President-Elect Donald Trump has been busy appointing and nominating people to his cabinet for the last few weeks. One of the last nominations Trump was set to announce was his pick for Secretary of State. This is a very important role, and the person filling this job will have many important responsibilities that will have wide repercussions for how the United States is perceived in the world and the relationships it keeps with other countries.
The current Secretary of State, former Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, has done a marginally better job than his predecessor, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (in fact, they were both failed Democratic presidential candidates).
But Kerry’s grand fiasco with the Iranian nuclear deal of 2015 has left a black mark on his service the same way that the Benghazi consulate affair left a black mark on Clinton’s (although to be fair, Clinton was covered with black marks from other scandals and may rightfully be considered the worst Secretary of State in living memory).
Prior to Trump’s ultimate selection of his nominee, his short list contained several names, the most familiar of which was likely Mitt Romney, who was the Republican Party’s 2012 presidential nominee (and also a failure in his shot at the presidency).
Another familiar name was Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City and a tireless Trump booster from nearly the beginning of the real estate magnate’s campaign. So omnipresent was Giuliani by the end of Trump’s campaign that many people thought he was a shoo-in for the role of Secretary. As it turns out, Giuliani said he wasn’t interested in the job.
As for Romney, he and Trump had dinner together at New York’s Jean Georges restaurant on November 29, but the reaction from Trump voters to Romney was so negative that Trump likely felt he couldn’t nominate Romney. Not only was there lingering disappointment from the latter’s failed 2012 presidential bid, but there was a negative feeling toward the ex-Massachusetts governor due to his public name-calling of Trump as part of the globalist #NeverTrump movement earlier in the 2016 race.
Instead, Trump ultimately chose ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson for the top State Department job. Tillerson is a controversial pick because of his close relationships with a number of the world’s more eyebrow-raising leaders, such as Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Known as a globetrotter and a dealmaker, Tillerson has visited more than 100 nations and has personally dealt with hundreds of government officials over the course of his business career. He’s acquired the rights to drill for oil in dozens of nations and has often played U.S. business ambassador in cases where the situation called for it.
Tillerson was the president of the Boy Scouts of America from 2010 to 2012 and today sits on the board of that organization.
Tillerson’s background is in engineering, which he received his bachelor’s degree in from the University of Texas at Austin. Tillerson started at Exxon as a production engineer in 1975. He became the manager of the company’s production division in 1989 and began working in the Middle East in Yemen and elsewhere. That was the beginning of many international postings and negotiations.
Tillerson has in the past taken a hardline stance against the Rockefeller family, whose patriarch John D. Rockefeller founded Standard Oil (also known as Esso), the predecessor company of Exxon. The Rockefellers wanted the company to focus more on alternative energy sources, whereas Tillerson wanted to keep it involved with oil and natural gas. Tillerson was responsible for Exxon acquiring XTO Energy, a natural gas producer, in 2009.
But Tillerson’s status as a multimillionaire and possible close ties to globalists in political circles worry some Trump voters. Tillerson is a board member of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), which, like the Trilateral Commission, is governed by former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski and other elite people of his ilk.
Tillerson is extremely close to Russian leader Putin. In fact, some people say that Putin has spent more time with Tillerson than any other individual American, with the possible exception of former National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger.
Tillerson also has a close relationship with Igor Sechin, the leader of Russia’s military and widely considered to be the second most powerful man in the country.
Before it was killed off politically, Tillerson was, like former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a vocal supporter of the Transpacific Partnership (TPP) free-trade agreement, which Trump strongly opposes. Tillerson has also written at least one op-ed article defending the Common Core educational standard, which Trump also opposes.
As a lifelong Republican, Tillerson has in the past given money to the presidential campaigns of Mitt Romney and George W. Bush. He did not donate to Trump’s campaign.
Is Tillerson too much of an elitist to satisfy Trump supporters? Some analysts say that Tillerson is part of Trump’s overall strategy of choosing businessmen to root out the endemic corruption of veteran politicians who are adept at using their offices for financial gain. The idea is that by picking people who have already made a fortune, they will, in theory, be less interested in enriching themselves.
Trump has defended his choice of successful men like Tillerson in his cabinet, saying, “A newspaper criticized me and said, ‘Why can’t they have people of modest means?’ Because I want people that made a fortune! Because now they are negotiating [for] you, OK? It’s no different than a great baseball player, or a great golfer… These people, they’ve given up fortunes of income to come and make a dollar a year, and they are so proud to do it — and you watch. You watch what’s gonna happen.”
Whether or not Tillerson will turn out to have been a smart pick remains to be seen. Certainly, his wealth of global experience qualifies him to deal with foreign leaders and governments. He’s dealt with regimes both legitimate and less so.
He’s used to nations and states trying to get away with shenanigans and knows well the possibilities of international relations souring between nations and sliding from friendly to warring in a few months’ (or weeks’) time.
As Secretary of State, Tillerson should be able to handle his job. But whether he will put the United States in a good position to regain some of the national sovereignty that President Obama — and to a degree, former President George W. Bush — gave up in their quest to satisfy globalist interests is an open question.
~ Conservative Zone