But criticism from Mr. Trump’s aides is not Mr. Tillerson’s only problem. In recent days, each of his top priorities has hit a wall. The secretary’s effort to enlist China to force North Korea to give up its nuclear and ballistic missile programs has gone nowhere, as the president himself acknowledged last week. The Russians, angry about a congressional move to impose new sanctions, disinvited one of his top diplomats — leaving that crucial relationship at its lowest point since the Cold War.
And in Congress, where Mr. Tillerson once found members willing to give deference to his plans to reorganize and shrink the State Department, there is now anger and defiance.
In a remarkable series of hearings this month, Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee and the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, declared Mr. Tillerson’s proposals for a 30 percent cut in the department’s budget a “waste of time” that he would not even review, and he expressed disbelief that the reorganization plan for the department would not be ready until the end of the year, at the earliest.
“It’s not that he’s a weak secretary of state or a strong one — he’s in a different category,” said Robert Kagan, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who is writing the second volume of his history of American foreign policy. “I have a hard time thinking of one who has come in with little foreign policy experience and has less interest in surrounding himself with the people who know something about the regions and issues that he has to deal with.”
In fact, Mr. Tillerson’s determination to rationalize the State Department structure — which many applaud — and his refusal to appoint under secretaries and assistant secretaries until he has it all figured out has created policy gridlock. Three foreign ambassadors — one from Asia and two from Europe — said they had taken to contacting the National Security…