One would not expect the secretary of defense routinely to inspect the sentries and walk point on patrols, but, in effect, that is what the secretary of state has to do. He is the chief executive of a department numbering in the tens of thousands, and a budget in the tens of billions; but he is also the country’s chief diplomat, charged with conducting negotiations and doing much of the detailed work of American foreign policy.
Most of his interactions are with an insular circle of political aides who are new to the State Department. Many career diplomats say they still have not met him, and some have been instructed not to speak to him directly — or even make eye contact. On his first three foreign trips, Tillerson skipped visits with State Department employees and their families, embassy stops that were standard morale-boosters under other secretaries of state.
When it comes to taking on the world, the two words the Trump administration swears by are “America First.” [...] For Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who until now spent the entirety of his career at ExxonMobil, the challenge he faced on a headline-grabbing trip to Asia was how to translate President Donald Trump’s mandate into a workable foreign policy.
This function of the press in no way comports with Tillerson’s experience at ExxonMobil. [...] Oil is not an especially popular product, and its production generates manifold controversies, yet just about everybody needs oil, at least for now, so well-run corporations in the industry can be as durable as public utilities, no matter what consumers think. Some time ago, ExxonMobil executives concluded that they were better off avoiding journalists to the extent that it was possible, and putting out what little they had to say on their own Web site.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrives in Asia on Wednesday for his first foreign trip with almost no fanfare. He’s travelling on a “small plane” with “a modest footprint,” says a spokesman. He’s bringing along just one reporter and will hold only one brief press conference during his planned stops in Japan, South Korea and China. It’s a far cry from the splash Hillary Clinton made in February 2009 on her first trip abroad as secretary of state, following a similar itinerary through Asia.
Mexico's nominee to be its next ambassador to the United States said Thursday that the two countries' relationship is at a “critical” juncture with the new administration of President Donald Trump. Ahead of high-level talks scheduled for next week in Mexico City, ambassador-in-waiting Geronimo Gutierrez Fernandez said Mexico must pursue a good relationship with Washington but that should not come “at all costs nor under just any conditions,” or in a way that is “to the detriment of national interest.”
These professionals need Tillerson just as Tillerson will need these professionals to conduct America’s foreign relations and to repair the damage done to relationships in the past several weeks. America’s newest face to the world will need to present a more reassuring diplomacy than that conducted most recently. In banning visas for all citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries, Trump played to the fears of his nativist political base.
Can Rex Tillerson help salvage the U.S.' image abroad under the Trump administration?