The Lesson of Tillerson

Once again, the myth that experience is not needed to work effectively in high level positions in government has been busted by Rex Tillerson’s fall from grace. And once again, those who were mocked by this administration as “career politicians” and “bureaucrats” will be cleaning up the mess.

Instead of fixating on draining the so-called “swamp,” Tillerson should have been working with the dedicated and knowledgeable people in the State Department and people outside of government with real expertise in foreign affairs.

It’s time for Democrats to stop taking a page from the Republican playbook and make the affirmative case for good governance and how to achieve it.

In the course of my 20-year career in public service, I worked in the New York City Mayor’s Office of Appointments. Our job was to identify, recruit and vet candidates for high level positions. I saw many people with impressive careers not make it to the finish line. These were talented people, but they lacked the political skills and deep institutional knowledge needed to get things done in government.

It’s time for Democrats to stop taking a page from the Republican playbook and make the affirmative case for good governance and how to achieve it. A big part of that case emphasizes experience in government matters. Successful business executives or brain surgeons, or whatever, may not be the best qualified for a leadership role in government. As with Tillerson, they can be ineffective and wind up damaging established systems and the careers of dedicated public servants.

David Pechefsky