Tag Archives: Secretary of State

Paging Rex Tillerson … hello?

Of all the individuals from the Donald J. Trump administration who have fallen off the grid, one of them stands out to where I want to know what he must be thinking about the trouble that continues to swirl around the ex-POTUS.

Rex Tillerson. Perhaps you recall he was Trump’s initial secretary of state. Trump nominated the tough-talking Texan, the one-time Exxon-Mobil chief executive officer to lead our diplomatic corps. He didn’t last very long in the job, about 13 months.

He called Trump a “fu**ing moron,” never denied saying it and then got canned via Twitter message that Trump fired off.

Tillerson wasn’t an effective secretary of state, to be sure. How could he be, given that he reported to a numbskull who undercut him at every turn?

And, yes, he was right about the moronic status of the then-POTUS.

What in the world is this fellow thinking these days as we watch the 1/6 committee zero in on Trump, his key aides and the events that led to the insurrection against the government?

He probably doesn’t wish to be thrust back under the glare of the political spotlight. Some of us, though, want to hear what’s on his mind and in his heart.

Are you out there, Rex?


Secretary of state: derelict in his duty

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo brought a lot of heft to his post as the nation’s top diplomat: top of his class at West Point; active-duty Army service; member of Congress; CIA director.

It’s the West Point chapter in his life that gives me concern, though, but not because I intend to disparage his academic record at the nation’s Military Academy.

Pompeo has violated a fundamental tenet of service in the military. One of the individuals under his command as secretary of state, former ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, has seen her record smeared by the president of the United States.

Did the secretary of state stand up for her? Did he have her back? Has he vouched for her honor and affirmed that she isn’t “bad news,” as Trump has described her? Has he affirmed his support for her gallant service to the country over he past three decades? No. He has allowed the president to run roughshod over her.

Yovanovitch testified this past week before the U.S. House Intelligence Committee, which is overseeing the impeachment inquiry process launched against the president. While she was in the middle of her testimony, Trump decided to fire off a Twitter message that denigrated her service and — in the minds of many observers — contained a threat to her and others who might be so inclined to cooperate with House congressional questioners.

Why in the world has the nation’s top diplomat, the secretary of state, allowed this defamation to continue against one of the individuals under his command? Secretary of State Pompeo has been a profile in cowardice.

The president says he is entitled to express himself. Actually, what Donald Trump doesn’t grasp is the gravity of any statement he makes as the nation’s chief executive, as its head of state. Mike Pompeo surely should understand what has gone over the president’s head and he surely should have stood foursquare behind a highly honored and decorated diplomat, such as Marie Yovanovitch.

He didn’t. Pompeo choked. He disgraced himself as well as the long-standing tradition he brought to his high office.

Secretary Pompeo gets to work

Mike Pompeo’s nomination to be secretary of state cleared the Senate committee vote he needed by the narrowest of margins. It was a single vote.

Then the full U.S. Senate voted today to confirm him. The vote was 57-42; Republican John McCain was absent and unable to vote.

What does this mean for the new secretary? The way I see it, it means he has little bipartisan backing to tackle the difficult tasks of forging a foreign policy that commands the attention and respect of our nation’s allies and, yes, its foes.

Secretaries of state traditionally get huge margins. The only recent secretary of state to be confirmed by a margin comparable to the one that Pompeo earned was, interestingly, Donald J. Trump’s first secretary of state, Rex Tillerson.

The Associated Press reported that every secretary of state dating back to the Carter administration had received at least 85 Senate votes for confirmation.

Why is this important? Foreign policy shouldn’t fall along partisan lines. It shouldn’t reflect the deep divisions within our nation’s partisan political machinery. The United States should speak with a single voice when it deals with foreign policy. That’s long been a tradition. Sadly, that longstanding practice now appears to be buried under the deep and bitter partisan divisions.

It reflects the chasm that separates Republicans and Democrats. It is unhealthy in the extreme, particularly since Secretary Pompeo now must take the lead on preparation for the unprecedented summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un, the mercurial leader of North Korea.

Pompeo and Kim already have met. No one has reported precisely how that first meeting — conducted under the cover of secrecy — produced, other than the president saying something about Pompeo and Kim getting “along well.”

The Senate vote will stand, though, as a message that the new secretary of state doesn’t have the bipartisan support he needs to move forward as the prime spokesman for our foreign policy apparatus.

My hope is that he earns it.

Welcome to center stage, Mike Pompeo

Can there be a more complicated set of circumstances awaiting the next secretary of state?

Donald Trump tweets the firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. He tweets it, I’m tellin’ ya. Tillerson said he doesn’t know why he was canned. The president then said he’s going to nominate CIA Director Mike Pompeo to be the next top diplomat.

Oh … and this is occurring while the United States is beginning to prepare for a potentially historic summit between Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

Tillerson today thanks everyone under the sun for the opportunity to serve as secretary of state. Well, almost everyone. He doesn’t thank Trump. Um, I’m betting Trump and Tillerson aren’t going to talk much to each other going forward.


I’m worn out — and I’m out here in the Flyover Country peanut gallery.

Pompeo also happens to one of those intelligence experts who believes the Russians meddled in our 2016 presidential election. He has said so on the record. He joins a distinguished list of officials: the director of national intelligence, the head of the National Security Agency, the president’s national security adviser (who well could be the next one out the door). They’ve all said the same thing: The Russians did it and they all contradict the idiocy spouted by the president, that if Vladimir Putin says he didn’t do it, then that’s good enough.

I sincerely hope someone on on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which must vote to confirm Pompeo, asks him directly — once more — whether he still believes the Russians meddled in our election.

And with equal sincerity, I hope the Senate wastes little time in getting Pompeo confirmed. He’s got a full plate waiting for him when he takes over.

I mean — crap! — he’s got to prepare the president for this summit with Kim Jong Un. I’ll also have to hope Donald Trump will listen to what the new guy has to say.

Hillary remains in Trump’s sights

Donald J. Trump has said he won a “historic” victory in the 2016 presidential election.

The president’s threats of action against his vanquished opponent, though, betray his confidence in that admittedly unexpected victory.

Trump is considering whether to sic the Justice Department on to Hillary Clinton, threatening to examine her sale of a uranium company while she was serving as secretary of state in the Obama administration.

Here we go … again!

The president’s obsession with Clinton and President Obama suggests to me that he’s actually angry beyond measure that he didn’t win the popular vote to go along with the Electoral College majority he won to be elected president of the United States.

He wants to stick it to Hillary. He wants to keep the embers burning. He wants to make her squirm.

I keep asking: To what bleeping end, Mr. President?

Clinton calls such a probe what it would be if the president calls for the appointment of a special counsel: a grotesque abuse of power. According to The Hill: “I regret if they do it because it will be such a disastrous step to politicizing the justice system,” she said. “If they send a signal that we’re going to be like some dictatorship, like some authoritarian regime, where political opponents are going to be unfairly, fraudulently investigated, that rips at the fabric of the contract we have, that we can trust our justice system.”

Congressional committees looked for years at ways to bring charges against Hillary Clinton. As did the FBI. They all came up empty.

Now the president keeps fighting a battle he’s already won.

Give it a rest, Mr. President.

What does Kim Jong Un want? Part 2

Donald J. Trump has complicated what ought to be the simplest of Kim Jong Un’s reported demands of the United States of America.

He wants guarantees that he can keep his job as North Korea’s strongman. 

In other words, no “regime change.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sounded semi-conciliatory in that regard the other day when he said that United States has no interest in overthrowing Kim and seeks a “diplomatic solution” to the growing crisis on the Korean Peninsula.

Then the president chimed in with comments threatening “fire and fury” and saying that U.S. military is “locked and loaded” in case Kim decides to make any “overt threats” against the United States or its allies.

The term “locked and loaded” means, in military terms, that your weapon is loaded and that you’ve put the first round in the chamber. You’re set to fire said weapon. Is that what the commander in chief meant? Are we now set to launch a first strike against the North Koreans?

Kim is thought to be mindful of past U.S. military actions, providing him with cause to make the demand that he not be tossed out by an invading force.

I present you the March 2013 U.S. invasion of Iraq , which was launched for the expressed purpose of ridding Iraq of its own dictator, the late Saddam Hussein.

President George W. Bush and his national security team told us Saddam had “weapons of mass destruction,” which became the primary selling point for launching the invasion. Our military launched a full frontal assault. It got to Baghdad. We scoured the country from stem to stern looking for WMD. We found none. Nothin’, man.

Oh, we eventually pulled Saddam out of that spider hole. The Iraqis put him on trial, convicted him of crimes against humanity — and hanged him.

Kim doesn’t want that to happen to himself or his closest sycophants.

The secretary of state is trying to sound a reasoned, rational tone. The president, though, keeps pre-empting him with talk of an entirely different nature. What’s more, the secretary of state does serve at the pleasure of the president.

‘On behalf of the American people … ‘

The parsing has begun.

Donald J. Trump sat down with Vladimir Putin today and said, according to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, that he wanted to raise an issue of “concern to the American people.”

The issue is Russian hacking and alleged interference in our 2016 presidential election. The president apparently didn’t raise any personal concerns with Putin about what intelligence agencies have determined, that Russia sought to influence the election outcome.

He was speaking “on behalf of Americans” who are concerned.

It’s fair, in my view, to wonder whether Trump’s equivocation somehow weakens his standing with regard to Putin even more.

Tillerson insisted that Trump “pressed” Putin on the election hacking matter. He raised the issue with him more than once during their longer-than-scheduled meeting, according to Tillerson.

Fine. I get it. Good for the president for “pressing” Putin, if that’s what he really did.

If the secretary of state is correct, that the president was demanding answers to questions on the minds of the Americans back home, then I have to wonder whether Donald Trump expressed any personal dismay/anger/outrage over what occurred during this past year’s election.

North Korea: most dangerous worldwide threat?

Let’s turn our attention for a moment or two to North Korea and its lunatic leader, Kim Jong Un.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the other day that military action against North Korea is “on the table” if Kim decides to do something foolish, such as launch a missile in the direction of the United States or one of our allies, such as, say, Japan or South Korea.

I guess it’s always been understood that military action would be an option for the United States. However, for the secretary of state to tell Kim Jong Un out loud and to put this guy on alert seems to me to be a dangerous potential gambit.

I’ve noted already that Kim may be nuts, but he ain’t stupid.

It’s the nuttiness that should cause us all grave concern.

North Korea has more than a million of its citizens in the military. The country has a total population of around 25 million. It spends far more than it can afford on its military apparatus.

Do you wonder what a guy like Kim would do to avoid a war with the United States? Look at this way: A leader who would allow his people to starve to death, to subject them to famine and to deny them health care just so he can build a military machine is capable of just about any act of idiocy imaginable.

Yeah, this guy is a frightening individual.

I am not sure whether Tillerson thinks his talk about the “military option” is going to persuade Kim Jong Un that a fight against the United States is not winnable.

My hope would be that it would give Kim pause. My fear is quite different. I fear he might conclude that a U.S. attack would finish the destruction of his country that he and his communist forebears have begun.

How in the world does one analyze what goes through what passes for this individual’s mind?

My next question is this: Does the president of the United States and his national security team have the moxie and savvy to contain this guy?

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?

Bolton’s mustache becomes an issue? Wow, man!

It turns out that women aren’t the only human beings who are being measured according to Donald J. Trump’s physical appearance yardstick.

Am I allowed to laugh out loud at this one?

John Bolton reportedly was nixed as a secretary of state candidate because the president-elect doesn’t like Bolton’s distinctive white mustache.

Political philosophy? World view? Some nutty notions about wanting to go to war with Iran? Bolton’s cavalier attitude about the use of nuclear weapons?


Pffttt! BFD. It’s the facial hair, dude.

I am shocked — shocked, I tell ya — to hear that Trump would be displeased at Bolton’s mustache.

According to the Washington Post: “Donald was not going to like that mustache,” an anonymous Trump associate told the Post about Bolton’s facial hair. “I can’t think of anyone that’s really close to Donald that has a beard that he likes.”

For his part, Bolton says he’s keeping the mustache. Good for him.

Good for the country, too, that Trump has decided that appearances matter as they relate to this guy Bolton.

Now, what about the buddy-buddy friendship that the fellow Trump did pick as secretary of state — Rex Tillerson — has with the Russian tyrant, Vladimir Putin?