Tuesday, March 13, 2018

What did Donald Trump do today?

He not only fired his Secretary of State, he fired another high-ranking State Department official for announcing that he'd fired the Secretary of State.

At 8:44 A.M., Trump announced via Twitter that Rex Tillerson had been fired. While Trump and Tillerson had been on shaky terms almost since the beginning--Tillerson reportedly called Trump a "fucking moron" in an unguarded moment--the catalyst for the firing seems to have been Tillerson's statement blaming Russia for a nerve gas attack against an ex-Russian dissident on British soil. That statement, though far milder than Britain's condemnation, sharply contrasted with the Trump White House's usual policy of absolute deference to the Putin regime.

Outside of the realm of reality TV, Trump is notoriously shy about actual confrontation, and there was immediate speculation that Tillerson was learning about his firing at the same time as the rest of the world. 

By ten o'clock, Steve Goldstein, the fourth-ranking official at the State Department, had confirmed that Tillerson was out and that he had been unaware of Trump's decision when it was announced.

By noon, Goldstein himself had been fired. White House officials confirmed that Trump had fired Goldstein explicitly for providing details about the circumstances of Tillerson's firing.

Why should anyone care about this?

  • Presidents should be more concerned about attacks on allies than they are about punishing diplomats for acknowledging them.
  • A president who is too afraid to tell people directly that they are fired is not likely to suddenly become courageous in defending the country against actual threats.
  • It's wrong to punish government employees for speaking truthfully about matters of public interest.