(Image: Ty Wright—Getty Images; Tillerson: Alexei Nikolsky—Tass/Getty Images)
BY ELLIE LONGMAN-ROOD, North America Editor
It is not news that Trump was planning on bringing his cut-throat business background to the White House. Last month America was exposed to the latest example of this approach. On 13th March, the Trump administration had yet another casualty. Trump posted on Twitter that, effectively, the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was to be shown the door. The same tweet announced that Mike Pompeo was to become Tillerson’s replacement, with Gina Haspel to become the first female Director of the FBI in Pompeo’s place. Despite months of friction between the Ex-Secretary and Trump, this was a move that few were expecting. Least of all Tillerson. This is all too clear from the reoccurring rumours that the social media post was how he found out about his sacking. Across vast media outlets, Tillerson was seen to be oblivious and completely unaware that he was to be replaced. This all makes it incredibly fair to ask where is the level of professionalism voters were promised when Trump became President? There certainly has been a privation of it in recent months.
To say it has been a rough ride for Rex Tillerson is certainly an understatement. Despite being highly recommended by Condaleeza Rice, a veteran of Bush junior’s cabinet, he faced a tight confirmation process through the Senate, of an unexpectedly close vote of 56-43. While this may seem overwhelmingly close, it is important to consider that before Tillerson the most opposition votes a Secretary of State had faced in confirmation had been 14. Needless to say, it was a fairly unwelcome choice for a cabinet position. Yet, considering the anti-Trump climate immediately post the election, this perhaps did not raise as many red flags as it should have done. But if we look further back, Tillerson’s background appears to mirror Trump’s. The ex-CEO of ExxonMobil was definitely no stranger to the businessman lifestyle Trump had come from. Arguably, making him an appealing ally for Trump to have in his cabinet.
It is definitely fair to say that Tillerson and Trump have taken similar routes to the White House. Yet, it seems that one of the worst kept secrets of the current White House is that the two have never truly seen eye to eye on anything, let alone policy. This was made abundantly clear at the G20 Summit last Summer. During the summit, Trump had to step out for a short while for a meeting with the President of Indonesia, and rather unconventionally his daughter Ivanka Trump was requested to take his seat during this time. Since it is much more by the book to replace the absence with the Secretary of State, this was a rather indirect and cheap shot to Tillerson. To many onlookers, it may have seen a fairly harmless replacement, but to those in the know, it is said that Trump was far more comfortable with nepotism than with trusting Tillerson to speak on his behalf. This tension only appeared to get worse as Trump’s administration continued. In January this year, Tillerson admitted he was still “finding it difficult to work with Trump” and openly called him a “moron”. With name-calling and people being left out of the loop happening on a weekly basis, the White House had turned into a school playground rather than the efficient and professional atmosphere Trump had promised Americans.
This brings to light the real issue behind the White House gaining a new Secretary of State in such a blunt manner. That issue is respect and professionalism; or rather a lack of. Arguably, it may well have been time to say goodbye to Tillerson. But, this does not mean it needed to be handled the way it was. If nothing else it further disconnects the centre right from the White House. Thus, leaving many Americans who do not consider themselves left-wing but hold dear some right-wing ideals feeling lost and disappointed. Let us not forget, Trump had a campaign based on being a normal and hardworking businessman. Yet, this latest action is something no professional businessman or women would even consider doing.
Various news outlets and social media sites have started to make light of the situation, claiming ‘well, what else do we expect’ as each new Trump story becomes the new political norm. Such as Trevor Noah on “The Daily Show” stating that “working for the Trump White House is basically like being in a Saw movie. You show up, get tortured for a while, and get killed off!”. Yes, comments like these are quick-witted and indeed tickle our funny bone. However, it seems that we begin to expect less and less of our leaders, bringing the level intellectual discussions lower and lower. When we take this news story down to basics, it is a tale of someone’s employment status being announced to the general public before the employee in question is informed. Let’s relate this to daily public life. You work in Marks & Spencers, Tesco or really any form of retail. On a Friday afternoon you are just helping the store close up when you hear something like the following announcement on the tannoy:
“The store will be closing in 15 minutes, please make your way to the till. Oh, and Joe Bloggs, thank you so much for your service but your employment with us ends here. We wish you the best of luck for the future. Thank-you and have a pleasant weekend!”
It would never happen, so why have we come to expect less and less of our leaders when by very definition we are supposed to hold them to a higher standard? The only way to get out of this cycle is to not to accept these bizarre acts as America’s new political norm and instead, demand better. This is by no means an easy task, but what is the alternative? To sit and allow a renowned and noble building in the States turn into a crèche? To have the cabinet singing in unison in the Oval Office “Donald and Rex worked near “The Hill” fighting over a pail of water. Donald got out his phone, and made a tweet that pushed Rex down; will Donald come tumbling after?”.
Perhaps with all this reshuffling what Trump really has not calculated is that Americans are reaching their limit. With the midterms looming, this latest action of Trump’s may well bring about his own political downfall.