State’s abrupt switch needed to put US policy on track

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While there were plenty of gasps, handwringing and pearl-clutching among some when President Trump abruptly fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday, one would have had to be completely blind to not see if coming.

Granted, the process of firing Tillerson could have been handled much better by Trump. Tillerson, by any standard, is one of the more accomplished secretaries of state we’ve had in recent times. Because of his resume, and simply because of the prestige of the position, it would have been nice if there’d been a face-to-face meeting in the Oval Office, a simple explanation of why it wasn’t going to work out, followed by a firm handshake and thanks for his service. 

{mosads}However, at the end of the day, every member of the executive branch serves at the pleasure of the president, and when POTUS is no longer pleased with that service, he may fire anyone he pleases — by carrier pigeon, if he so chooses.


An administration cannot be truly successful on the foreign policy front when its chief diplomat and his president are not on the same page on almost anything. That’s why Tillerson’s tenure at the state department was untenable for so many different reasons: It’s hard to list what he actually agreed with Trump on; it is, however, very easy to list where he disagreed on major issues — from moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, to Qatar, to how to handle North Korea, to the very significant issue of the Iranian nuclear deal. 

Behind the scenes, Tillerson also was of the very firm opinion that he would decide the staffing of the state department, which isn’t quite how it works, and he appeared disinterested in putting any real weight behind getting the ambassadorship slots fully filled. Throw into the mix his not-very-well-hidden friction with Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, and it’s somewhat amazing he lasted as long as he did.

Change was coming and it was inevitable. In light of potential talks with North Korea, yesterday was as good a day as any to make the change. And there is little mystery as to why Trump tapped Mike Pompeo to be the new secretary of state.

From being an early supporter of Trump’s presidential bid, to being a respected conservative member of the House Select Committee on Intelligence with a resume that includes West Point and Harvard, Pompeo’s 14 months as CIA director were important, as he helped realign the agency but also solidified something with Trump that Tillerson never seemed to have (or, seemingly, never really cared to have): personal rapport with the president.

There is also real alignment between Pompeo and Trump on some of the major issues facing this administration. In Congress, Pompeo was a hardliner on Iran, likening its current regime to a “thuggish police state,” and said that he looked forward to rolling back the disastrous nuclear deal with the “world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism.”

The wails one heard Tuesday with the announcement of Pompeo’s new role emanated from Ben Rhodes, President Obama’s deputy national security advisor, who saw the real beginning of the end for the terrible Iran deal that he engineered. 

He’s also taken a hardline stance on North Korea, saying that there must be regime change to solve the nuclear crisis. In light of President Trump’s potential talks with North Korea, there is simply no way that Trump could have gone into those talks with Tillerson at his side.

With his personal rapport, Pompeo is simpatico with Trump on the major issues, simply by having a similar worldview. Now, as secretary of state-designee (and very likely to be confirmed easily), Pompeo will have a much larger role in putting Trump’s foreign policy into action but also in selling it to the American public as well.

He’s been one of the administration’s best spokespersons on the Sunday morning news shows, and will be a much stronger “salesman” than Tillerson: When you are philosophically aligned and have a personal relationship with the boss, it makes it much easier to sell and defend the boss’s policies.

While the change at the Department of State was abrupt, it was a necessary realignment moment at a very good time. With Pompeo at his side, President Trump will now have a much more unified front as he and his administration tackle the desperately important issues of Iran and North Korea in the days and months ahead.

Ned Ryun is a former presidential writer for George W. Bush and the founder and CEO of American Majority.

Tags Business Donald Trump Foreign policy of the Donald Trump administration Iran Ivanka Trump Jared Kushner Mike Pompeo North Korea Rex Tillerson Rex Tillerson United States

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