Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
Numerous explanations are being bandied about as to why Secretary of State Tillerson was dismissed–today. Many in Washington had assumed he would have been home already in Texas by Christmas. There are many justifications as well for the cause(s) which no-doubt contributed to Trump’s tweeting Tillerson off the reservation. They and others are all no-doubt part of the story.
There were clear differences between the President and his Chief Diplomat over how to handle Russia. This included even as recently as how to react to Theresa May’s charge concerning the poisoning, again, of Russian agents or former agents in England.
Tillerson was reported to have opposed the President’s decision to impose tariffs in imported steel and aluminum.
There was Tillerson being left out of the North Korea decision-making process and making his objections known to the President concerning the lack of staff-work.
There was Tillerson’s dissenting position on the forthcoming in-house debate over withdrawing from the Iran agreement.
There was Tillerson’s disagreement with Trump’s timing of the Jerusalem decision; moving the embassy and recognizing Jerusalem as the capital. He apparently has not been involved in the developing Administration Israeli-Palestinian peace process proposal.
Finally, the President no-doubt has never forgotten the fact that Tillerson’s was reported to have referred to the President as a “moron.”
All of these considerations and more no doubt contributed to the President wanting a better “team” player at Foggy Bottom. Tillerson apparently would not quit so Trump fired him.
As to why the decision was announced today there may be a very basic political calculation to explain this decision. This announcement and Cabinet shuffle will be the lead news story throughout the country and the world. In the event that the Republicans were embarrassed by losing the special election today in Pennsylvania 18th Congressional District, the Tillerson departure will distract much of the public’s attention away from a humiliating defeat for the President; regardless how he and the GOP might try to spin it. Tillerson was leaving, but Trump wanted to control the timing.