The secretary of state draws his or her power less from the U.S. Constitution or the laws than from five sources: backing from the president, advice and support from his or her department’s career officials, admiration from and alliances with other leaders in the government, praise from the press and public, and positive evaluations of his or her competence and power by foreign diplomats.
These dynamics have worked against Tillerson until now. And though he still has some time to reverse them, he does not have much.
Tillerson’s position here is very weak. President Donald Trump has shown his lack of faith in him by vetoing his choice for the No. 2 position in his department, Elliott Abrams. Tillerson has also been absent for most of Trump’s meetings with visiting leaders.