Ever since a bombshell NBC News report last week, Rex Tillerson’s future as head of the State Department has seemed uncertain.
Why is that, you ask?
According to three administration officials, Tillerson called his boss, President Donald Trump, a “fucking moron” during a July 20 meeting at the Pentagon. The president wasn’t in attendance, but a slew of top-level national security staff were — as well as a few Cabinet-level officials.
Nevertheless, Tillerson hasn’t yet been ousted. Surprisingly, he hasn’t resigned, either, although the report states he has seriously considered the option. All the while, Trump himself continues to sabotage the secretary’s diplomatic mission.
In light of this indelicate quarrel, some have called on Tillerson to resign, saying his office holds no power when it is constantly upended by the president’s tweets. A final act of defiance is the only way Trump will understand the consequences of his misbehavior, they argue. But this line of thinking overlooks a key point: Whomever Trump appoints as replacement is likely to be far worse than the man stepping down.
Consider why Trump is at odds with Tillerson in the first place — the secretary is choosing loyalty to country over loyalty to the White House. Trump will almost certainly seek someone more pliant during his next go-around, with a recalcitrant Republican Congress more than willing to appoint another political stooge. This successor would be more likely to abet the president’s warmongering foreign policy. That is something we cannot allow.
Tillerson, who has privately revealed himself to be willing to stand up to the president, needs to stay put. The current administration is already full of political sycophants acting largely out of self-preservation. Tillerson is, comparatively speaking, an adult in a room full of spoiled children.
We’re in the midst of a diplomatic crisis with a nuclear-armed North Korea, a regime with which Tillerson claims to be in direct contact. Clear communication between Pyongyang and Washington is key to averting deadly catastrophe, yet Trump is more apt to continue his foolhardy saber-rattling, touting military solutions that could kill millions. The risk of miscalculation in a war of escalation only increases if the State Department undergoes major turnover, thus threatening this alleged dialogue between the United States and the DPRK at a point when such talk is most crucial.
Stay put, Mr. Secretary. Right now, the world needs you in a position of power. ■