As members of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet look to carry out their missions, they face challenges unique to this famously volatile administration.
CIA director Mike Pompeo, tapped by Trump to become the next secretary of state, already heads an agency that his boss publicly derided upon arrival.
The road to Pompeo’s next gig is expected to include harder scrutiny by the Senate than the departing secretary Rex Tillerson faced.
Presuming he’s confirmed, Pompeo might not collect as many non-policy “firsts” as Tillerson did during his wobbly 14-month tenure.
None of Tillerson’s predecessors was known to call his president a moron in the company of other top officials — let alone stay in the job for five months after doing so.
No previous secretary of state spent 40 years as an executive for a giant oil company before entering public service.
Tillerson’s mollification of others in the GOP to win confirmation became his first challenge.
Despite having cut huge oil deals with the Russian regime, fighting sanctions as a private citizen, and accepting a friendship award from President Vladimir Putin, Tillerson in office talked tougher than Trump about U.S. policy in the region.
His tenure also included an unheard-of exodus of foreign service officers as well as reports of rock-bottom morale.
It was up to Tillerson to explain abroad the president’s one-of-a-kind “shithole countries” episode.
Most unusually for a secretary of state, Tillerson found himself on separate pages from Trump regarding policy toward other governments from Qatar to Central America.
Tillerson reassured NATO after Trump threatened to pull out over an issue of membership dues the president seemed to have misunderstood.
Tillerson engaged with North Korea even after Trump said he was “wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man.”
Tillerson worked to salvage the Obama-era Iran deal about which Trump keeps complaining. Pompeo, a former Kansas congressman, is widely seen as more likely to try to scuttle the agreement at the president’s behest.
It would also be hard to find a previous instance in which the chief executive said the secretary’s departure was planned and expected and the secretary’s camp said the opposite.
“The secretary had every intention of staying because of the critical progress made in national security and other areas,” Steve Goldstein, undersecretary of public diplomacy for the State Department, after the firing last Tuesday.
Goldstein himself was dismissed later in the day. Tillerson gave an address to staff without mentioning Trump.
Fans and critics will agree Tillerson’s tenure was one for the books. Pompeo can’t be looking forward to follow too closely in his footsteps.