It takes much to make a figure like Rex Tillerson seem not merely sane but competent. The Trump administration, with its almost paranormal sense of revisionism and fantasy, has managed to make old Rex seem mildly credible. His sacking, inflicted with adolescent petulance, was bound to happen.
At stages, Tillerson came across with clues and cues about what would happen, for instance, with the North Korean nuclear imbroglio. In December 2017, he suggested the possibility of talking, without conditions, to North Korean leaders, quipping that they could even talk about the shape of the table they might wish to sit at.
It was a stance adjusted within days: Trump had obviously had a word in his ear that such a position did not tally with the “maximum pressure” program being exerted by Washington. Nor did it match the mania of insisting that, as a precondition, Pyongyang would agree to denuclearisation.
Little wonder, then, that Tillerson found himself out in the arctic cold with a surprise announcement last week that an invitation to speak directly with Kim Jong-un had been accepted. “Rex wasn’t, as you know, in this country,” mused Trump. “I made that decision by myself.”
At stages, both men seemed not merely at odds with each other but openly skirmishing. When Trump insisted on jettisoning the Iran nuclear deal, a point he has reiterated at several points during the 2016 presidential campaign, Tillerson growled. Decertification, which did…