Donald Trump has decided to deck the halls of his White House with magnates, militia and multi-millionaires, thus Rex Tillerson (Chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil) was a natural fit for his latest cabinet nomination: Secretary of State. It was the last minute plot twist in the presidential reality drama that no one saw coming, and now there is another businessman with no government experience and a Russian bromance at the country’s helm. Cue lots of people breathing deeply into paper bags. To be fair, the relationships Tillerson has cultivated among the globe’s business and political elites will probably serve him well when it comes to trade deals and treaties, however being the diplomatic top dog isn’t just about negotiating deals. So far, Tillerson’s keeping quiet on other critical issues that the SoS would face – think: besieged allies, a crumbling European Union, aggressive chess moves by Russia and China, mass terrorist attacks, the Syrian war and refugee crisis, unrest in the Middle East, a nuclear Iran or a climate-related disaster. There’s no question that Tillerson is a super successful businessman, but it will certainly take a very steady hand to guide America through these choppy waters.
Trump isn’t one to sail solo, and now he’s not the only conflicted comrade in the swamp. Tillerson has certainly raised some eyebrows, in particular because of his close political and business ties to President Putin. And there’s a considerable conflict of interest which comes to mind with one word: sanctions. Remember that time Russia invaded Ukraine? Sanctions were subsequently imposed and one side effect happened to be a pause in an oil deal between Russia and ExxonMobil. Yeah, that old chestnut. So both Russia and Exxon stand to win big if sanctions are lifted and operations continue. And Tillerson will be caught in the middle. Oh, and FYI Tillerson has a lot of personal wealth tied up in Exxon stock. TBD if he has the will or influence to lift sanctions.
So if so many people are anxious about Tillerson, does that mean he won’t be confirmed by the Senate, you ask? Well, it’s not unheard of, but highly unlikely for a party-held Congress to go against their party leader’s nomination. No doubt Tillerson’s confirmation hearing will be more interrogation than interview (especially with the renewed reports about Russia interfering in the US election) but he’ll probably get the job just the same. After all running the largest oil company in the world whose revenue rivals that of a medium-sized country requires good judgement and sophisticated diplomatic and negotiation skills – all of which are vital to making America great again. The question will be if Tillerson can convince enough people that he can separate his business interests and loyalty to big oil from the national and security interests of the country. More likely though, he’ll be dogged by the conflict issue throughout his term, much like Clinton’s private server issue dogged hers.
Feel that oil is actually the root of all evil? Nothing new there. Movie for your mood: Syriana