- Rex Tillerson was successful as the CEO the world’s largest energy company, but that success was not transferable to the public sector.
- Rex Tillerson misunderstood the nature of the job as Secretary of State; overstepping in certain areas and not meeting the minimum standards in others.
- Tillerson’s agenda to introduce a racial preference system at the State Department was at odds with our American ideals and would have served to create a future entrenched unaccountable bureaucracy.
- The 4,000 Presidential appointees are where the real policy initiatives that Americans vote for every four years are carried out. Tillerson’s attempt to create a decade long State Department leadership pipeline, using racial preferences or not, would have hollowed out our democracy.
Rex Tillerson was fired from his job as Secretary of State, reportedly via Tweet. President Trump doesn’t like his staff to manage the process, which of course is a mechanism for his staff to manage him. I don’t fault the president for escaping from his imposed bubble and handling the matter directly using Twitter, I only wish Tillerson’s firing had come sooner. The president’s exact reasons for his firing Tillerson is a matter of speculation, the necessity of it is rooted in Tillerson inability to make the transition from corporate CEO to public servant.
Our president is not the most eloquent leader we have ever had. The reason for that has nothing to do with the fact he is straight from the business community and had previously never held a government post, elected or otherwise. Trump is who Trump is. After the violence in Charlottesville between Neo-Nazi and Antifa Anarchists, where Heather Heyer was murdered, President Trump said, “You look at both sides. I think there is blame on both sides. I have no doubt about it. You also had some very fine people on both sides.” The president’s remarks were bold, straight to the point, and ill advised. It was then in President Trump’s taking that condemnation of violence too far, that those around him needed to close ranks and show loyalty, not to the man, but to the Office of the President and the nation.
Both my mother and father had great, great grandfathers that fought in the civil war for the North. As a teenager my father had a remarkable Maryland born friend that was a Civil War historian and businessman whose ancestors fought for the South, my Minnesotan born father was also a Civil War buff. My father and his Marylander friend would bring a group of business associates to visit Civil War battlefields, cemeteries, and monuments. When I was a teenager I was fortunate enough to go along on a few of those trips. My Father would read several books about the battle sites we were to visit, and to tilt things toward the North my father would hand out reading assignments to the others traveling with them. Once at the battlefield, history came to life with explanations and descriptions of what unit was where, who attacked, who retreated, and who had the better generals. Inevitably the day would end with my father and the Marylander arguing the merits of Lee versus Grant over dinner while the rest of us listened. It was the best education I could have gotten on the Civil War, and proof that there are “some very fine people on both sides” of the debate over how we should represent the legacy of the Civil War. Those fine people do not include Neo-Nazis or Antifa, both who are ultimately responsible for the death of Heather Heyer.
Rex Tillerson failed early on because he didn’t do his job and carry out the duties assigned to him. Tillerson’s job as our representative to the rest of the world was not to essentially issue a condemnation of Trump’s clumsy and combative remarks, but to put them in context. We had two groups of thugs that fought a street battle in which a woman died, we are all still sickened by it. The president condemned the violence in the strongest possible terms, and it was Tillerson’s job to explain to the rest of the world that there are good people who differ on how our civil war heritage should be remembered.
Rex Tillerson sabotaged our country even further by unilaterally imposing the “Rooney Rule” on ambassadorships and promotions to key positions at the State Department, many of them political appointments. The “Rooney Rule” is a NFL policy that requires a minority to be interviewed for every senior level job. Coincidently, the “Rooney Rule” was named after Pittsburg Steelers owner Dan Rooney who was a politically appointed U.S. Ambassador to Ireland, President Obama did not require a minority applicant to be interviewed for that position. The “Rooney Rule” may be fine for private organizations like the NFL or Exxon, where Tillerson was CEO, but it is not fine in a government that belongs to all of us to single individuals out based on race for possible advancement; federal law already bans selection, or discrimination, based on race.
However, Tillerson’s greatest sin wasn’t undermining the Office of the President, or was it introducing a system of racial preferences in the State Department, it was growing the roots of the “Deep State”, or “We-Be’s” (we-be here before this administration, we-be here after this administration). This portion of Rex Tillerson’s August 18th, 2017 speech is enough to send chills down the spines of those of us who know we risk losing control of our government: “A big part of developing our minority leadership is identifying qualified individuals five and 10 years before they are ready to become senior leaders and managing and developing their careers, as we do others, so that they’re undergoing preparations for those senior roles over time. We need to be – we need a more deliberate process to cultivate the abundance of minority talent we already have in the State Department.” Forget for a moment the immorality and possible illegality of the government itself using racial preferences to advance or hinder one’s career potential, let’s focus on Tillerson developing “individuals” to be “senior leaders” in the State Department in “five or 10 years.” Do you have chills yet? We don’t know who the president is going to be in five or 10 years, and Rex Tillerson is already selecting the future president’s team.
The success of the American experiment in democracy is rooted in a peaceful transition of power every four to eight years. It is just not who occupies the Whitehouse, the Naval Observatory, and various cabinet positions, but most importantly who fills the 4,000 plus appointed positions. It is those 4,000 appointees the effect the real change in government, the change the American people voted on. Without those appointees, the president, from any party, is little more than a figurehead on top of an immovable and uncooperative bureaucracy. Those appointees must be supporters of the administration, members of his party, or specifically chosen and loyal to the administration for presidential elections to make any difference or have any meaning. Not filling those vacancies does not save money or shrink government, entrenched bureaucrats fill those positions in “acting” capacities. Far from being the “spoils system” or political patronage, it is the only way our federal government can feel the consequences its citizens voted for. Perhaps if the number of federal employees grow, so should the number of political appointees.
What Tillerson attempted to impose on our State Department might have been a nice public relations gambit for Exxon, but within our government it was a slap in the face to those of us who believe in a colorblind society and equal justice under the law. Moreover, Tillerson’s further entrenchment of an unaccountable bureaucracy would have rendered the outcomes of presidential elections more and more meaningless, undermining our very democracy. For those reasons, and those reasons alone, the president was entirely correct to fire Rex Tillerson.