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Expert Voices

After Rexit, tough job for Pompeo

Rex Tillerson at lectern
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Photo: Tony Karumba / AFP / Getty Images

Mike Pompeo takes over the State Department with three decided advantages over his predecessor: familiarity with foreign policy, experience in government and a good rapport with President Trump. Rex Tillerson, by contrast, had none of those.

The background: Tillerson made a difficult situation worse by failing to develop a strong relationship with the foreign service. He did not get the department fully resourced and depended on only a small core staff. His focus on restructuring amounted to a corporate CEO’s attempt to superimpose a structure he knew well onto a fundamentally different organization. Not surprisingly, the effort came to naught and many experienced hands abandoned ship.

What’s next: The initial challenge for Pompeo is to shore up his department and fill the long list of vacant overseas posts. It will help if he can somehow persuade the president to rein in both his tweets and his son-in-law, and to better weigh the likely consequences of major decisions before making them. He will need to manage all that amid preparations for a North Korea summit, international fallout from metals tariffs, a pending decision on the Iran nuclear pact and mounting differences with China and Russia — not to mention the ongoing probe by Special Counsel Mueller. It doesn’t appear as though Pompeo will enjoy much of a break between jobs.

Richard Haass is president of the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of “A World in Disarray.”

Jonathan Swan 2 hours ago
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Trump's two-front war

Photo: Jabin Botsford / The Washington Post via Getty Images

President Trump is ending the week with a flop — nowhere close to the border wall funding he wanted in the DACA-less spending bill that congressional leaders released last evening. But he's fulfilling one of his most aggressive campaign promises with his anti-China trade action.

The big picture: Trump's expected announcement today of tariffs on Chinese imports is a big deal, and analysts fear it could provoke a trade war — and it comes as Trump has been battling his own party here at home over the government spending bill.

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The worst flu season in eight years

Note: Activity levels are based on outpatient visits in a state compared to the average number of visits that occur during weeks with little or no flu virus circulation; Data: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios

This year's flu season caught many experts off guard with both its sustained prevalence and its virulence. At its peak, there was a higher level of flu-like illnesses reported than any other year during the past eight years. Watch in the visual as it hits its peak around Week 18.

Why it matters: Public health officials try to capture this data when developing the next year's vaccines. And, of course, they want to find better ways to prevent severe flu seasons. There's a "Strategic Plan" to develop a universal vaccine to protect against a wider range of influenza viruses, Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, tells Axios.