Politico reports: en President-elect Donald Trump announced last week that he wanted ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson to be his secretary of state, many in the foreign policy establishment were worried. Aside from the fact that Tillerson has zero public service experience, his history of striking oil deals with foreign leaders, notably Vladimir Putin, raises questions about his ability to defend U.S. interests that may conflict those of ExxonMobil.
But the State Department has a bigger disruption to worry about.
The person who actually sets the department’s diplomatic agenda — in ways both overt and subtle — isn’t the secretary of state; it’s the president. The president’s words, as uttered in speeches and other official statements, literally shape American foreign policy. In turn, State Department bureaucrats rely on the commander in chief to articulate clear, thoughtful and consistent views, based on facts and a knowledge of history. Only then can the entire weight of the large State Department bureaucracy follow seamlessly behind him — and carry out his goals.
As Trump veers from one surprise tweet to the next — at times misspelled 140-character statements that seem to contradict decades of U.S. foreign policy, State Department bureaucrats are facing a unique challenge: How to follow the lead of a president who seems uninterested in consistency, protocol and nuance? [Continue reading…]