The Washington Post reports that Sen. Marco Rubio is being lobbied by former vice president Dick Cheney and others who are trying to persuade him to support the nomination of Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State. Rubio has expressed displeasure with the Tillerson selection because of the Exxon-Mobil man’s ties with Vladimir Putin. If Rubio opposes Tillerson, his vote could sink the nomination in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which Republicans will control by only a 10-9 margin.
It seems to me that it is president-elect Trump whom Rubio needs to hear from. For it is Trump, not Tillerson, who provokes legitimate concern over Russia policy going forward.
If Trump cozies up to Putin, Tillerson will be the ideal man for the job because he is on friendly terms with Putin. If, on the other hand, Trump takes a Reagan-like “trust but verify” approach, Tillerson will also be ideal. He probably understands Putin as well or better than any American. He can provide Trump with good advice about the Russian leader’s objectives, how intends to achieve them, and how (if necessary) we can thwart him.
It seems to me, then, that Trump should tell Rubio how he intends to proceed with Russia. If the Florida Senator is satisfied with what Trump says, there will be no reason oppose Tillerson and good reason to support him. If he’s not satisfied, then although Tillerson isn’t the problem, Rubio may well wish to oppose the nomination to protest the direction Trump wants to take.
Here’s what shouldn’t persuade Rubio to back Tillerson — mindless comments like the following:
Robert McNair, a wealthy Texan who owns Houston’s NFL team, says that the criticism of Tillerson is coming from people who don’t “have any business experience and don’t know how the world works,” Roy Bailey, a Texas-based insurance executive and major Rubio contributor, finds that the resistance to Tillerson “sounds like old politics to me as opposed to a new way of thinking.”
Business experience is great, but there are dimensions to foreign policy that transcend energy deals. McNair’s comment reinforces the fear that business dealings with Russia may cause Trump to have too cozy a relationship with Putin.
Such a relationship would be “old politics.” Both President Bush and President Obama tried to have one. Appeasing thuggish leaders is hardly “a new way of thinking.”
Fortunately, Cabinet picks must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate, not the Business Roundtable. President-elect Trump should talk to Sen. Rubio.