Thomas Friedman: Mike Pompeo has entered one of the worst times in history to be Trump's top US diplomat

  • "If Trump calls you and says he wants you to be secretary of State, tell him you really had your heart set on Agriculture," Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Thomas Friedman says.
  • Friedman also says Rex Tillerson was "the worst secretary of State ever" but was an "adult" in the Trump administration.

Mike Pompeo faces one of the worst times in history to be secretary of State, New York Times foreign affairs columnist Thomas Friedman told CNBC on Wednesday.

"If Trump calls you and says he wants you to be secretary of State, tell him you really had your heart set on Agriculture. ... It's just a terrible job to have right now," said the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and best-selling author.

Shortly after the Cold War, the secretary of State's job was managing foreign strength such as Russia and China as well as the U.S., Friedman told "Squawk Box." "The big thing that most secretary of States are spending their time on today is managing weakness."

"The weakness of our allies, the weakness of states. States literally falling apart like Syria, and the only way to fix them is to dive in with trillions of dollars," Friedman said. "We certainly have to give [Pompeo] a chance and I'll be very interested in his hearings."

President Donald Trump fired Rex Tillerson on Tuesday, announcing in a tweet that he plans to appoint CIA Director Pompeo as secretary of State, the latest news in a string of personnel changes at the White House. Tillerson's departure followed a series of public disagreements with Trump.

Friedman called Tillerson "the worst secretary of State ever."

"He was certainly the worst secretary of State in the post-war era," Friedman said Wednesday. "In the context of the Trump administration, he was an adult. He had a very balanced and measured view on issues like Korea, on Iran and was appropriately tough on Russia."

Tillerson's departure was widely expected for months, but he reportedly wanted to serve a full year. The former Exxon Mobil chief executive took the post in February 2017. However, Tillerson and Trump quickly clashed, including on North Korea, the Paris climate treaty and the Iran nuclear deal.

By contrast, Pompeo, a hard-line Republican and former businessman, is said to have a much more personal relationship with Trump.

Sign Up for Our Newsletter Morning Squawk

CNBC's before the bell news roundup
Get this delivered to your inbox, and more info about about our products and services.
By signing up for newsletters, you are agreeing to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.