By Miles Flynn | The Broadside (Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org)
President Donald Trump took to Twitter to announce that CIA chief Mike Pompeo would be taking over the role of Secretary of State from former Exxon Executive Rex Tillerson on March 13.
This came as a shock to Tillerson, who prior to the tweet, had been in Africa conducting diplomatic meetings in Chad, Nigeria, Kenya, and Ethiopia where he visited Addis Ababa, the capital and host city for the African Union.
Tom Barry, Central Oregon Community College Prof. of Sociology, found the situation “unorthodox.”
Barry touched on the idea that, while this may come as one of many firings in the presidential term, it’s important to see the “Package of behavior that becomes acceptable when the president does something like this,” Barry said. “It’s a statement about how he operates for sure, he doesn’t put value in relationships the way past presidents have.”
Murray Godfrey, Asst. Prof. II of History at COCC, clarified the historical precedent for this kind of event, first echoing Barry’s sentiment that “President Trump does not value the kind of things that our past presidents have value.”
Previous presidents, such as Barack Obama with Hillary Clinton and John Kerry or George W. Bush with Colin Powell, have made choices for cabinet positions like Sec. of State from a “short list of people the party and the establishment deems appropriate,” Godfrey said.
“He values loyalty, and Rex Tillerson, from what I’ve read, was not someone he knew well and not someone who was part of the group he brought into the White House. He was someone who was recommended from the Republican establishment.” This, coupled with the alleged disrespectful comments made by former Sec. Tillerson towards Trump, didn’t bode well in this administration.
To understand a high level cabinet member like Sec. of State being fired, “You kind of have to go back to before World War 2,” Godfrey said. “[The] secretaries of state being fired a year in is not something that’s happened since World War 2.”
Godfrey said that after the second world war, once America realized its international impact, there was an understanding that cabinet positions like the Sec. of State should be occupied by “people who were universally respected and had some of these high level positions in their previous lives.”
Although there hasn’t been a firing this early in the term in recent American history, there have been disagreements between presidents and their cabinets. “Reagan had some issues with his first Sec. of State [Alexander Haig Jr., who resigned after a year and a half] and there’s been a lot of cabinet turnover in less important positions, but typically a president has two maybe three Secs. of State. At this rate, Trump might have two or three in his first term,” said Godfrey.
Only time will tell how this administration will turn out. ■