The Tillerson nomination
Trump’s surprise promises a different kind of secretary of State
Short of serious reservations about the credibility, character and competence of his nominees, every president is entitled to choose his Cabinet. The president, after all, is the man who will be held responsible for everything.
The yapping at the ankles of Rex Tillerson, the president-elect’s choice for secretary of State, has begun, but in the first hours after Donald Trump disclosed his choice there was no evidence and no credible accusation that he was other than a well-qualified candidate with many friends in foreign lands, including Vladimir Putin in Russia.
By almost anyone’s standards, he is one of the most qualified candidates any president has chosen lately. He has worked for three decades for ExxonMobil, one of the top ten most valuable corporations in the world, and for the most recent decade he has been ExxonMobil’s chief executive officer.
ExxonMobil’s success — it has revenues of $230 billion annually — has depended on its access to oil and gas, and Mr. Tillerson has cultivated the leaders of the countries where oil and gas come from. To have done otherwise would have been a breach of his duties to ExxonMobil. One of those leaders is Vladimir Putin and one of those countries is Russia, which has vast reserves of oil and gas. The friendship between Messrs. Tillerson and Putin is no secret.
But it’s this friendship that will be held as the disqualification of Mr. Tillerson by many on the left, who would never concede that anyone Donald Trump chooses could satisfy them. Mr. Tillerson is a fearsome demon of leftist dreams because he’s a Texan and an oil man.
Some of Mr. Tillerson’s detractors say they do not dispute his qualifications but know nothing about his guiding philosophy. We will learn more about that in coming days, when the U.S. Senate, as required by the Constitution, asks many questions (some relevant and some no doubt not so relevant) about that philosophy. His business friendships will be among them.
Mr. Tillerson is not widely known to most Americans and he was one of the surprises that the Donald likes to spring, but he is no mystery man. He has been endorsed already by Condoleezza Rice, James Baker, Robert Gates and Dick Cheney, Republican elitists all but all have given good and faithful service to the country, and should know what they’re talking about.
Ms. Rice, a former secretary of State herself and whose knowledge of Russia is well known, endorsed him immediately. “I know Rex as a successful businessman and a patriot. He will represent the interests and the values of the United States with resolve and commitment.”
She applauded his “remarkable and broad international experience, a deep understanding of the global economy, and a belief in America’s special role in the world.”
Mr. Tillerson, like others in Mr. Trump’s prospective Cabinet, is a different kind of nominee from a different kind of president. The Donald promised something different in Washington, and businessmen in the top ranks of the government is something different in Washington, men and women who prize experience over theory. “Business” will no longer be a dirty word in the nation’s capital, and there will be considerable gagging and retching among the liberals and “progressives” in town who are nervous of what hope and change, promised by Barack Obama and about to be delivered by Donald Trump, might actually mean.
Rex Tillerson does not sound like another timid voice in Foggy Bottom. Like the Donald, he speaks plain and virile English. The Russians, he told an audience at the business school at Texas Tech last year, “know if I say ‘no’ it means ‘no.’ And talking about it [further] isn’t going to change that. ‘No’ is still going to be ‘no.’ When you say ‘yes’ you know we’ll follow through. It means something.”
This administration promises to be interesting. For sure, there’s a new wind blowing through town.