Tag Archives: State Department

Rex T breaks his silence in a big way

Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is now a private citizen. He isn’t a silent citizen, though.

Here is what he told graduating cadets at Virginia Military Institute: When we as people, a free people, go wobbly on the truth even on what may seem the most trivial of matters, we go wobbly on America.”

Who in the world do you think Tillerson is referring to when he said we “go wobbly on the truth”?

He didn’t mention Donald J. Trump by name, but Tillerson appears to be unsheathing his rhetorical weaponry at the president.

He talked about accepting “alternate realities.” Which reminds me of White House adviser Kellyanne Conway’s priceless coining of the term “alternative facts.”

Tillerson’s tenure at State didn’t go well from the beginning. It ended when Trump fired him and then replaced him with CIA director Mike Pompeo. Tillerson left the agency quietly, but to his credit he is not remaining quiet.

“If we do not as Americans confront the crisis of ethics and integrity in our society and among our leaders in both private and public sector, and regrettably at times even the nonprofit sector, then American democracy as we know it is entering its twilight years,” Tillerson said to the VMI cadets.

Yes, we are witnessing an epidemic of “crisis of ethics and integrity in our society.” I believe its source of late has been in the halls of power at the highest levels of our government. I also believe that Rex Tillerson knows that to be true as well.

I am glad his voice is being heard once again. The former chief diplomat has an important message to deliver.

Foreign policy no longer a bipartisan effort

It once was thought that “politics stopped at the water’s edge,” meaning that Democrats and Republicans locked arms when facing the rest of the world, setting aside their partisan differences.

A couple of events this week have demonstrated that the late Republican U.S. Sen. Arthur Vandenberg’s words of wisdom no longer apply.

Event No. 1: Mike Pompeo received a partisan vote of confirmation by the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee to become the next secretary of state. The full Senate now figures to confirm Pompeo, with only a couple of Democrats crossing over to cast affirmative votes.

Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who had been thought to be a “no” vote on Pompeo, changed his mind after receiving assurances from Donald Trump about Pompeo’s view regarding the Iraq War, which Paul opposed.

Event No. 2: The president is going to play host this week to a state dinner honoring French President Emmanuel Macron. But here’s the catch: Trump didn’t invite a single Democrat to the White House gala, which is starkly against presidential tradition.

Presidents of both parties traditionally reach across the aisle for these state dinners, which feature sumptuous menus, lots of fine music, toasts and expressions of good wishes.

Not this time, which happens to be the president’s first such state dinner since taking office. What’s more, Macron is head of state of our nation’s oldest international ally. After all, France fought side by side with us while our forebears revolted against Britain’s King George III.

As for the upcoming secretary of state vote, I feel compelled to remind everyone that the office of nation’s top diplomat needs to come in with a semblance of a mandate from the legislative branch of government. It sends the world a message that we remain united in the cause of furthering our nation’s interests.

Former secretaries of state Condoleezza Rice, Hillary Rodham Clinton and John Kerry, for instance, all received unanimous or near-unanimous votes of confirmation by the Senate.

Politics must end at the our water’s edge. It’s not just a quaint notion. It’s real and it’s vital in the conduct of foreign policy.

Pompeo to become diplomat with thin backing

Mike Pompeo is likely to be confirmed as the nation’s next secretary of state, but he’ll take strange route on his way to leading the nation’s diplomatic corps.

Pompeo is the CIA director whom Donald Trump selected to succeed Rex Tillerson at the State Department. He has run into trouble on his way to confirmation: Pompeo won’t have the blessing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which conducted confirmation hearings on Pompeo’s nomination.

A Republican committee member, Rand Paul of Kentucky, is going to vote against Pompeo’s nomination. That will result more than likely in a vote of no confidence from the panel.

That won’t derail his confirmation. The full Senate will get to vote on it, but Pompeo will gain the support of Senate Democrats who might be in trouble in states that Trump carried in the 2016 presidential election. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe  Manchin of West Virginia come to mind; let’s toss in Bill Nelson of Florida while we’re at it. They’re all running for re-election, which seems to give Pompeo a leg up in this strange journey toward confirmation.

Actually, I hope Pompeo does get confirmed. The State Department needs a steady hand and I think Pompeo can provide it … if only the president will allow him to lead the agency.

Tillerson had to fight the occasional battle against being undercut by the president. Tillerson would make a pronouncement and then Trump would countermand him. I don’t want that to happen with the new secretary of state, who’s got a big job awaiting him immediately — which happens to be the preparation for the planned summit between Donald Trump and North Korean despot Kim Jong Un.

What’s more, as head of the CIA, Pompeo has joined other U.S. intelligence officials in confirming the obvious: that the Russians meddled in our 2016 election.

This man needs to be our secretary of state.

Tillerson for UT chancellor? Hey, why not?

This will sound like I’m damning someone with faint praise, but that’s not my intent. The Texas Tribune is reporting that Rex Tillerson, the soon-to-depart secretary of state might be under consideration to  become chancellor of the University of Texas System.

To which I would add: Why not pick Tillerson? He’s worked already inside arguably the most dysfunctional government system on Earth; that would be the executive branch of the U.S. government. He’s cut his teeth on chaos, confusion and controversy. So, whatever troubles afflicting the UT System Board of Regents would be easy for him to handle.

The UT Board of Regents has had its fill of its own brand of chaos of late. One of the regents had been targeted for possible ouster because of alleged meddling in the affairs of the UT-Austin campus. The board at times has seemed as though its members don’t get along, don’t work cohesively.

The current chancellor, William McRaven, is set to retire for health reasons. I wish McRaven could stay on. I like the man’s background: U.S. Navy admiral, SEAL, former commander of the U.S. Special Forces Command. He’s a no-nonsense flag officer, who happened to oppose legislation approved last year to allow guns on college and university campuses.

Tillerson bleeds burnt orange. He graduated from UT before heading off to pursue a highly successful business career that culminated in his becoming CEO of ExxonMobil. Then he got the call from Donald Trump to become secretary of state. That gig didn’t work out too well.

I don’t blame Tillerson so much as I blame the president for the dysfunction that highlighted (or lowlighted) Tillerson’s tenure at State.

A Texas university system chancellor’s main job is to raise money for the system. Tillerson is well-positioned to fatten the UT System’s already bulging cache of endowments. Plus, he’s been baptized already in a system that exudes dysfunction.

Hey, the UT job would be a piece of cake!

Look out, ‘radical Islam’

President George W. Bush told us in clear and unequivocal terms while the nation grieved over the 9/11 attack: We are not at war with Islam.

President Barack H. Obama followed that message to the letter. On the night he announced the death of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, the president told us that bin Laden was not a “Muslim leader,” but that he was a “mass murderer of Muslims.”

A new president has taken over. Donald J. Trump has just nominated Mike Pompeo to be secretary of state and has appointed John Bolton to be the new national security adviser.

These two men — not to mention the president — seem intent on changing the narrative. They want to take direct aim at “radical Islam,” as if the terrorists with whom we are at war represent a great world religion. They do not. They have perverted Islam to fit some ruthless ideology.

As Politico has reported: Both Bolton and Pompeo will now be working for a president who has alleged, with no evidence, that American Muslims celebrated the 9/11 attacks, and who has proposed banning all foreign Muslims from U.S. shores. Critics say the personnel moves suggest Trump’s worst instincts on how to approach the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims will find receptive ears among his foreign policy aides.

Rex Tillerson and H.R. McMaster, who will be leaving the State Department and the National Security Council, respectively, were thought to have some sort of moderating influence on Trump. But the president has shoved them aside, elevating two more fiery confidants to help formulate U.S. foreign policy. They are likely to seek to steer the president toward a position that mainstream Muslims might interpret to be more hostile to their religious faith.

That, I suggest, is a dangerous trend.

The killers with whom we have been at war since 9/11 need damn little pretext to recruit new militants to follow their perverted cause.

Welcome to the new normal in Trump World

Let’s call it the “New Normal” in the world of Donald John Trump Sr.

The president of the United States announced via Twitter that he would meet with North Korean strongman/boy Kim Jong Un. He didn’t tell Secretary of State Rex Tillerson any of this in advance.

Then he fired Tillerson and brought in CIA Director Mike Pompeo to run the State Department.

And then … he places a congratulatory phone call to another despot, Russian goon Vladimir Putin, who stole an election — the one that re-elected him, poisoned a former spy and his daughter, meddled in our 2016 election. He placed that call against the vehement advice of his national security team. Trump didn’t bother to mention a word about the poisoning or Putin’s attack on our electoral system. He couldn’t be bothered with any of that small stuff.

Then the national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, resigned — today! Trump then announced he was hiring John Bolton, the fiery former United Nations ambassador, the uber-hawk.

The president is set to meet with a prime U.S. adversary, North Korea, in the midst of a nuclear threat. The secretary of state is fired; the national security adviser has quit. Oh, and the State Department has virtually zero deputy or under secretaries to do the necessary spade work in preparation for what could be either a landmark summit … or a complete bust!

Trump’s take on all of this? Hey, it’s no problem! He’s forging at this moment the perfect team to surround him.

Oh, brother. The man has gone through four communications directors, he has hired his second White House chief of staff, he has just hired his third national security adviser. He forced out a press secretary. And all this has occurred with just 15 months of the man’s administration!

That’s normal? Not in any manner that makes sense.

In Trump World, though, it’s all part of the game plan that will “make America great again.”

Outrageous!

Nationalists outpointing Globalists in Trump World

Rex Tillerson’s departure as secretary of state fills me with terribly mixed feelings.

On one level, he wasn’t by any stretch my favored pick to lead the nation’s diplomatic effort. He came from big business; he had no real international political experience; he was unable to fill key posts within the State Department.

However, he is a grownup. He clashed with Donald John Trump. He sought to talk the president out of backing away from the Iran nuclear deal; he opposed Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris global warming accord.

Tillerson realizes a fundamental truth about the world and the United States’ role in it, which is that “globalism” is the more realistic approach to cultivating our nation’s alliances. Trump ran for president as a “nationalist.” He wants to “put America first,” but is putting our nation’s world standing in jeopardy.

Trump has nominated CIA Director Mike Pompeo to succeed Tillerson. Pompeo is from the same nationalist mold as Trump, as he demonstrated while he served in the U.S. House of Representatives before making the move to the CIA.

The nationalist wing of the Trump administration is winning the argument within the White House’s walls so far.

Trump keeps harping about America’s interests, which in its way is the height of irony, given his reluctance to condemn the Russians for attacking our nation’s electoral process in 2016.

He has cut loose someone, Tillerson, who believes that the world’s inexorable shrinkage forces this country to think more globally. We cannot escape the influences of other nations and we must be mindful of their concerns.

Should we place other nations’ interests on the same level as our own? No. Neither should we snub them, as Donald Trump seems so terribly inclined to do.

I also must concede that the comment attributed to Tillerson — which he hasn’t denied making — that Trump is a “moron” seems more truthful than ever.

This POTUS is totally untrustworthy … period!

White House chief of staff John Kelly sought to tamp down concerns among his colleagues by telling them there are no more staff changes on the horizon.

How does this man know this? I am going to presume — at my own risk, of course — that Donald J. Trump has told him so.

Kelly then relayed what might be assurances from the president that everyone in the White House can settle down now. Relax. Go about doing their jobs. No worries about their futures or their bosses’ futures.

Except for this: How does anyone trust a single word, let alone sentence, that flies out of Donald Trump’s mouth?

Trump has demonstrated a penchant for unpredictability. Doesn’t he brag about it, along with his sexual prowess and how smart he is? Doesn’t he say that unpredictability enhances his effectiveness as president of the United States?

So, with all that established, does it make any sense at all to take a single thing this guy says? How does one take his utterances at face value? How does one trust someone who lies with absolutely no concern over its consequences?

It might be that Kelly is trying to put as positive a face as he can on the chaos that has erupted yet again inside the West Wing. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s firing came without warning to Tillerson — or anyone else, for that matter. Trump told Tillerson the way he told the rest of the world: via Twitter. Classy, yes? Umm. No!

So now we hear from the White House chief of staff that there are no more firings upcoming.

Let’s all wait until, oh, the sun comes up in the morning.

Tomorrow’s a new day. A new set of crises awaits a stir-crazy nation. That’s how the president likes to operate. Or so he says.

What? A new national security adviser, too?

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is gone. Fired! Canned! Kaput!

Now it’s national security adviser H.R. McMaster, the active-duty Army lieutenant general, who’s reportedly out. He, too, will be booted, according to multiple media reports.

In the span of one week — that’s just seven days — Donald Trump reportedly has dismantled two key components of his national security/foreign policy team.

Oh, and the timing of all this madness? Yep, the president is supposedly prepping for a summit with “Little Rocket Man,” the North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

McMaster is the second national security adviser to work for Trump in the past 14 months. The first one, Michael Flynn, lasted all of 24 days before he got the boot.

And through all of this, Donald Trump would have us believe that all is well, all is good, all is working just as it is supposed to work within the White House.

I, um, think not.

Chaos is king in the West Wing.

Trump reverses growth quotient

Paul Begala is an acknowledged Democratic partisan. He once worked for President Bill Clinton. He is no fan of Donald Trump.

Now that we’ve established that, I have to concur with something he has said about the president.

Whereas presidents — particularly those who come to the White House with a primarily outside-the-Beltway experience — usually grow in the office, Donald Trump is shrinking the office to fit his own shortcomings.

Begala mentioned how Presidents Reagan, Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama all learned about the office, how they filled the White House with their presence. Trump has reversed that momentum.

I will add that of the examples Begala cited, all of them had prior government experience. Reagan served two terms as governor of California, Bush served a term and a half as governor of Texas, Clinton served multiple terms as Arkansas governor and Obama served in the Illinois state senate before being elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006.

Trump’s experience is totally unique. He never sought a public before running for president. He ran a large business. Trump answered to no one. He has demonstrated zero curiosity, zero humility, not a lick of introspection. He has said he’s never sought forgiveness. He won’t admit to making a mistake.

As some observers have noted, Trump’s political skill — which he exhibited while campaigning successfully for the presidency — hasn’t transferred to governing. He doesn’t know how to govern.

Donald Trump isn’t growing into the office he won. He is shrinking it to fit his own diminished profile.

Trump is shaking up the Cabinet. His closest advisers are bailing, or are being pushed out. His Health and Human Services secretary had to quit; his first national security adviser was canned; Trump has just fired the secretary of state; the veterans secretary is about to go; the current national security adviser may be canned; Trump has burned through four communications directors.

This all happened in the first 15 months of his presidency.

And the president would have us believe he is doing the best job in the history of the exalted office of the presidency?

Nope. Paul Begala is right. Donald Trump is shrinking the office.