Rex Tillerson Could Become One of the Shortest-Serving Secretaries of State

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Rex Tillerson could be on his way to serving one of the shortest tenures of any Secretary of State in U.S. history.

The former ExxonMobil CEO may be replaced as the nation’s top diplomat within several weeks by CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who would be replaced by Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, according to a report in the New York Times Thursday. The White House downplayed the report.

“There are no personnel announcements at this time,” White House spokesman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. “Secretary Tillerson continues to lead the State Department and the entire cabinet is focused on completing this incredibly successful first year of President Trump’s administration.”

During an Oval Office meeting with the crown prince of Bahrain, President Trump ducked a question about Tillerson’s future as well.

“He’s here. Rex is here,” he said.

If Tillerson leaves in the next few months, he would likely be viewed as one of the most underperforming secretaries of State in U.S. history with one of the shortest tenures to boot, say experts on American foreign policy.

“It will ratify what is emerging as almost a consensus view that Rex Tillerson was the worst Secretary of State in modern time,” said Paul Musgrave, a political science professor at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst who studies American foreign policy. “I actually think there is a good case to be made, ever.”

If Tillerson leaves in the next few weeks, he will have served for roughly a year, inordinately short for a first-term Secretary of State in the modern era. The last three first-term secretaries of State — Warren Christopher, Colin Powell and Hillary Clinton — all remained in their posts for the entire term.

The only first-term Secretary of State to last less than three years since 1949 was Alexander Haig, who served under President Ronald Reagan for nearly 18 months. James G. Blaine, who served under President James Garfield, appears to have had the shortest tenure, serving nine months in 1881, but he was appointed to the post again under Benjamin Harrison, serving for three years.

Aside from his short time in office, Tillerson has little to show as accomplishments.

“On every major policy including climate change … the Secretary of State has seen himself overruled,” said Musgrave. “I can’t imagine anything happening to repair the legacy of someone who has done so little and harmed so much.”

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