Donald Trump reportedly will nominate Exxon-Mobil chief Rex Tillerson to be Secretary of State barring a late and unanticipated shift in Trump’s thinking. So says the Washington Post among other outlets.
Tillerson’s experience with foreign affairs apparently consists entirely of negotiating oil deals with foreigners. This is an unconventional resume for Secretary of State.
However, Trump seems to have conducted a diligent search for his Secretary of State, and I have seen no evidence that Tillerson is a crony. Thus, when it comes to qualifications, I think we should defer to the president-elect’s ability to find talent.
The real potential problem with picking Tillerson is his close relationship with Vladimir Putin. This might do for an ambassador to Russia, just as Gov. Branstad’s relationship with China’s leader arguably recommends him to represent us in Beijing.
It seems problematic, though, to pick a Secretary of State who is tight with a world leader who is a thug, a butcher, a destabilizer, and an ally of Iran. I think it’s legitimate to wonder whether the selection of Tillerson would signal and facilitate a Russian reset that would make that of Obama-Clinton look like the Cold War by comparison.
Rubio put it this way on Twitter:
Being a “friend of Vladimir” is not an attribute I’m hoping for from a Secretary of State.
If these three Senators were to vote against confirming Tillerson, and if all Democrats joined them, this would be enough to sink the nomination. It’s premature to call this scenario likely, but it’s a possibility. Indeed, it’s possible that McCain, Graham, and Rubio wouldn’t be the only Republican defectors.
So far, the Democrats are focused on blocking Jeff Sessions (for Attorney General) and Scott Pruitt (for EPA administrator). That’s where the money is for the Dems.
But nothing says the Democrats can’t raise funds by grandstanding on Sessions and Pruitt and at the same time oppose Tillerson. They need to claim one scalp just to keep up morale, and Tillerson (if nominated) may be the only scalp available.
Will the rumblings of McCain, Graham, and Rubio be enough to dissuade Trump from selecting Tillerson? Maybe. But Trump has demonstrated repeatedly that he isn’t afraid of a fight with these three and, indeed, with all comers.
There’s also the problem of whom to select instead of the Exxon-Mobil man. Trump obviously has reservations about Mitt Romney and John Bolton’s foreign policy views don’t fit well with Trump’s. Tillerson may be the only candidate with whom the president-elect feels comfortable.
The Trump transition is about to become even more fascinating than it has been so far.