The Slatest

Today in Conservative Media: Rex Tillerson Wasn’t Very Trumpy or Particularly Good

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 15: U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks during a United Nations Security Council meeting concerning North Korea's nuclear ambitions, December 15, 2017 in New York City. On Thursday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that the Security Council resolutions on North Korea's nuclear programs must be fully implemented. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Erstwhile Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during a United Nations Security Council meeting concerning North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, on Dec. 15, 2017, in New York City.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Today in Conservative Media is a daily roundup of the biggest stories in the right-wing press.

You can, at last, pour one out for Rex Tillerson; he is officially out as the first secretary of state of the Donald Trump era. Tillerson never really took to the gig and by the end appeared to maintain a low boil of disdain for his boss. It didn’t look good for the former oil man when he was so visibly out of the loop on the announcement of talks with North Korea outside the White House last week. And just a few days later, here we are: Tillerson packing for Texas and CIA Director Mike Pompeo getting the nod to take over at State. The move set off a wave of analysis, some cheers, and many post-mortems in conservative media circles, with far-right sites—which were always skeptical of Tillerson’s “globalist” and “establishment” tendencies—applauding the move to install someone, well, more like Trump as America’s top diplomat.

No matter where you look however, it’s hard to find a glowing appraisal of Tillerson’s quiet year-or-so at the State Department. Peter Van Buren sums up Tillerson’s tenure in a send-off at the American Conservative titled: “The Pointless Secretary of State.” Ouch. “Tillerson will not, as some claim, be remembered as the worst secretary of state in history. He made no significant blunders or gaffes, gave away nothing to the detriment of the United States. He just didn’t do much at all,” Van Buren writes. “For those who decried Rex Tillerson’s 14-month tenure as secretary of state, who wanted a more aggressive advocate in foreign affairs and more of the empty slots at Foggy Bottom filled, be careful what you wish for. Because you now have Mike Pompeo.”

Breitbart covered Tillerson’s sudden departure with a post titled: “Swamp Spooked.” In another “Rexit” post, the site’s Ben Kew rounded up “six highlights of a short-lived tenure.” For a sense of just how distinguished Tillerson’s tenure was at State, two of the highlights in Kew’s post were, ahem, “‘Sword Dancing’ in Saudi Arabia” and “Forced to deny he called Trump a ‘moron.’ ” James Delingpole writes for Breitbart that “Trump’s prospective new Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is a drastic improvement on his predecessor.” What’s better about a potential Pompeo turn in Foggy Bottom? “For a start, being a skeptic, Pompeo is far less likely to undermine his president’s position on energy and climate change,” Delingpole writes. “This is your principled, regular guy who couldn’t be further removed from the sleek, smooth, plutocratic globalist and corporatist Rex Tillerson.”

Jim Geraghty at National Review wonders: “If you’re Mike Pompeo, why would you want to be secretary of state?” “[O]ne can’t help but wonder if in a year or so Pompeo will find himself in a similar situation—trying to offer diplomatic advice to an inherently undiplomatic president who doesn’t like being told what to do,” Geraghty writes. Any way you slice it, however, Pompeo is in. Jenna Lifhits at the Weekly Standard surveyed the Senate’s “top Iran hawks” on the Rex Tillerson–Mike Pompeo changeover and found a renewed sense of “confidence that Pompeo’s presence would place renewed pressure on negotiations to fix the Iran nuclear deal—or nix it.” Matt Welch sums up the new state-of-play at Reason this way: “So the out-of-touch realist is out at Foggy Bottom, the partisan pro-surveillance hawk is in, and Langley is now run by an in-house torturer.”

Mollie Hemingway at the Federalist writes: “Media Can’t Figure Out if Tillerson Proves or Disproves Their Russia Conspiracy Theory.” “The idea that Trump fired Tillerson because he was upset at Tillerson being too tough on Russia is delusional,” Hemingway writes. “The idea that Trump fired Tillerson over Russia is also a complete narrative flip from where the media were when he was nominated. Then, the nomination of Rex Tillerson to be Secretary of State was evidence for the Treasonous Collusion With Russia Conspiracy Theory!”

Katie Pavlich at RedState also delves into the media coverage of Tillerson’s departure, asking: “Was Rex Tillerson Really Blindsided by Trump Firing?” Justin Caruso does the same at the Daily Caller, writing “Reporters Are Pushing a Problematic Narrative on Tillerson’s Firing.” Caruso takes issue with the immediate reaction from many reporters who “claim that Tillerson was fired by Trump for blaming Russia for the poisoning” of a spy in England. The problem with that reasoning, he points out, is that “it turns out that Tillerson was actually asked to leave last Friday, according to the Washington Post, meaning he was fired before his comment on Russia.”

In other news

Hillary Clinton is in India, and during a moment of sightseeing Clinton slipped on the steps of Jahaz Mahal in Mandu, in the state of Madhya Pradesh. Conservative media couldn’t get enough:

• Townhall: “Total Loser: Hillary Almost Tumbles Down Steps In India After Calling Half The Country Deplorables…Again.”
•The Daily Caller: “Hillary Clinton’s Long History of Having Trouble Standing Up.”
• The Daily Wire: Hillary Clinton Slips Down The Stairs In India, Twice!