The Silent Secretary of State

Written by Ema Sabljak

In what is becoming the typical fashion of the Trump presidency, there is a continuing disconnect between the government and the media. While the presidency is definitely not underrepresented in the press – it is rather omnipresent  – there are definitely many rebuffs against the media.

The question however right now does not surround Donald Trump but rather his Secretary of State – Rex Tillerson. The former CEO of the oil and gas company ExxonMobil has approached politics the same way one would approach the private business sector – with aversion to the fourth estate. In the middle of March he decided he would be visiting Asia without a press pool or in other words a following of journalists that report on the news that occurs during the trip.

“It’s not that previous secretaries didn’t sometimes duck questions. But Mr. Tillerson has been shockingly inaccessible since he was sworn in last month,” wrote Carol Giacomo, a member of the New York Times editorial board, on March 10th.

Taking only one journalist with him on this trip has left the press and the public gawping. After all, the primary occupation of the Secretary of State is foreign policy, and now it seems that the USA will have to learn about their own foreign policy by foreign journalists.

The silence to the press is not the only concern, yet also Tillerson’s apparent silence to other countries, especially shown by  his refusal to attend a NATO meeting being held in Brussels. It has been reported that the meeting simply does not fit into Tillerson’s schedule, but some fear it may mark a rebuff to NATO from the USA – especially since the organization has repeatedly been attacked by the president of the United States of America.

Nonetheless, it is clear that the new administration continues to wage war with not only the press but the commonplace proceedings of politics. While challenging stale conforms can lead to beneficial change, this challenge seems to be focused more on hiding rather than revealing. Sean Spicer, the Secretary of Press, may have stated in January in a press conference that he wanted a “healthy dialogue” with the media, but those words have so far not been translated into actions within the Trump administration. Avoiding press may have worked for Tillerson in the business world but politics is a public endeavour and he will likely have to adjust accordingly. The foreign policy is too crucial to remain barely reported upon.

This too is, possibly, just a continuation of a trend. The media is being filled with outcry of “fake news” and absurd happenstances, but it is being starved of the opportunity to report on fundamental issues, such as foreign policy, which have been followed for years.

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