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The purpose of having a Secretary of State- or indeed any cabinet members at all - is to bring a certain expertise to the White House. A president can't be expected to be a jack-of-all-trades, and his Cabinet should be able to voice their own opinions, even if they are at odds with the president's. Trump certainly has the right to fire his Secretary of State (reportedly for trying to save the Iran nuke deal, in the case of Tillerson, and opposition to tariffs in the case of Gary Cohn). But if he's just looking for a bunch of yes men, that's not a good thing.

Emma Ashford at the Cato Institute has more.

Nothing about Rex Tillerson’s firing should surprise us, except perhaps its timing. Tillerson has often been at odds with his boss in the White House, whether on Russia, Iran, or North Korea. Though widely hailed as one of the ‘adults in the room,’ it’s not clear he had much influence at all on Trump’s biggest foreign policy decisions. He was widely disliked inside his own agency; civil servants at Foggy Bottom hated his insularity and his plans to massively cut the State Department’s budget and diplomatic capacity.

Even the casual cruelty of the firing should not surprise us. Sure, the President fired his Secretary of State via Twitter, while Tillerson was abroad, without apparently offering him any explanation or courtesy phone call. But from the man who fired James Comey, his FBI Director, via television while Comey was on-stage giving a public speech, this was almost polite.

But while Tillerson’s firing has been expected for some time, it will have big implications. Tillerson may not have had much influence with the President, but he was one of the administration’s more reasonable voices. He apparently had a good relationship with Secretary of Defense James Mattis, acting as a sounding board for ideas, and both men have advocated against some of Trump’s more disastrous foreign policy decisions.

It’s always been questionable the extent to which these so-called ‘adults in the room’ could actually constrain Trump on foreign policy issues. But with the loss of Tillerson and – last week – of Gary Cohn of the National Economic Council, we will see them replaced by advisors who appear to be trying not to restrain the President’s worst impulses, but instead to indulge them. On tariffs, conflict and more, things have the potential to get a lot worse.

Mike Pompeo, Trump’s new pick for Secretary of State, will move from the CIA. In that role, he has certainly been more effective than Tillerson in building a relationship with the President. But he has also often adopted highly political stances on policy, advocating strongly for the President to withdraw from the Iranian nuclear deal, and speaking out publicly in favor of Trump’s political and policy decisions far more often than is typical for the Director of the CIA.

Pompeo’s background is in the military, not in diplomacy, and he has little experience of high-level diplomatic negotiations. And given his personal views, Pompeo is likely to strengthen many of the President’s worst instincts: he is extremely hostile towards Iran and the Iranian nuclear deal, he has been hawkish on North Korea, and – where Tillerson took a more balanced approach - has largely supported Saudi Arabia in the ongoing Gulf Crisis.

His lateral shift from CIA to State Department will also create a secondary controversy. Trump’s choice to replace him is Gina Haspel, a career veteran at the agency, and potentially the first woman to hold the job of CIA Director. She is undoubtedly a better choice than uber-hawk Tom Cotton (R-AR), who was widely expected to get the job.

So far, so good. But Haspel was also heavily involved in the rendition and torture scandals of the mid-2000s, running a rendition center in Thailand, and implicated in the destruction of interrogation tapes. Her nomination will raise all the old debates about the Bush-era torture programs, and her confirmation hearings are likely to be fraught as a result.

Even Pompeo’s confirmation hearings may produce some difficulties: during hearings for his current job, Pompeo promised to be impartial on the question of the JCPOA. Yet he has been one of the strongest and most active supporters of Trump’s decision to decertify the accord. Congressional Democrats in particular may question why he backed away from his prior promises, and whether they can trust what he says in these hearings.

Tillerson’s firing was predictable, but it opens a whole new set of concerns, from the petty (i.e., fraught and difficult confirmation hearings) to the critical (i.e., an increasingly hawkish line-up in the White House and raised risk for conflict). Rex Tillerson’s tenure as Secretary of State was hardly a success. Unfortunately, what comes after is likely to be worse.

Onward and upward,

Posts: 17691 | From: Tulsa | Registered: Jan 2002  | Report this post to a Moderator

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Trump Fires Goldstein Amid State Dept. Purge
President also cutting through isolation by staff

Kit Daniels

Steve Goldstein, the State Dept. official who publicly disputed the terms of Rex Tillerson’s firing, was summarily fired by President Trump as part of his “spring cleaning” of the State Dept.

Goldstein received notice of his dismissal by phone not long after he fed ammunition to the media by challenging the reasoning behind Tillerson’s termination, claiming the departing secretary of state was “unaware of the reason” for his firing.

“Goldstein had also told reporters that Tillerson learned of his firing Tuesday morning from Trump’s tweet announcing he was nominating CIA chief Mike Pompeo to lead the State Department, while the White House claimed that [Chief of Staff] John Kelly had notified Tillerson on Friday evening,” reported Zero Hedge.

This poses an interesting question: Did Kelly actually tell Tillerson on Friday, as he was expected to?

That said, it shouldn’t be that surprising to Tillerson why he was fired because he was rarely on the same page as Trump when it came to foreign relations and national security issues.

Accordingly, Goldstein was fired partly because he was more loyal to Tillerson than anyone else, which explains why he practically attacked the White House over Tillerson’s firing.

On a related note, President Trump has taken a more active role in running the day-to-day affairs of the White House by grabbing the reins at times from Kelly.

Trump is preventing himself from being isolated by his own staff, a real danger given how Kelly and others have acted as gatekeepers by preventing information from flowing to the president.

“It used to be, according to what we’ve been told, the Oval Office door was open and you could walk in with anything you found anywhere on the internet and give it to Trump, and he’d take it for what it was and react to it,” said radio host Rush Limbaugh. “But the new chief of staff put limits on who is able to get in there.”

This isolation poses a great danger to the president as it removes him from his base whose voices are largely ignored by the mainstream media.

"The time for war has not yet come, but it will come and that soon, and when it does come, my advice is to draw the sword and throw away the scabbard." Gen. T.J. Jackson, March 1861

Posts: 15661 | From: A 059 Btn 16 FF MSC | Registered: Oct 2001  | Report this post to a Moderator
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Rand Paul will oppose the appointment of both Mike Pompeo and Gina Haspel.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) plans to oppose the nominations of Mike Pompeo for secretary of state and Gina Haspel as Pompeo's replacement running the Central Intelligence Agency.

Paul's opposition could complicate the Trump administration's plans to replace outgoing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who was fired this week and will leave his post at the end of the month.

When it comes to picking a replacement for America's top diplomat, Paul says he could not support nominees who are trying to steer Trump in a more interventionalist direction.

"I cannot endorse his nomination of people who loved the Iraq war so much that they want an Iran war next," Paul says. "President Trump sought to break with the foreign policy mistakes of the last two administrations. Yet now he picks for secretary of state and CIA director people who embody them, defend them, and, I'm afraid, will repeat them."

Paul sits on the crucial Senate Foreign Relations Committee, giving him significant leverage over these nominations. If the committee's 10 Democratic members also oppose Pompeo's or Haspel's appointment, Paul would be the swing vote on the 21-member committee. If either nominations make it to the Senate floor via a different route (Senate leaders could bypass the committee process, Politico says), Republicans could face another close vote with a slim 51–49 majority.

There's good reason for lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to think long and hard about a confirmation vote for Pompeo. As Emma Ashford explains, Pompeo has been very vocal on policy, including his outspoken support for withdrawing from the Iranian nuclear deal. It's unusual for the director of the CIA to speak out on matters of policy, and Pompeo's tendency to do so might complicate the high-level diplomatic negotiations he would oversee as secretary of state. When it comes to other potential hotspots, from North Korea to the ongoing proxy war on the Arabian Peninsula, Pompeo is likely to take a more hawkish stance than Tillerson did.

Domestically, Pompeo has supported the expansion of a surveillance state. In a 2016 Wall Street Journal op-ed, Pompeo called on Congress to "pass a law re-establishing collection of all metadata, and combining it with publicly available financial and lifestyle information into a comprehensive, searchable database." He has also called for the execution of Edward Snowden.

Paul opposed Pompeo's appointment to run the CIA last year, saying in January 2017 that Pompeo's "desire for security will trump his defense of liberty."

Less high-profile but no less important is Trump's pick to replace Pompeo at the CIA. Paul says that Haspel's record on torture, which includes running a CIA "black site" prison in Thailand, should disqualify her from consideration.

Onward and upward,

Posts: 17691 | From: Tulsa | Registered: Jan 2002  | Report this post to a Moderator

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