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  • #16
    Tillerson rebuts 'fatigue' reports: South Korea 'never invited us for dinner'

    By Rebecca Morin
    | 03/18/17 09:06 AM EDT

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    Secretary of State Rex Tillerson denied reports in South Korean media outlets that he did not dine with the country's officials due to "fatigue" on a leg of his Asia trip, according to an interview published Saturday.

    "They never invited us for dinner, then at the last minute they realized that optically it wasn’t playing very well in public for them, so they put out a statement that we didn’t have dinner because I was tired," Tillerson told Independent Journal Review's Erin McPike during a sit-down interview in which Tillerson also said he's "not a big media press access person."


    The State Department was criticized after it initially announced no reporters from U.S. outlets would be traveling with Tillerson on his trip to South Korea, Japan and China. It was later revealed that McPike would be traveling with Tillerson. But McPike was not considered a pool reporter and did not provide regular updates.

    A report Friday in the Korea Herald said that Tillerson "shortened diplomatic consultations and public events in Seoul." The former Exxon Mobil executive also did not dine with Hwang Kyo-ahn, the South Korean acting president, and Yun Byung-se, the country’s foreign minister.

    The Korea Herald cited Seoul officials saying that Tillerson opted not to dine with the officials as a result of "fatigue."

    When asked whether the Seoul officials lied, Tillerson said "it was just their explanation."

    The secretary of state went on to say that he did have dinner that night, but did not disclose with whom.

    "The host country decides whether we are going to do things or not," Tillerson told McPike. "We didn’t decide that."

    The Korea Herald noted that during Tillerson's visit to Japan, he spent several hours meeting with Japanese officials, which included dinner meetings. Tillerson also cited a transitional government in Seoul — following the recent impeachment of former President Park Geun-hye — as a reason for lesser contact with officials there.

    Tillerson also said during the interview with McPike that he is "not a big media press access person."

    "I’m not a big media press access person. I personally don’t need it," Tillerson told McPike. "I understand it’s important to get the message of what we’re doing out, but I also think there’s only a purpose in getting the message out when there’s something to be done."

    Tillerson said that when the State Department is "ready to talk about what we’re trying to do, I will be available to talk to people."

    "But doing daily availability, I don’t have this appetite or hunger to be that, have a lot of things, have a lot of quotes in the paper or be more visible with the media," Tillerson said. "I view that the relationship that I want to have with the media, is the media is very important to help me communicate not just to the American people, but to others in the world that are listening.

    "And when I have something important and useful to say, I know where everybody is and I know how to go out there and say it."
    To sit down with these men and deal with them as the representatives of an enlightened and civilized people is to deride ones own dignity and to invite the disaster of their treachery - General Matthew Ridgway


    • #17
      well, the silly fatigue stuff i won't discuss, but this is worth bringing up.

      Click image for larger version

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      things you notice as a China-watcher:

      - SECSTATE is now using official Chinese talking points
      - SECSTATE, or at least his speechwriter, is not getting input from State Dept's many China specialists
      There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."- Isaac Asimov


      • #18
        That, at the same time of "more and better" arms for Taiwan, plus saber-rattling at NK. Makes one wonder if somebody isn't dozing on the wheel.
        All those who are merciful with the cruel will come to be cruel to the merciful.
        -Talmud Kohelet Rabbah, 7:16.


        • #19
          Well I'm enjoying the self importance of the media

          SUBSCRIBELOG INAsia Pacific

          Rex Tillerson’s Hope for a Media-Free Bubble May Burst

          A Chinese paramilitary police officer stood guard by Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson’s plane in Beijing on Sunday. Mr. Tillerson allowed only one reporter on the plane for his trip to Asia.
          By DAVID E. SANGER
          MARCH 19, 2017
          SEOUL, South Korea — Rex W. Tillerson, the new secretary of state, offered the diplomatic understatement of the month on Saturday when he told the sole reporter he permitted on his airplane: “I’m not a big media press access person. I personally don’t need it.”

          Perhaps, by breaking with a half-century of past practice and flying off without the regular State Department correspondents on board, Mr. Tillerson was hoping to continue to operate in a style that worked well for him as chief executive of Exxon Mobil. In that job, he could negotiate complex oil and gas deals behind closed doors and then inform his board of directors and shareholders afterward.

          Certainly, his predecessors at the State Department have all wished for more time, space and secrecy to work through some of the world’s knottiest problems. The North Korea crisis that dominated this trip is a prime example of one that, if mishandled, could easily veer into war.

          Yet long experience teaches that foreign policy is rarely made in the kind of media-free bubble that Mr. Tillerson wants. Maybe John Hay had that luxury as secretary of state under Presidents William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt, when the United States was just emerging as a global power. But in the modern era, everyone from Dean Acheson to John Kerry has found that superpower diplomacy abhors a news vacuum.

          When America’s top diplomats create one, adversaries and allies usually fill it with their own narrative of events, their own proposals, their own accounts of encounters with Washington.

          Sure, there have occasionally been secret deals — Henry Kissinger’s mission to China when he was President Richard M. Nixon’s national security adviser, for example — but they are rare. And American diplomats generally have little luck presenting the world with faits accompli.

          Both at home and abroad, public diplomacy is about persuading the world that a particular solution is in the global interest, not just the American interest. And that often means building an argument while the diplomacy is in progress, or else risking a loss of influence and control of the narrative. That, and ego, are usually what make a secretary of state a “media press access person.”

          Mr. Tillerson got a brief taste of this reality even before beginning his somewhat rocky first outing in Asia. China tried to box him in by reviving an old proposal for a “freeze” of North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs in return for an American-led freeze of all military exercises with South Korea.

          It is one of those ideas that sound eminently sensible at first hearing. Who would oppose a diplomatic timeout for North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests, which are escalating toward demonstration of an intercontinental ballistic missile that could splash down off Seattle or Los Angeles?

          After all, that’s how diplomacy with Iran began six years ago, ultimately leading to a nuclear deal that, love it or hate it, took an apparently imminent military conflict and defused it for a decade or so. Doing something similar with North Korea is an idea that some American proliferation experts embrace as the least-bad option on a menu of nothing but bad options.

          At a brief news conference in Seoul, Mr. Tillerson did use the words “imminent threat” to describe the North Korean program, and accurately noted that a freeze “would leave North Korea with significant capabilities that would represent a true threat, not just to the region, but to American forces.” But other than that, he never grappled head-on with the Chinese arguments in favor of their proposal — which left the door open for his Chinese counterpart to restate his case in Beijing.

          As a senior South Korean official told me after Mr. Tillerson’s meeting, “there are South Korean politicians” — including one or two who could become president after a snap election next month — “who may find the Chinese approach preferable to the risk of a conflict.”

          The Chinese example here is a small one, but it is telling. In past administrations, the State Department would have used the long flight to Asia to give reporters a sense of its arguments and long-term strategy. The secretary of state would have wandered back to the press seats on the plane and offered, on “background,” the administration’s thinking about the major issue of the day.

          Mr. Kissinger was a master of this spin; James A. Baker III, Colin L. Powell, Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton were no novices, either. And often, it is more than spin: It is a way for the secretary to test whether an idea has a half-life longer than the plane ride.

          “It’s not about access. It’s about context,” John Kirby, who has served as spokesman for both the Pentagon and the State Department and is considered one of the best at navigating the process, wrote on Twitter in response to Mr. Tillerson’s declarations.

          Mr. Kirby is right: The most important paragraphs in most articles about diplomatic news are the explanatory ones that lay out the administration’s strategy and assess whether it is tenable in light of history, or the facts on the ground, or other realities that the secretary of state may not want to discuss.

          As Mr. Kirby himself has noted, State Department correspondents work a bit differently from those at the White House. They do not often shout their questions, and television cameras are absent from many of the most important briefings. “Many have covered the beat for decades,” he noted over the weekend. “They know the complexities, the history.” (Not all of us took the “decades” part as a compliment.)

          The group that has covered the State Department is heavy with former foreign correspondents and war correspondents who have lived around the world, have sources in foreign capitals and write books about the global challenges the country faces. Their hotel-bar conversations have been known to run to wonkish topics like deterrence theory.

          So it might not be surprising that Mr. Tillerson doesn’t want them in the back of his airplane, talking to his staff and probing how the new administration’s approach to North Korea and China might differ from what predecessors tried. As he said in that interview with the one journalist he brought along — a reporter from the Independent Journal Review, a conservative-leaning website that had never covered a State Department trip before — Mr. Tillerson has something more one-way in mind.

          “I view that relationship that I want to have with the media, is the media is very important to help me communicate not just to the American people, but to others in the world that are listening,” Mr. Tillerson was quoted as saying. “And when I have something important and useful to say, I know where everybody is, and I know how to go out there and say it.”

          There is something to be said for his approach. Clearly, Mr. Tillerson wants to shake up the foreign policy elite, and that starts with a press corps that feeds in the very swamp this administration says it wants to drain. He also says he is saving money by using a smaller plane (though news organizations pay steeply for each employee who flies with the secretary).

          This early in Mr. Trump’s tenure, many policy decisions have not yet been debated thoroughly within his administration, so as Mr. Tillerson noted on Saturday, there is not much for him to say. And there would be considerable risk in getting out ahead of his sometimes mercurial boss. (That boss, Mr. Tillerson conceded, went ahead and posted a Twitter message complaining that “China has done little to help!” without running it past him first.)

          Yet there is something else that Mr. Tillerson’s policy forgoes: the often useful symbolism of top American officials’ being seen to travel with a free and intrusive press asking questions that leaders do not want to hear.

          When Mr. Kerry was in Bahrain last year, the visit gave the State Department press corps a chance to publicly interrogate his very uncomfortable Bahraini counterpart about some specific human rights abuses in the country. (“I’m glad you asked that,” Mr. Kerry told correspondents later on his plane, making it clear that he knew local reporters could not have done so.)

          When President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt barred the State Department press pool last year, the State Department itself lodged an objection.

          None of those considerations mattered much when Mr. Tillerson traveled on behalf of the world’s largest oil company. As he said, he personally did not need reporters then, and he doesn’t now.

          But as secretary of state, he now has 320 million shareholders, and many of them have a stake in how he conducts America’s day-to-day business around the world
          To sit down with these men and deal with them as the representatives of an enlightened and civilized people is to deride ones own dignity and to invite the disaster of their treachery - General Matthew Ridgway


          • #20
            Originally posted by astralis View Post
            well, the silly fatigue stuff i won't discuss, but this is worth bringing up.


            things you notice as a China-watcher:

            - SECSTATE is now using official Chinese talking points
            - SECSTATE, or at least his speechwriter, is not getting input from State Dept's many China specialists
            That very much is a bad thing.
            “Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”
            Mark Twain


            • #21

              Trump's Diplomat

              How Rex Tillerson Is Translating 'America First' Into Foreign Policy

              By Erin McPike

              March 21, 2017


              When it comes to taking on the world, the two words the Trump administration swears by are “America First.”

              And the man charged with carrying out that policy around the globe didn’t even want the job in the first place. For Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who until now spent the entirety of his career at ExxonMobil, the challenge he faced on a headline-grabbing trip to Asia was how to translate President Donald Trump’s mandate into a workable foreign policy.

              “America First” now functions as his business charter.

              It’s a starting point for Tillerson’s negotiations with his foreign counterparts who understand he has to act in the best interest of American national security and economic security. Although it may seem awkward for a diplomat trying to forge positive relationships with a host of other countries, the politically charged motto comes at a time when countries on every continent are turning toward nationalism in the face of rapid globalization.

              He doesn’t think “America First” is a contradiction in conducting diplomacy.

              “In Bonn, it came up in every discussion I had,” Tillerson acknowledged to Independent Journal Review in the second part of his first sit-down interview since taking office. He was referring to a series of meetings he had with foreign ministers from a Group of 20 summit last month.

              “Looking at the leadership from the past 30 to 40 years [in the United States], the last administration was a dramatic shift,” he said from behind his desk in the back cabin of the State Department’s Boeing 737 jet making its way home from Beijing. A chocolate chip cookie was sitting on a napkin on the corner of that desk, perhaps a small prize waiting for him upon completion of his first extended interaction with a member of the Beltway press — obviously the part of the job he’s been dreading. He went on to explain that other countries grasp the kind of leadership the Trump administration is trying to assert, and they understand that’s why Donald Trump won the presidential election.

              Back home, Tillerson's first two months in office have been as roundly criticized as Trump’s but for diametrically opposed reasons. Where Trump is quick and impulsive, Tillerson is slow and deliberate. While Trump can't help but make news, Tillerson has stayed strikingly mum. The reasoning is with no government experience to draw upon, his aides say candidly that he’s learning on the job.

              “I would hope that people can maintain their patience in these early days and recognize I’ve only been at it six weeks,” he said in the first part of the interview, when his aircraft was traveling from Seoul to Beijing.

              Still, of all the unanswered questions swirling about how the new regime in Washington will change the way the U.S. government does business, probably the biggest is what lies ahead for the State Department and its missions around the world.

              And that’s in part because the White House signaled it wants to wipe out 28 percent of its budget. Tillerson takes the challenge on willingly.

              “In the context of the budget, the fiscal year 2017 was a record high for the State Department,” he said. “Looking at ongoing conflicts, if we accept that we’re just going to continue to never solve any of these conflicts, then the budget should stay at the current level.”

              He went on to explain that, as the president has been arguing, the United States needs to be smarter about where it intervenes so that it can provide more value in certain spots while taking care of its own security.

              “One can say it’s not going to happen in one year, and it’s not,” he conceded to criticism, a little.

              Among his first tasks is assisting Defense Secretary James Mattis in developing and carrying out a plan to defeat ISIS.

              The verb “defeat” alone is significant.

              “We can’t get to deconflicting the rest of the region with ISIS in the way,” he said, adding that he is puzzling through the policy steps that will come once that goal is reached and anticipating the next points of conflict.

              On Wednesday, Tillerson will host representatives from the 68 member nations in the coalition to defeat ISIS at the State Department to walk through the Trump administration’s latest plans. As he explained it to IJR, it’s a three-step process beginning with a military campaign, followed by a transition phase, and ending with a stability program.

              It’s a significant moment for the administration as it approaches all terrorist threats stemming from the tumultuous Middle East, particularly considering how the issue stalled the previous few administrations and caused each one to overcorrect from the one before.

              In Bob Woodward’s book, Bush at War, he describes George W. Bush’s belief that Bill Clinton’s approach to Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda was “so weak as to be provocative.” Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld played on that judgment to say during National Security Council meetings that when executing the war in Iraq, they shouldn’t go about just “pounding sand,” meaning sending cruise missiles into terrorist camp tents. Instead, the administration sent troops bounding into Iraq with evolving strategies and declared victory long before it was imminent.

              Erin McPike/Independent Journal Review

              President Obama then was criticized for trying to remove troops from Iraq too quickly. Broaching the next iteration of the problem, the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria that filled the vacuum, Obama did the opposite of Bush and said in a refreshingly honest, if ill-advised, moment that Democratic pollsters pinpoint to be when the bottom fell out for the party headed into the 2014 midterm elections: “We have no strategy yet.”

              Tillerson spurns that more cautious approach, but he doesn’t think this administration is in danger of overcorrecting.

              “It’s simply bringing back to a point where you can believe once and for all that you can win,” he said, adding, “Every administration knows it only has so much time.” He blasted the Obama administration for never having a legitimate effort to defeat ISIS and pointed out that his original word was “degrade.”

              “All that did was drag out the agony for everyone,” he said.

              Former Obama officials pushed back that the verbs “defeat” and “destroy” were used plenty. It’s also important to point out that during the Trump transition, the Obama administration got little notice for significantly increasing airstrikes in the region in a way that’s accelerating the terrorist group’s collapse and has likely set the Trump administration on a much better path toward success.

              Jon Finer, chief of staff at the State Department under the previous secretary of state, John Kerry, added, “Honestly, tough talk is the easy part. Developing the right plan to address the threat is a lot harder and more important. Our approach included strong and effective military action, but also a range of other efforts to undermine ISIS's ideology, dry up its financing, and counter its public narrative, and put it on the path to defeat in Iraq and Syria. The best evidence that we were on the right track is that the same administration that so often criticized us seems to largely be following it.”

              There’s another lesson taken from the past couple of administrations in this arena. During the waning months of Obama’s tenure, Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter were not on particularly good terms, in large part due to disagreements over how to fight ISIS. In the previous administration, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the secretary of state at the time, General Colin Powell, were at war over the war in Iraq.

              And that is why Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis are making a positive relationship a priority, along with CIA Director Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster.

              “Tillerson and Mattis get along like gin and vermouth,” said Tillerson’s top policy aide.

              Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker told IJR that anything presented in a National Security Council meeting has to be approved by both men, and that they’re focused on a cohesive, strategic vision in a way he hasn’t seen since joining Congress in 2007.

              To be fair, Mattis is on stronger terrain than Tillerson, because the Pentagon under him is likely to enjoy a massive budget hike, as the State Department suffers from a budget cutback. Nevertheless, the Pentagon is beginning to take on water for a lack of high-level staffing, a public relations and organizational problem Tillerson has been dealing with for weeks.

              Even so, and even though Tillerson said he talks to Trump daily and has an open invitation to visit him at the White House whenever he chooses, he said they haven’t yet talked about what a dramatically different State Department will look like or how he will staff it.

              His eyes darted down to his desk when he said, “We haven’t gotten that far yet,” as though he realized he had been caught.

              Tillerson is spending his early days in Foggy Bottom “whiteboarding,” a businessy term for mapping out and remapping out org charts, strategies, and plans.

              And that’s one area where he believes he can make an impact.

              He asserted that his experience as CEO of Exxon translates perfectly to what he’s doing now. When he was at the helm, he said the company’s workforce dropped from 100,000 strong to 75,000 while becoming a bigger and more complex business. He even corrected me at one point to make sure I knew that during his tenure Exxon reached No. 1 on the Fortune 500.

              Now he believes he’s primed for a unique opportunity to reform the State Department and make it more effective and efficient.

              Tillerson said he hopes eventually, “The people at the State Department will find their jobs much more rewarding.” And despite some of the commentary being bandied about, he thinks there’s been a lot of energy since the day he got started there.

              From Ross Perot to Steve Forbes to Mitt Romney, businessmen have been pressing the case for decades that only they have the skills to rescue and streamline the federal government and then make it hum again. It never really translated in their campaigns, and Trump arguably won because of his unapologetic style rather than an elegant presentation in which he smartly explained how he would overlay business acumen atop government.

              We’ll still get to see if the experiment works, now that Washington is grappling with the charge to deconstruct the administrative state. Tillerson’s transformation of the State Department will become a fascinating case study in whether effective corporatizing of the government can work.

              Broadly, now that Trump’s in office, witness how business background melded with style has upended global dialogue about the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the large European and North American military alliance. Trump’s messaging has bounced around with respect to how committed the United States will be if other countries don’t comply, but the underlying notice served hasn’t changed: member countries had better up their defense spending to two percent of their GDP and meet that agreed upon requirement. (Recently the president showed a lack of understanding on how NATO actually works via his Twitter feed.)

              “The president said it in a way that embarrassed them.” He repeated, “He embarrassed them into increasing their spending.”

              Not only did Tillerson support the overall message, he also defended the way it was delivered.

              He acknowledged Trump’s predecessors have urged other countries to step up but complained, “They were so polite about how they asked.” This time, he said, “The president said it in a way that embarrassed them.” He repeated, “He embarrassed them into increasing their spending.”

              And then he actually said, “It’s the difference in his style.”

              He explained that Trump was laying groundwork, showing other countries that if they can’t meet their end of the bargain on a security relationship, why should the United States come to the table on economic issues like trade?

              “He was saying, ‘You can’t protect your own people so you want me to do it,’” Tillerson said.

              “Every country stopped to think about it. In my discussions, they have indicated they get it.”

              It’s this penchant for negotiating that may undergird whatever bond ultimately develops between Tillerson and Trump, because Tillerson, too, relishes talking about the deals he’s done.

              “The risks are much higher in what I’m doing now,” he told me. “The whole weight of it is a heavier lift.”

              He rattled off the exact number of days, people, and pages it took to do a deal in Yemen, where he lived for a couple of years more than two decades ago, telling me he would never forget it as long as he lives.

              “The risks are much higher in what I’m doing now,” he told me. “The whole weight of it is a heavier lift.”

              He allowed that in his business deals and transactions, he enjoyed a certain degree of control, whereas in government and global deals, unexpected issues pop up with some frequency.

              It’s a distinction the president hasn’t really acknowledged himself yet, which may speak to the difference in their business backgrounds. Trump is flashy, likes attention, and made his living off of commercial real estate, whereas Tillerson has long operated as a more subdued, though quite successful, business leader.

              Another big difference between the two surfaced at Tillerson’s Senate confirmation hearing. He referred to his engineer’s predilection to gather facts first and follow where they lead, and declared his intention to apply that same logic to international affairs. His boss obviously employs a different line of thinking.

              Getty Images/Song Kyung-Seok-Pool

              When considering options to deal with the increasingly grave threat North Korea’s nuclear program poses following an increase in missile testing, there are a handful of facts: the likely next president of South Korea, the liberal Moon Jae-in, and Chinese officials are pushing to pursue engagement with North Korea. But Tillerson picked the hard data as the facts driving him, including that the United States has spent 20 years and $1.35 billion in a failed attempt to engage the North Koreans.

              And he’s results-driven.

              Already he has two strikes against him in the court of public opinion on human rights from a refusal to call Saudi Arabia a human rights violator during his confirmation hearing to a decision last month not to personally publicize the annual Human Rights Report, which Democrats and Republicans alike called an unforced error. But the reason, aides said, is that it carries no implementation or enforcement mechanism and therefore has no teeth. He’s looking for other ways to work on the issue.

              Still, he is moving slowly through the transition from Exxon, where he could function as a unilateral decision maker whose success was measured by profits, to a head of policy, where he’ll be measured by his ability to create new plans and approaches.

              “You have to bring constituencies with you to do that,” said Rudy deLeon, a former deputy secretary of defense and now Senior Vice President of National Security and International Policy at the Center for American Progress. For Tillerson, those include the press corps, the American people, Congress, and his counterparts in allied countries.

              He certainly has work to do with Congress, but he’s on higher ground there than with some of the other contingents. A week from now, he has a meeting scheduled with Senator Corker, the Republican in charge of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to delve deeply into what the budget looks like.

              So far, it’s no secret that Tillerson lacks the press as a constituency, and by extension, the public. It’s safe to say the press strategy for the Asia trip was an abject failure considering the firestorm caused when his staff decided to allow just one reporter — me — on board.

              Critics say it was a misstep that he went into China, a country that does not support a free press, without taking a press corps along. But such things matter little to Tillerson, who admitted he doesn’t yearn for the spotlight.

              He stands by the decision and told me that, in general, the way the last administration operated in being so public with its goals was not helpful to them.

              “It was a huge mistake and put them at a huge disadvantage,” he said sternly, the only time his emotion wavered, though it was still a long way from anger.

              “We’ve got a lot going on inside the State Department, and we’re not talking about it until we’re ready, and that’s driving a lot of people nuts,” he said. He was so cagey when Russia came up, for example, that his answer wasn’t even worthy of inclusion.

              In a way, it mirrors the kind of strategy you might see at a big business like Apple. Tech consumers might know a new version of an iPhone is forthcoming, but they don’t get the details until the day of the release, when Apple is fully prepared for the big reveal.

              Finer, Kerry’s chief of staff, pushed back on the larger point.

              “We didn't see public diplomacy and giving access to reporters as a disadvantage. We saw them as part of the responsibility you have in a democracy to keep the public informed about decisions being made in their name,” he said. “We saw them as opportunities to explain and advance our agenda. And we saw them as an important example to set for parts of the world where such transparency is unfortunately rare. In other words, we didn't see these things as weaknesses, but as a source of strength."

              What seems to make Tillerson, with his Texas drawl, different from secretaries past is his relative disinterest in the pomp and circumstance that some seem to believe is part and parcel of the job.

              When he deplaned in Tokyo on Wednesday night, he appeared ever so slightly uncomfortable to have to walk through the throng of media and others there to greet him.

              At every one of his bilateral meetings over four days in East Asia, Tillerson shook hands and posed for cameras as part of the chore he knew he had to muddle through. He dutifully stood for photos in the Korean Demilitarized Zone but seemed to most enjoy several intense, close, face-to-face conversations with Army Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, Commander of U.S. Forces Korea, Combined Forces Command, and United Nations Command.

              “I was supposed to retire in March, this month. I was going to go to the ranch to be with my grandkids.”

              So why, then, did he want the gig?

              “I didn’t want this job. I didn’t seek this job.” He paused to let that sink in.

              A beat or two passed before an aide piped up to ask him why he said yes.

              “My wife told me I’m supposed to do this.”

              After watching the contortions of my face as I tried to figure out what to say next, he humbly explained that he had never met the president before the election. As president-elect, Trump wanted to have a conversation with Tillerson “about the world” given what he gleaned from the complex global issues he dealt with as CEO of ExxonMobil.

              “When he asked me at the end of that conversation to be secretary of state, I was stunned.”

              When Tillerson got home and told his wife, Renda St. Clair, she shook her finger in his face and said, “I told you God’s not through with you.”

              With a half-worn smile, he said, “I was supposed to retire in March, this month. I was going to go to the ranch to be with my grandkids.”

              And that may be why the criticism he’s endured hasn’t pushed him to change course. This is not a man who sees a U.S. president in the mirror every morning, which is the kind of personality Washington, D.C., is used to dealing with in such a prestigious and sought-after job. And he does not have patience for the games we’re used to playing here.

              Tillerson, who will be 65 on Thursday, senses an opportunity to systematize the State Department and rack up some wins, and he seems intent upon removing emotion from the process. There aren’t likely to be goosebump-inducing, soaring speeches. It’s business.

              Will he stick around for the whole term?

              In a sign he’s picking up on the lingo, he crossed his arms and said just a little wryly, “I serve at the pleasure of the president.” It doesn’t seem like he regrets accepting the job.

              “My wife convinced me. She was right. I’m supposed to do this.”
              To sit down with these men and deal with them as the representatives of an enlightened and civilized people is to deride ones own dignity and to invite the disaster of their treachery - General Matthew Ridgway


              • #22
                I am enjoying the melt down of useless hangers on and other clowns mad the tree is getting shook. From reporters mad about losing special perks and useless side entities which the taxpayers give money for no good reason.

                However much money we spend on the IACHR is too much and should be zeroed out.
                The US State Department has no time for your pesky international institutions

                Ana Campoy

                "America First"
                March 22, 2017

                International organizations are having trouble getting on US secretary of state Rex Tillerson’s schedule.

                The State Department ditched a hearing of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on March 21, citing legal reasons. A day before, the agency said Tillerson would not be attending a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit in April due to prior commitments.

                The State Department’s decision to bow out of the international meetings has been described by experts as unprecedented and worrisome. That disregard for international organizations, which is emerging as a key tenet of Trump’s foreign policy, is not only insulting to other countries, but could come back to bite the US itself.

                Until Trump, the US was a regular at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), an international body that monitors human right violations from Canada to Chile. (It’s part of the Organization of American States.) While it doesn’t have the power to force member countries to change their policies, it can shine an international spotlight on human rights abuses that national governments refuse to confront.

                IACHR had asked the US to appear at several public hearings during its most recent gathering, held March 15-22 in Washington DC. It wanted the US to address Trump’s executive orders on immigration, including one that seeks to bar citizens from six majority-Muslim countries from traveling to the US.

                The US declined, saying that speaking publicly about that order could affect pending court cases against it. A State Department spokesman assured reporters at a press briefing the US has “tremendous respect” for the commission’s role in safeguarding human rights.

                But as some critics have pointed out, other US presidents, including George W. Bush and Barack Obama, had dispatched officials to the commission to defend policies contested by lawsuits. There were also other, unrelated items on the IACHR agenda, including hearings on the US’s internment of Latin Americans of Japanese descent during World War II. The US skipped those, too.

                IACHR called the no-show troubling. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), one of the parties that spoke out against Trump’s travel ban during the hearings, was harsher. The group’s human rights director, Jamil Dakwar, called the US’s absence “a dangerous precedent that mirrors the behavior of authoritarian regimes and will only serve to embolden them.”

                If avoiding IACHR erodes the US’s goodwill reserves among its neighbors in the Americas, it is mostly symbolic loss. Disengaging with NATO could have more serious consequences.

                Missing the alliance’s meeting would signal that the US is downgrading its ties with NATO members—in favor, many suspect, of Russia, where Tillerson plans to make a trip in April.

                The State Department says Tillerson could end up attending the NATO summit if the dates are changed to fit his schedule. But that signaling of priorities is alone enough to ruffle feathers. The next time the US is in the midst of an international crisis, it might find its traditional European allies less willing to back it up.
                To sit down with these men and deal with them as the representatives of an enlightened and civilized people is to deride ones own dignity and to invite the disaster of their treachery - General Matthew Ridgway


                • #23
                  Newsday today's weather 45°
                  Donald Trump is right to cut the State Department’s budget
                  Secretary of State Rex Tillerson waits for a
                  Secretary of State Rex Tillerson waits for a meeting with Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland at the Department of State on Feb. 8, 2017 in Washington, D.C. (Credit: AFP / Getty Images / Brendan Smialowski)
                  Updated March 26, 2017 12:23 PM
                  By Ted R. Bromund

                  THE BOTTOM LINE
                  Trimming back the State Department is a reasonable step toward returning our focus where it belongs.
                  President Donald Trump’s budget proposes a 28 percent cut, worth $17.3 billion, in the budget of the State Department and our foreign aid. Inevitably, liberals are opposed, but even some conservatives have expressed doubts. Yet if you believe in diplomacy, cuts are a good first step.

                  Recognize, first, that the 28 percent cut won’t happen. Presidential budget proposals bear only a vague connection to what we end up spending. At most, they indicate a direction of travel. They’re usually described as “dead on arrival,” and I doubt Trump’s budget will be different.

                  Financially, we should recognize, the State Department has had an excellent decade. As my colleague Brett Schaefer points out, the overall U.S. international affairs budget in 2015 was 60 percent higher, after inflation, than it was in 2005.

                  By contrast, defense spending — after a spike centered in 2010 — is now no higher than it was in 2005. We have not fed our military at the expense of our diplomats. If anyone has been starved for funds since 2010, it has been the Pentagon, not the State Department.

                  But that never stops the true believers, on both sides of the aisle, from claiming that the State Department doesn’t have enough money.


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                  Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) calls the proposed cuts “extremely dangerous and short-sighted.” Nothing has changed: In 2013, General James Mattis, now the secretary of defense, said, “if you don’t fund the State Department fully, then I need to buy more ammunition ultimately.”

                  The problem with this argument is that we have been funding the State Department very fully, and yet we still need to buy more ammunition. If you look around the world today, it’s hard to see how the large increases in our international affairs budget have paid dividends.

                  Part of the problem is that, while the U.S. military conducts after-action reviews, State doesn’t. Claims that giving State more money produces better results rest on hopes and anecdotes, not serious studies.

                  Our military does make mistakes, but it tries to learn from them. State needs to develop a similar culture of critical self-assessment. Today, it has a culture of budgetary entitlement, coupled with a lack of emphasis on rigorous, on-going training.

                  The other problem starts with the fact that State is largely divided into two sections: one that deals with regions (like East Asia) and one that deals with functions (like arms control).

                  Since 2005, the regional bureaus have shrunk, often drastically. East Asia is down from 1,582 people to 905 in 2015, and the Western Hemisphere from 2,230 to 1,063. That has entailed a serious loss of expertise in the affairs of other nations.

                  Yet over that time, State has grown by about 5,000 people – in part because the “functional” bureaus have multiplied. This is partly Congress’s fault: it loves mandating new missions. This failing was criticized as long ago as 2001 by the bipartisan Hart-Rudman Commission, and it has only become worse as State’s budget has risen.

                  And then there are our foreign-aid programs. As historian Mark Moyar argues, long-term foreign aid programs that emphasize educating future foreign leaders in the United States can be valuable.

                  But that is not what our aid budget does. And under President Barack Obama, U.S. assistance too often drifted into areas — like promoting transgender rights in Guatemala — that have no connection to our interests. Indeed, these efforts are likely to be gratuitously offensive in other cultures.

                  State needs to be adequately funded. But it also needs a cultural change and to return to its core business of bilateral diplomacy. Aid, meanwhile, needs to drop the trendy causes and focus on what works.

                  Cuts alone won’t make that happen. But trimming back some excesses funded by the recent spending spree is a reasonable first step toward returning our focus where it belongs: on the serious business of using our diplomacy and foreign aid to benefit the United States.

                  Ted R. Bromund is a senior research fellow in The Heritage Foundation’s Thatcher Center for Freedo
                  To sit down with these men and deal with them as the representatives of an enlightened and civilized people is to deride ones own dignity and to invite the disaster of their treachery - General Matthew Ridgway