Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has gutted America’s diplomatic corps. Only 10 out of the top 44 politically appointed posts have been filled, 60 percent of State’s top-ranking career diplomats have left, and new applications to join the foreign service have fallen by half. And Tillerson is just getting started: He’s offering a $25,000 buyout as part of a plan to push out 2,000 more career staffers by next October.
This has all done severe, semipermanent damage to American diplomacy and international clout. Pressed on this issue during a Tuesday appearance in Brussels, Tillerson attempted to defend himself — but probably should have made the comments someplace else:
“The State Department is not missing a beat,” Secretary Tillerson says at US Embassy in Brussels, where there’s no US ambassador to EU or Belgium— Josh Lederman (@joshledermanAP) December 5, 2017
Think about that for a minute. At a time when the European Union is going through one of the most severe crises in its history — Brexit, mass refugee inflows, and the rise of far-right populism — the United States has neither an ambassador to the organization nor one for the country of 11 million that houses its headquarters.
Tillerson’s tenure at the State Department seems about to end: The New York Times reported last week that he’s going to be pushed out and replaced by CIA Director Mike Pompeo. When he goes, comments like the ones he made in Brussels should be part of his epitaph.