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Image: William Munoz

The Rex Files: How Qualified Is Tillerson for the Top Spot at State?

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By all accounts, Rex Tillerson is a successful businessman. But can the ExxonMobil CEO be an effective diplomat too? Now that Donald Trump has officially tapped him for the most-watched seat in the cabinet, Secretary of State, there are plenty of questions on people’s minds about how Tillerson can overcome a record of controversial social policy to take over the agency in charge of presenting America to the world: the U.S. State Department. One thing’s for sure — the heat on Trump’s pick has turned up a notch since the president-elect made it official last night. Among the many concerns: Tillerson is linked to a liberal social agenda. Can Tillerson be expected to reverse the damage done by the Obama administration’s cultural bullying? And does he have the necessary skillset to draw a hard line against other nations when the time comes?

Joining me on “Washington Watch” to talk over some of Tillerson’s troubling decisions at the helm of ExxonMobil — and what his support of Planned Parenthood and the LGBT agenda might mean for his new post at State — was Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) who’s raised his own flags about cozy relationship between Tillerson and Russian President Vladamir Putin. “I do have some legitimate, I think, concerns about Mr. Tillerson,” Senator McCain told me. And he’s not alone. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fl.) has also voiced surprise and concern about the choice. “I believe after Ukraine, he opposed sanctions that were put on Russia. He has a very close relationship with Vladamir Putin, by the way. He was given an award by Vladamir Putin — I was sanctioned by Vladamir Putin… I will meet with Mr. Tillerson, I am sure, and we will have debate about it. But honestly, Vladamir Putin is a thug, a murderer, and a killer… This guy is the classic KGB. The list of his atrocities goes on and on…”

In a nod to the ExxonMobil’s track record for LGBT activism and Planned Parenthood support, McCain asked, “What about the issue of morality?” That’s important too. “Mainly the [concerns] center around the relationship with Russia — also some of the policies he was instrumental in [passing] at the Boy Scouts… Some of his policies there are questionable.”

As we discussed later in the interview, Tillerson isn’t your prototypical Secretary of State. He comes from corporate America — and I would be the first to support someone with that kind of background in a government leadership position. But there are business deals, and then there are some negotiations — as with Iran, North Korea, Russia, and other explosive hot spots — that deals won’t fix. After eight years of the weakest foreign policy in generations under Barack Obama, America needs a top diplomat that won’t set out to export radical social policy or acquiesce to the global consensus but who will stand on solid unbending principle when that time comes. Is Tillerson that man? We’ll see.



 

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