Rexit: Trump’s Rush to Judgment

This blog was originally published on Forbes as Rexit: Trump’s Rush To Judgment on Wednesday, March 14, 2018.

Although rumbles of Donald Trump’s dissatisfaction with Rex Tillerson have been swirling ever since October when the Secretary of State was purported to have called the president a “moron,” most of the press reaction to yesterday’s firing was about its humiliating abruptness: he dropped the axe via Twitter.

There have been countless reports that the two of them differed on matters of state such as relations with Iran and North Korea, but ultimately the precipitating factor was Russia.

In very short order:

  • On Monday, UK Prime Minister Theresa May said that it was “highly likely” that Russia was responsible for a poison attack on a former Russian spy in Salisbury, England.
  • Later that day, Trump spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders, after denouncing the poison attack, declined to blame Russia.
  • On Monday evening, the State Department released a statement by Tillerson calling Russia “an irresponsible force of instability in the world, acting with open disregard for the sovereignty of other states and the life of their citizens.”
  • On Tuesday morning Trump fired Tillerson.

Any head of state or head of a company is fully entitled to dismiss any staff member for insubordination, but the Tillerson affair speaks to the larger factor of a leader’s reaction time.

Characteristically, Donald Trump reacts on impulse; his predecessor, Barack Obama, most often reacted after extensive consideration. Trump’s supporters consider him a man of action, his detractors, reckless; Obama’s supporters considered him deliberate, his detractors, indecisive.

An effective leader must be able to exhibit both behaviors, the challenge is all in the timing. When to wait and when, as Shakespeare had Hamlet say, “to take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them.”

Donald Trump has not only vacillated about whether to fire Tillerson but, also many others on his White House staff. This indecision has left the administration in a paralyzed state of suspense waiting for the next chop.

For a person who built his reality television reputation with his byword, “You’re fired!”, the president has not performed to expectations—in more ways than one.

This blog was originally published on Forbes as Rexit: Trump’s Rush To Judgment on Wednesday, March 14, 2018.