In an administration infamous for the frequency of its personnel changes, on March 13th the Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson joined the list of those abruptly leaving the White House. What does this mean within the Trump administration, and to the nation as a whole?
As a reflection on the Trump administration, the firing is more evidence of a chaotic management style. Based on a Brookings Institution study, the current administration’s 43% staff turnover rate in its first thirteen months outpaces the previous five administration. By contrast, the Obama administration’s turnover rate for the same period was 24%.
Equally disconcerting as the current White House’s turnover rate is the remarkably high number of unfilled high-level jobs. Within the Office of Management and Budget, no deputy director has been named, even though the agency’s director, Mick Mulvaney, does double duty as acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Likewise, the chair to the Council on Environmental Quality is vacant, as Democrats continue to block Kathleen Harnett White, the President’s nominee and proud climate-change denier.
In addition, the Office of National Drug Control Policy lacks a nominee for the director position. The last nominee, Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.) withdrew his nomination in October 2017 after it came to light he sponsored legislation that many argue curtails the Drug Enforcement Administration’s ability to combat the opioid crisis. The Office of Science and Technology Policy has never had a Trump nominee.
The relationship between the outgoing Secretary of State and the President has been strained since his appointment. The nadir of the tension came in October 2017 when it was reported that Secretary Tillerson referred to the President as a “moron” following a national security meeting at the Pentagon in July of that year. Since then, the relationship between the Secretary and President has been icy with Trump challenging Tillerson to an IQ contest, and mocking the Secretary for attempting to negotiate with North Korea.
...Save your energy Rex, we'll do what has to be done!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 1, 2017
The timing of the President’s decision to fire Rex Tillerson is challenging, to say the least. With the North Korea and U.S. summit slated to take place in May, the efforts needed to prepare for such a significant meeting are hamstrung by the Secretary’s departure. The President’s nominee to replace Tillerson is current CIA chief, Mike Pompeo. Before he even has the opportunity to hit the ground running, Pompeo will have to go through a Senate confirmation hearing. It is also worth noting that Pompeo has never been a proponent of opening diplomatic channels to North Korea. Adding to the challenge the administration faces is the fact President Trump has not nominated a potential ambassador to South Korea. In addition, seven out of the top ten State Department positions remain empty.
Finally, there is growing speculation over the President’s state of mind. Specifically, there is a perception that Rex Tillerson was one of the rare members of the President’s cabinet willing to disagree with the President on a number of subjects, including the extent of Russia’s attempts to influence the 2016 U.S. Presidential elections.
With Tillerson’s departure, the Commander-in-Chief continues to further isolate himself from those who are willing to take stands that conflict with the President’s. While the President describes Tillerson’s departure as “what he wants” it is not necessarily in the country’s best interests.
Political Journalist (Washington DC)