Tillerson Dismisses Narrative Of Dysfunctional State Department


Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is pushing back against a prevailing narrative he is presiding over a broken and dysfunctional State Department.

Tillerson has drawn no small amount of criticism during the first six months of his tenure as the nation’s top diplomat. Observers inside and outside the government have scorned everything from his management style to his reluctance to seek out the media spotlight.

But the normally attention-averse former ExxonMobil CEO is now actively fighting the narrative he is presiding over a directionless State Department. As Tillerson quietly moves forward with the controversial task of reorganizing a tradition-bound bureacracy, he and his staff are rejecting charges that he is a “huge disappointment,” as Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson wrote last week.

“There are elements of truth in some of these stories,” Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan told the Associated Press. “But then they’re twisted in a way that makes it sound as though the secretary is out of touch, mismanaging, whatever. I see him, when he’s in town, three or four times a day. The guy is committed to the mission.”

As AP diplomatic correspondents Matt Lee and Josh Lederman note, much of the criticism directed at Tillerson is directed less at his actual job performance and more at his defying of the conventional wisdom of Washington’s rarefied foreign policy establishment.

In contrast with his recent predecessors, Tillerson prefers a more flexible, low-profile approach in his dealings with foreign counterparts — a style honed over a long career negotiating oil development deals with foreign governments. He has especially rejected the approach taken by former Secretary of State John Kerry, whose incessant travel and eagerness to take on every world crisis became fodder for inside jokes at the State Department, reports the AP.

Some observers have ripped Tillerson, and the Trump administration more broadly, for giving less attention to the promotion of democracy and human rights than previous U.S. foreign policy leaders. When reports surfaced earlier in August that the State Department might scrub references to democracy and a “just world” from its mission statement, former George W. Bush and Obama administration officials were quick to denounce the secretary of state.

 Tillerson’s allies, however, say his focus on results over ideals could help make progress with countries that may not share U.S. values or policy priorities.

“I think he came to the job with a feeling that America was approaching foreign policy with too much of a missionary zeal. We were telling the world what they ought to do,” John Hamre, president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told the AP. “He’s not a missionary for grand causes. He’s a pragmatist.”

In addition to that pragmatism, Tillerson has also brought from his ExxonMobil days a reluctance to seek out the limelight in the both media and within the State Department. While such caution may have served him well as a top oil executive in Texas, in Washington it has created a void filled by rumors and speculation that the State Department is suffering irreparable harm under his watch.

Perhaps sensing that he needs to manage expectations more directly, Tillerson has begun to address the concerns of State’s career workforce, many of whom feel they have been left in the dark about the secretary’s intentions.

“It’s to be expected that we will go through some morale issues early on,” Tillerson said this month.

“My observation has been that the vast majority of people in the building have done that,” he added. “Has everyone done it? No. Some people are still struggling to get over that and those are the voices that generally are heard.”

[contentcards url=”http://dailycaller.com/2017/08/14/tillerson-dismisses-narrative-of-dysfunctional-state-department/” target=”_blank”]

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact [email protected].

No Comments Yet

Leave a Reply

2021 © True Pundit. All rights reserved.