Just chaps you guys that President Trump is/has made progress in so many areas that Obama and company flubbed!

Richard Heckler 1 month ago

Kim sees Trump as a weak link and will do most anything make it appear as though Trump knows what he is doing.

The USA will be the loser.

Scott Burkhart 1 month ago

Heckler, you see the world like all the other libs, as you wish it were. Kim does not see Trump as a weak link. Kim sees Trump as a leader that is a hard liner and unpredictable. Predictability is exactly why we are at this juncture with a rogue nation.

Renee Patrick 1 month ago

Wait, isn't calling it insubordination implying a business model? The guy was nominated, not hired right? Didn't the position advise the president? If the president only wants yea saying advisors, that says more to me about the president. Advisors should be colleagues not subordinate yes men or women.

Michael Kort 1 month ago

Tillerson came to the Whitehouse as the former CEO of Exxon.......which is kind of a step down to be SOS,.......which was Tillersons own fault for excepting a job with a multi bankrupted maniac who's own listed stock went from a listed high of $ 44 down to $ 0 and non existence .

TIllerson bought an intimate knowledge of most world leaders from his former position at Exxon, that Trump needed because Trump ( as usual ) was PLANLESS .

In truth it was most likely the Chinees telling Kim " VERY PUBLICLY, " that if he started a war with S. Korea, the US or its' allies, that he would be on his own and that they would not be coming to his aid .

Any kind of nuclear exchange creating fallout would greatly impact both China and Russia,.....which both share southern boarders with N. Korea.........and a war would also flood both countries with potential war refugees .

Japan has a military but they are at present non nuclear by choice and basicly defensive.........change that fact and both China and Russia would be concerned because of past wars with Japan....... and Kim is a constant threat to Japan's non nuclear status by constantly stirring the regional pot with them with his threats .

So,.....Trimp is going to go and meet with Kim........and return to the US, like the British Prime Minister did to England, right before WW2, waiving a peace treaty above his head as he got off of his plane, which Hitler conveniently broke in no time at all .

In this case, can a would be dictator actually deal with a dictator ? ? ?

Michael Kort 1 month ago

Trump got caught on an open mic which made the evening news the other day explaining to someone that he did not know of our Actual Trade Balance while negociating with Canada, so he explained that he just made up a story that he told to the Canadian Prime Minister about them being up on the US in a trade imbalance to the Canadians advantage........which the Canadians knew to be a lie .

Do the North Koreans ( or anyone else ) not watch our news to gain understandings ? ? ?

Don't remember TIllerson doing anything comment wise that was recorded and rebroadcasted to the world that was that pointless ?

.......was Trump talking to Billy Bush again ? ? ?

Scott Burkhart 1 month ago

You got the liberal sound bite. That wasn't all he said. Trump knows exactly what our trade imbalance with any nation you care to mention.

Richard Heckler 1 month ago

Insubordination to the many is spelled TRUMP!!!!!!!!

insubordination to the many is spelled the American Legislative Exchange Council that which controls the new anti american republican party.

37 years of voting in ALEC RINO conservatives AND the Fundamentalist MINORITY has provided what? Who's leading the attack on voters and our tax dollars?

Bill Moyers on the Secretive Corporate-Legislative Body Writing Our Laws http://www.democracynow.org/2012/9/27/the_united_states_of_alec_bill

99% of republican voters have been getting duped by extreme conservative candidates. These extreme conservatives are not fiscal conservatives nor fiscally responsible. They are NOT Republican.

They are narrowed minded conservatives who spend big to win elections .... elections that have been leaving 99% of republicans with fewer rights and less money in their bank accounts.

Like it or not we old school republicans need to stop voting the republican ticket because ultra conservatives took over our party through unethical methods. Big reckless spending and monster lies. Conservative Democrats are DINO’s.

Voting Moderate Republicans, Moderate Democrats, Progressive Democrats and Green Party into office are the few practical yet fiscal responsible options.

Moderate republicans are hard to find because obscene amounts of ALEC campaign dollars have no use for moderate fiscal responsible republicans.

Bob Smith 1 month ago

"...99% of republican voters have been getting duped by extreme conservative candidates..." Citation, please? Something other than your fevered imagination, perhaps.

Greg Cooper 1 month ago

That's rich: you asking for a citation to prove an obviously inflated statement.

Richard Heckler 1 month ago

What A Fraud Trump Is ..... a president who has gotten wealthy by bilking others, colluding with criminals, evading prosecution, and romancing the press

David Cay Boyle Johnston is an American investigative journalist and author, a specialist in economics and tax issues, and winner of the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for Beat Reporting.

David Cay Johnston has been one of the nation’s premier investigative reporters for decades, specializing in the ways government works for the wealthy at the expense of everyday Americans.

He first met and covered Donald Trump in the 1980s. In his latest book:

The Making of Donald Trump, he profiles the many ways the Republican president has gotten wealthy by bilking others, colluding with criminals, evading prosecution, and romancing the press. I spoke with Johnston recently about his new book.

Steven Rosenfeld: What are you trying to show readers about Donald Trump that they might not know? https://www.alternet.org/election-2016/new-book-reveals-trump-actually-sleazier-and-slimier-we-ever-thought

http://billmoyers.com/story/making-donald-trump-told-journalistic-nemesis/

What A Fraud Trump Is https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/feb/14/david-cay-johnston-publishers-assumed-trump-would-soon-disappear

Gary Stussie 1 month ago

Give it a rest Richard ... only 7 more years!

Scott Burkhart 1 month ago

Now comes Richard Heckler with his cut and paste defense of all his nonsensical, conspiratorial ideas. There isn't a website cited that isn't left wing, liberal gobbledy guke.

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