Look, I’m a Rex fan. I’d never heard of him until Trump picked him, but I grew to like the “cut of his jib” as they say. I also think he is exactly what a Secretary of State should be, and I think this is a particularly bad time to be changing Secs of State. But Trump is POTUS, and if he had had enough, then ok.
Still, the way Rex was fired is fascinating. Yes, he found out via tweet. For Trump, it was more important to get a scoop than to tell Rex to his face. Fine, again, Trump is POTUS, his call. But what I find wild is General Kelly’s role in this. Apparently Kelly called Tillerson on Friday, and he told him to “expect a pejorative tweet from the President soon.” As the Washington Post said the day after Rex was fired, Rex failed to understand what that gentle signal meant
But why should Rex have assumed he’d be fired? Trump sends pejorative tweets about Cabinet members periodically, and they don’t always get fired. (Think AG Jeff Sessions.) The question is, did Kelly know on Friday that Rex was done, or did he too think it was just a nasty tweet that was coming? If Kelly knew, his message to Rex shows the tricky spot Kelly is in. While he wanted to give Rex a heads up, he knew he couldn’t do it directly; the boss did not want his scoop “trumped”. Indeed, had Kelly warned Rex and word got out, Kelly himself might have been next. On the other hand, if Kelly only thought a nasty tweet was coming, the question becomes when did he find out Rex was to be fired? Fascinating.
And then there’s this, I always thought Rex was one of those guys who just didn’t care that much. In other words, if Trump was to fire him, I thought Rex would say “fine” and then pack up and head home. Instead, he gave a press conference where he was clearly saddened to be leaving, so much so that his voice seemed to quiver. I feel bad for Rex, I think he is a good man who did a good job, and now he’s gone.
In the end, Trump claims that Rex had to go because the two simply had too many philosophical differences. I’ll tell you this, if he and Rex couldn’t last more than fourteen months, he and Mitt Romney wouldn’t have lasted more than six. Rex was still the right decision, regardless of how it ended.
More wisdom next week.