If you were to read the mainstream media, you’d think Rex Tillerson, the CEO of ExxonMobil and President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of state, were a puppet of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Rex Tillerson’s Russia problem,” The Washington Post wrote in headline above the fold on Tuesday.
“Trump’s credibility problem on Russia,” NBC wrote, warning: “Tillerson has ties to Russia and Putin, including being awarded Russia’s ‘Order of the Friendship’ honor in 2013 and opposing the U.S.-led sanctions against Russia for its intervention in Crimea. And already, GOP senators are expressing concern about Tillerson’s Russia ties.”
Would Condoleezza Rice, James Baker, Bob Gates and Dick Cheney — who all have endorsed Mr. Tillerson’s nomination — be in favor of handing over Eastern Europe to the Russians? Would they all support a candidate for secretary of state who they believed to be a puppet of Mr. Putin’s?
In a Facebook post Tuesday morning, Ms. Rice wrote: “Rex Tillerson is an excellent choice for Secretary of State. He will bring to the post remarkable and broad international experience; a deep understanding of the global economy; and a belief in America’s special role in the world.
“I know Rex as a successful business man and a patriot. He will represent the interests and the values of the United States with resolve and commitment. And he will lead the exceptional men and women of the State Department with respect and dedication. I look forward to supporting Rex through the confirmation process and then welcoming him to the family of Secretaries of State,” she said.
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Mr. Gates was reportedly the one who recommended Mr. Tillerson to Mr. Trump at Trump Tower.
If ExxonMobil were a country, it would be the world’s 41st largest economy — bigger than the Philippines, Chile, Ireland and Finland, according to a Washington Post assessment, based on World Bank figures.
The company employs 75,300 people, more than double that of the State Department, which has about 34,000 employees. ExxonMobil operates in 54 countries — and in some, is seen as a more powerful player than the U.S. government, based on its investments.
Mr. Tillerson, being a businessman, will also have a focus on stability. He knows the world is better off without any major confrontations, for both its people and businesses — and will look to intervene only when all other options have been exhausted.
He also knows how to negotiate — and is a man of his word.
Take for example a quote he gave at the Texas Tech business school last year.
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“One of the things I know about the Russian government: I’m very predictable. And they know if I say no it means no. And talking about it more isn’t going to change that. No is still going to be no,” Mr. Tillerson said. “Over the years, we’ve earned each other’s respect. Then when you say yes, you know we’ll follow through. It means something.”
Mr. Tillerson isn’t an ideologue; he’s more of a realist. Mr. Trump, is betting the American people will accept Mr. Tillerson’s nomination based on the fact they were willing to elect him — both are successful, strong businessmen who have promised to use their negotiating skills to better the lives of Americans.
I also like the fact that many in Mr. Trump’s cabinet are self-made millionaires and billionaires because they don’t need to profit from their government roles, it’s more of a public service.
On the same coin, they also don’t owe anyone anything.
I trust Mr. Tillerson will divest all of his shares from ExxonMobil so that his moves as secretary of state will not be compromised. This has to be expected.
My only concern with Mr. Tillerson’s appointment is his support of a carbon tax.
Perhaps he was being pragmatic as CEO of ExxonMobil and thought it was the best way to deal with the left on climate change issues, that had the least impact on his bottom line.
Either way, I would expect Republicans to grill him on this during the confirmation hearing — and spend a little less time trying to make him out to be a friend of Mr. Putin.