Secretary of state: vanishing before our eyes?

Here’s something you might not know about the secretary of state: The individual who occupies the office is No. 4 in the line of succession to the presidency.

That means to me that the office oozes importance. If, for some reason, the vice president, the speaker of the House of Representatives or the president pro tem of the Senate cannot succeed the president, the task falls to the secretary of state.

That person, therefore, is quite high on the executive branch of government’s pecking order.

Or one would think.

Then again, the State Department is facing a proposed 29-percent reduction in its budget, which doesn’t seem to bother Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Oh yes! There’s actually someone in the job. He’s been a sort of shadow figure in the Trump administration Cabinet.

He has held zero press conferences since taking office. He took off on an overseas trip and didn’t bring any media representatives along with him. Mexico’s foreign minister recently visited Washington and didn’t even call on the State Department, let alone on Secretary Tillerson.

Why has this individual become so, um, invisible? Donald Trump introduced him as secretary of state after parading a slew of high-profile pols to meet with him. Then came Tillerson, the former ExxonMobil CEO who emerged out of seeming nowhere to get the president’s nod.

One more thing: Tillerson has no deputy secretary of state on hand. There’s no one to assist him with whatever heavy lifting he needs to perform while working to solve the nation’s myriad foreign-policy issues.

Recent secretaries of state seemingly have been everywhere at once, defying the laws of physics. James Baker, Lawrence Eagleburger, Warren Christopher, Madeleine Albright, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry all became the face and the voice of U.S. foreign policy. Their respective impacts were immediate and profound.

Rex Tillerson? Where are you? What are you doing?

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