Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Questions for Mr. Tillerson

 

Rex TillersonThe American appetite for businessmen in government is a hardy perennial. Ross Perot won 19 percent of the popular vote in 1992 on the strength of his “get under the hood” appeal. The Republican Party nominated Wendell Willkie in 1940 (though he’d been a Democrat until 1939) because he was perceived as a businessman “with a heart.” Now, the president-elect has chosen ExxonMobil chief Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State. Is a businessman – a great dealmaker – according to the Trump camp, what we need as Secretary of State?

Progressives tend to respond in Pavlovian fashion to corporate CEOs, especially oil company executives. “Corporate America” is their bête noire – which just demonstrates their tunnel vision. In fact, the leaders of big corporations in the US tend to bend with fashion in political matters. Recall that a number of large companies denounced Indiana when it passed its Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and some even withdrew from the state. Among those bringing pressure to amend or repeal the law were Apple Corporation, Angie’s List, Subaru, the National Collegiate Athletic Association, and Gen Con. Some of the nation’s largest companies are very generous to progressive causes, and when they start foundations, it’s Katie-bar-the-door (yes, that means you Ford Foundation).

In my experience, small business owners tend to be more conservative than executives of large corporations. Why? 1) Small businesses lack the heft to influence the government; and 2) they lack the manpower/income to comply with costly regulations. Large companies are better positioned to lobby the government for favorable treatment, including policies that will harm their competitors (which often includes the small businesses), and they have the staff to fill out stupid, useless government forms.

When I heard that Mr. Tillerson was instrumental in getting the Boy Scouts to change its policy on homosexuality, that ExxonMobil donated to Planned Parenthood on his watch, and that he favors a carbon tax, I wasn’t surprised. Thiels, Mackeys, and Kochs are thin on the ground.

Tillerson’s business experience is impressive, but it tells us nothing important about whether he is a good choice for Secretary of State. What is most relevant, and what the senators who question him during his confirmation hearings will want to illuminate, is what are his views on American foreign policy?

President George W. Bush intervened aggressively in Afghanistan and Iraq. President Barack Obama withdrew precipitously from Iraq, dithered about Afghanistan, and studiously declined to intervene in Syria. What are Mr. Tillerson’s views of the wisdom/folly of those policies? Where does he stand on normalizing relations with Cuba? The Paris climate accord? The Iran deal? Mr. Obama tilted the US toward Iran and sharply away from Israel and the Sunni powers in the region. What are Tillerson’s views?

Does he agree with John Kerry (and his old friend James A. Baker III) that solving the Israel/Palestine dispute is the key to peace in the region?

What is the major geostrategic threat to the United States?

Is a trade war the way to deal with China? Who would be hurt by a 35 percent tariff on imported goods? What are other options for curtailing Chinese aggression?

Is it ever in the U.S. interest to defend human rights, or small nations menaced by bigger neighbors?

Then, there are the critical issues President-elect Trump raised during the campaign. Does NATO remain a keystone of US defense? Does it serve US interests to see South Korea, Japan, Saudi Arabia, and other nations acquire nuclear weapons? Should the United States repeal the sanctions imposed on Russia after its annexation of Crimea (as Tillerson urged when he was pursuing the interests of ExxonMobil)?

And while we’re on the subject of Russia, how many consecutive presidencies should begin with a resolution to improve relations with Russia? Why, in light of Putin’s unrelenting hostility, vicious, often murderous behavior toward critics and rivals at home, Soviet-style anti-American propaganda, possible hacking of our political parties, and unblushing war crimes abroad (especially, lately, in Syria), should we seek better relations? Doesn’t that seem pusillanimous just now?

Mr. Trump promised to destroy ISIS “very quickly.” How would that be accomplished?

The President-elect has said that strongmen are preferable to chaos. Agree? Trump took a congratulatory call from Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, who has launched a terror campaign against drug dealers and addicts. Thousands have been killed. What ought the US response to be?

Who are our most important allies? What, if any, is America’s global role?

There are 11 comments.

  1. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Mona Charen: Thiels, Mackeys, and Kochs are thin on the ground.

    But the Kochs were/are NeverTrumpers. How thin is that ground?

    Mona Charen: The President-elect has said that strongmen are preferable to chaos. Agree?

    The US has engaged in realpolitik about supporting strongmen in the past. Is it only bad when Trump does it?

    I see one of the most conservative groups in my lifetime, being proposed to help Trump lead the nation. They are surely not all perfect, but this is at least as good an overall outcome as you would have if you got what you wanted, namely President Elect Rubio.

    The proof in the pudding on all these appointments is that all the bad people on the left hate them so much. Since I can no longer use people such as yourself to help me understand what is going on, I have to go on other bellweathers. The cries of the left appear to say these are all great choices.

    But, I challenge you, for every slot, who would you wish to see in there?

    • #1
    • December 14, 2016, at 2:02 PM PST
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  2. Damocles Inactive

    I’ve always been a bit confused as to the emphasis on the SoS’s views. Doesn’t the SoS take the viewpoints of the President? Has any SoS ever implemented policies seriously disagreed with by the President?

    Probably just my ignorance speaking!

    • #2
    • December 14, 2016, at 2:28 PM PST
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  3. The Cloaked Gaijin Member

    Tillerson appears to be a despot-friendly, climate change-alarmist Planned Parenthood-supporter who as a fan of the Boy Scouts was the “lead voice against the Boy Scouts of America’s long-standing policy on homosexuality while he served as the organization’s president.”

    Homosexuality may be okay in many circumstances, but overnight camping and mentoring with young teenage boys? This after the recent Catholic priest scandal? Even Alec Baldwin used to make fun of this idea during the Canteen Boy skits on Saturday Night Live.

    If he wants to play good cop figurehead to John Bolton, that would be one thing, but I am not very optimistic in that.

    Businessmen are great, but a history of overlooking human rights is not. The exact same thing happens with the cool tech business guys in Silicone Valley; I don’t think they care much about non-Buddhist religious freedom, but you’d think that they would occasionally push back against other repression.

    • #3
    • December 14, 2016, at 2:38 PM PST
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  4. I Walton Member

    Oil company execs generally have a greater affinity for Arabs than Israeli’s for obvious reasons, but they have little in common with the tech boys. They live like our Foreign Service, share some of the cultural attributes of our Diplomats, but tend to be less academic because they join and move up by getting good at specific tasks important to finding, arranging legal access to, developing, financing, moving, refining and protecting oil. FSO’s start by winning academic contests but the good ones figure out the real world rather quickly. The technical folks who create or move up and get rich, don’t live abroad nor have to deal with the rest of the world head and they generally do have much education at all in history, economics, or any of the “softer” subjects important to understanding the kinds of things a Secretary of State must hourly confront. Oil people live with these realities their whole lives. I think a senior oil person is a good pick. His progressive stances however, are of concern and are the issues conservatives need to focus on not the utter silliness that he knows and is respected by thugs like Putin. What would we want that Putin hold him in the same contempt he holds Obama?

    • #4
    • December 14, 2016, at 3:48 PM PST
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  5. Hoyacon Member

    The Cloaked Gaijin:Tillerson appears to be a despot-friendly, climate change-alarmist Planned Parenthood-supporter who as a fan of the Boy Scouts was the “lead voice against the Boy Scouts of America’s long-standing policy on homosexuality while he served as the organization’s president.”

    Perhaps. But there’s other evidence well worth considering.

    • #5
    • December 14, 2016, at 8:04 PM PST
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  6. Scott Wilmot Member

    Mona Charen: When I heard <snip>that ExxonMobil donated to Planned Parenthood on his watch,

    Mona, I worked for ExxonMobil for 33-1/2 years and am now retired. I was always proud to work for XOM. You can imagine that in a company as big as XOM that political views of it’s employees cross the spectrum.

    ExxonMobil encouraged community service and philanthropic giving through a partnership with United Way. Employees were encouraged to donate and one could make a blind gift to UW or choose specific organizations to whom to donate. ExxonMobil would match a portion of the gift. As a pro-lifer, I was aware that Planned Parenthood was an option for giving as were pro-life organizations. Any funding of either was done due to the choice of an employee. I would question every year why PP was on the list and would get the normal corporate PC BS answer. To say that ExxonMobil donated to Planned Parenthood in the way you did doesn’t really tell the whole story.

    • #6
    • December 15, 2016, at 5:01 AM PST
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  7. Trinity Waters Inactive

    Scott Wilmot:

    Mona Charen: When I heard <snip>that ExxonMobil donated to Planned Parenthood on his watch,

    Mona, I worked for ExxonMobil for 33-1/2 years and am now retired. I was always proud to work for XOM. You can imagine that in a company as big as XOM that political views of it’s employees cross the spectrum.

    ExxonMobil encouraged community service and philanthropic giving through a partnership with United Way. Employees were encouraged to donate and one could make a blind gift to UW or choose specific organizations to whom to donate. ExxonMobil would match a portion of the gift. As a pro-lifer, I was aware that Planned Parenthood was an option for giving as were pro-life organizations. Any funding of either was done due to the choice of an employee. I would question every year why PP was on the list and would get the normal corporate PC BS answer. To say that ExxonMobil donated to Planned Parenthood in the way you did doesn’t really tell the whole story.

    It appears that you live in the real world, Scott, and it clearly doesn’t align with Mona’s message. I didn’t even read her post, but happened upon your comment. Well said.

    • #7
    • December 15, 2016, at 6:03 AM PST
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  8. Duane Oyen Member
    Duane Oyen Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Bryan G. Stephens:

    Mona Charen: Thiels, Mackeys, and Kochs are thin on the ground.

    But the Kochs were/are NeverTrumpers. How thin is that ground?

    ======

    Er, despite the fact that Trump has pleasantly surprised us with most of his early picks (despite the footsie nonsense with Gore and Ivanka’s GlobaloneyWarming fixation), how is the Koch NeverTrump position a problem? I think that it is still pretty obvious that, given foreign policy as the most important job of the president, we would still be better off with President Rubio and Sec’y of State Romney. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/01/the-poison-flower/508736/

    • #8
    • December 15, 2016, at 6:47 AM PST
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  9. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Duane Oyen:

    Bryan G. Stephens:

    Mona Charen: Thiels, Mackeys, and Kochs are thin on the ground.

    But the Kochs were/are NeverTrumpers. How thin is that ground?

    ======

    Er, despite the fact that Trump has pleasantly surprised us with most of his early picks (despite the footsie nonsense with Gore and Ivanka’s GlobaloneyWarming fixation), how is the Koch NeverTrump position a problem? I think that it is still pretty obvious that, given foreign policy as the most important job of the president, we would still be better off with President Rubio and Sec’y of State Romney. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/01/the-poison-flower/508736/

    You really have not demonstrated why you think that would be. This article says nothing about pics for office. You want Romney for Sec State. How would he be better with Russia, specifically, based on his background?

    • #9
    • December 15, 2016, at 7:49 AM PST
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  10. Joe P Member

    Bryan G. Stephens:

    Duane Oyen:

    Er, despite the fact that Trump has pleasantly surprised us with most of his early picks (despite the footsie nonsense with Gore and Ivanka’s GlobaloneyWarming fixation), how is the Koch NeverTrump position a problem? I think that it is still pretty obvious that, given foreign policy as the most important job of the president, we would still be better off with President Rubio and Sec’y of State Romney. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/01/the-poison-flower/508736/

    You really have not demonstrated why you think that would be. This article says nothing about pics for office. You want Romney for Sec State. How would he be better with Russia, specifically, based on his background?

    I thought the point of the Secretary of State was to represent American interests abroad, not to “be better with” nations that oppose those interests.

    • #10
    • December 16, 2016, at 4:01 AM PST
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  11. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Joe P:

    Bryan G. Stephens:

    Duane Oyen:

    Er, despite the fact that Trump has pleasantly surprised us with most of his early picks (despite the footsie nonsense with Gore and Ivanka’s GlobaloneyWarming fixation), how is the Koch NeverTrump position a problem? I think that it is still pretty obvious that, given foreign policy as the most important job of the president, we would still be better off with President Rubio and Sec’y of State Romney. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/01/the-poison-flower/508736/

    You really have not demonstrated why you think that would be. This article says nothing about pics for office. You want Romney for Sec State. How would he be better with Russia, specifically, based on his background?

    I thought the point of the Secretary of State was to represent American interests abroad, not to “be better with” nations that oppose those interests.

    I guess I was not clear. Since you have picked Russia as the nation for Sec State, how would it be better for Romney to be Sec State in regards to Russia, specifically, based on Romeny’s background.

    • #11
    • December 16, 2016, at 4:51 AM PST
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