Posted: 2:45 am ET
‘Rexit’ was in the news for a few days. Reports that Secretary Tillerson had gone to Texas, putting in 20-hour workdays while also on some time off did not help quell the rumors. Last week during an appearance at the State Department with the Foreign Minister of Qatar, Secretary Tillerson told the press that he is not going anywhere, and that he is staying as long as President Trump would let him. And that helped taper off the Rexit talks.
There are quite a few reasons why Secretary Tillerson will not be in a hurry to exit, despite issues with the White House, or his inability to pick his own staff, or being publicly undermined by his boss. Here he is in his own words.
“We’re going to carve our piece into that history.”
In Secretary Tillerson’s remarks to State Department employees in May, he talked about history.
“One of the great honors for me serving in this department, the Department of State, and all of you know, the Department of State, first cabinet created and chartered under the Constitution. Secretary of State, first cabinet position chartered and created under the Constitution. So we are part of a living history and we’re going to get to carve our little piece of it, our increment, in that clock of time. We’re going to carve our piece into that history.”
Aaron David Miller and Richard Sokolsky on CNN writes that “Tillerson does not have a small ego. He doesn’t want to be the answer to the question in a game of Trivial Pursuit of which Secretary of State holds the record for the shortest tenure in the modern era.” We should add that Tillerson was the CEO of the 6th largest company in the world in terms of revenue. His compensation was in the millions and he apparently has a right to deferred stock worth approximately $180 million over the next 10 years. He does not need another job for the rest of his life after he steps down as secretary of state. But his reputation, which is all that’s left in the end, could suffer.
Questions are already being asked, “Is he the worst Secretary of State in living memory?”
What he does here, now, history will remember, and history is judgy.
So he will be mindful of history and his place in that history. We don’t think he will leave his post without being able to cite a major accomplishment during his tenure. A potential accomplishment could be the reorganization of the State Department, but that is not happening overnight.
“How do we effect the change and begin to get that into place?”
In a June 13, 2017 appearance at the Senate Appropriations Sub-Committee, Secretary Tillerson talked about the timeframe of his reorganization plan (see Notable Details From Tillerson’s Congressional Appearances on FY18 Budget Request).
“We hope to have the way forward, the next step framed here in the kind of August timeframe, so that we can then begin the redesign process itself September. I’m hoping we can have all of that concluded by the end of the calendar year, and then ’18 will be a year of how do we implement this now? How do we effect the change and begin to get that into place?”
We don’t think he will leave before the reorganization is completed at the State Department, and implementation for that is not even happening until sometime in 2018. If he leaves his position before his agency’s reorganization is completed, what will his Wikipedia page say? That he started reorganizing the Department of State and then he quit to spend more time with his family? Oftentimes reorganizations cause unpalatable changes — and if the real reasons for this reorganization are cost efficiencies and effectiveness (as opposed to WH vindictiveness for that leaked dissent cable) — how do you make it stick if the chief sponsor of the reorganization leaves?
Remember Condi Rice’s “transformation” initiative and job repositioning efforts at the State Department? She did not step down for two more years following that splashy announcement. And even that was not enough to make the changes stick. The heart of change is changing hearts, and a secretary of state perceived to be disconnected from the building and his people will find the job of changing a bureaucracy almost as old as this country even harder, and tougher.
“We don’t intend to leave anybody out.”
During his remarks to employees in May, Tillerson talked about the State Department as a ship, and his tenure as taking a voyage with his employees, to get “there” wherever that is. And he talked about not leaving anybody out.
“But we’re on all this ship, on this voyage together. And so we’re going to get on the ship and we’re going to take this voyage, and when we get there, we’re all going to get off the ship at wherever we arrive. But we’re all going to get on and we’re going to get off together. We don’t intend to leave anybody out.”
While it may not be his intention, he actually is already leaving the entire building out. We don’t know how he feels about that. We do know that Mr. Tillerson would have a better relationship with Foggy Bottom, and a better chance at successfully fulfilling his job if not for the small circle of individuals controlling the air space over the secretary of state.
Secretary Tillerson is in a bubble with his interaction in the building scrupulously laundered through an inner circle of advisers who are dismissive of people who are not considered worthy and who see dark shadows in every corner. We understand that Secretary Tillerson does not meet with career staffers without the presence of at least a member or two from his inner circle (this circle should have a name, hey?). As if somehow, his folks are afraid that Tillerson might get poked and wake up to the reality he is in. Tillerson’s front office managers have done an atrocious job of representing him inside the building. Changing that should be Tillerson’s top priority, then he won’t leave the entire building out.
“I want to shake the hand of every State Department employee…”
In a remarks to employees earlier this month, Tillerson said that he wanted to shake the hand of every State Department employee. The State Department has over 75,000 employees in Foggy Bottom and at over 270 posts worldwide.
“I want to shake the hand of every State Department employee at some point during this tenure of mine, anyway. You’re all extremely important to us — individual, but you’re extremely important to us, collectively, in what you do.”
So he’s not going to get that hand-shaking done before the end of the year. To-date, Secretary Tillerson has travelled nine times overseas to twenty-two foreign destinations. He’s got ways to go here and there.
And there is a bonus reason why Secretary Tillerson will not be be resigning soon or in the foreseeable future. According to the secretary of state’s strategic adviser, “As long as there are rogue regimes pursuing nuclear weapons or terrorists seeking safe haven the secretary will remain on the job.”
Well, that’s it then. Waiting for the collapse of rogue regimes and terrorists before you quit makes for quite a long wait. Unless his boss think otherwise, and tweets after this blogpost is posted online.