Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s defenders argue that, while he may be an awkward public face for American diplomacy, behind the scenes he has been successfully building support among other countries for President Donald Trump’s policies. While U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley may be adroit in her negotiations in New York, and a more congenial public speaker, the heavy lifting of government decisions happens in capitols and between foreign ministers, and that is where Tillerson has been quietly making a difference. The argument in Tillerson’s favor seemed to gain traction when China’s Central Bank announced it would be cutting off loans to companies doing business in North Korea and Tillerson’s comments in recent days suggesting lines of communication are open for direct negotiations with North Korea.But then President Trump took time from his other pursuits to publicly castigate diplomatic efforts, tweeting “Save your energy, Rex, we’ll do what has to be done.” One cringes in embarrassment for Tillerson at this latest indignity suffered. But Rex Tillerson volunteered for this job, and stays by his own preference. More important than the personal humiliation are the very real risks that the Trump administration is exposing the country to through the president’s behavior: miscalculation, militarizing the North Korea problem, and, most importantly, missing the chance to prepare the American people for war.
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