In a January appearance at Stanford, Tillerson expressed hope to coax North Kora to back down on it nuclear ambitions. Then, he learned who's boss.
"While he was trying to open back channels with Pyongchang," said San Jose State political science professor Karthika Sasikumar, "we had the President publicly mock his diplomacy on Twitter, so it's not clear to me that Tillerson was allowed to really exercise his full capabilities."
VIDEO: Rex Tillerson speaks at State Department after being fired
Supporters of the President think a new Secretary of State was needed. "Well, I'm surprised he lasted that long," said Harmeet Dhillon, a state GOP leader. "There were a number of policy clashes between him and the President, and I don't think he really ever was able to kind of integrate with the State Department apparatus."
Analysts say replacing a Cabinet member is a difficult decision, but this is a critical time globally.
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"It's not just North Korea," said Prof. Sasikumar. "There's also the situation in Syria where U.S. and Russian soldiers have come close to open conflict several times now, so these are very dangerous flashpoints."
And the President admits he agreed to sit down with North Korea's leader without direct input from his Secretary of State.
"I made the North Korea decision," said Mr. Trump, "with consultation from many people, but I made that decision by myself."
Tillerson's successor is more likely to be in sync with the Oval Office.