President-elect Donald Trump made it official this morning. Rex Tillerson, Exxon C.E.O., Chosen as Secretary of State:
In [nominating] Mr. Tillerson, the president-elect is dismissing bipartisan concerns that the globe-trotting leader of an energy giant has a too-cozy relationship with Vladimir V. Putin, the president of Russia.
A statement from Mr. Trump’s transition office early Tuesday brought to an end his public and chaotic deliberations over the nation’s top diplomat — a process that at times veered from rewarding Rudolph W. Giuliani, one of his most loyal supporters, to musing about whether Mitt Romney, one of his most outspoken critics, might be forgiven.
Instead, Mr. Trump has decided to risk what looks to be a bruising confirmation fight in the Senate.
In the past several days, Republican and Democratic lawmakers had warned that Mr. Tillerson would face intense scrutiny over his two-decade relationship with Russia, which awarded him its Order of Friendship in 2013, and with Mr. Putin.
The hearings will also put a focus on Exxon Mobil’s business dealings with Moscow. The company has billions of dollars in oil contracts that can go forward only if the United States lifts sanctions against Russia, and Mr. Tillerson’s stake in Russia’s energy industry could create a very blurry line between his interests as an oilman and his role as America’s leading diplomat.
Mr. Tillerson has been publicly skeptical about the sanctions, which have halted some of Exxon Mobil’s biggest projects in Russia, including an agreement with the state oil company to explore and pump in Siberia that could be worth tens of billions of dollars. Rex Tillerson’s Company, Exxon, Has Billions at Stake Over Sanctions on Russia.
Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, said on Saturday that Mr. Tillerson’s connections to Mr. Putin were “a matter of concern to me” and promised to examine them closely if he were nominated.
“Vladimir Putin is a thug, bully and a murderer, and anybody else who describes him as anything else is lying,” Mr. McCain said on Fox News.
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Other Republicans who have challenged Mr. Tillerson’s potential selection include Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who expressed concern in a Twitter post on Monday about his relationship with Mr. Putin.
Oh, it goes deeper than Tillerson’s connection to Putin. To get a sense of who Tillerson is, it’s helpful to read what Steve Coll has written about him in his book about ExxonMobil, titled Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power. Here’s how Coll recently summarized what he learned:
The main themes of “Private Empire” involved the ways that ExxonMobil saw itself as an independent, transnational corporate sovereign in the world, a power independent of the American government, one devoted firmly to shareholder interests and possessed of its own foreign policy. Exxon’s foreign policy sometimes had more impact on the countries where it operated than did the State Department.
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The goal of ExxonMobil’s independent foreign policy has been to promote a world that is good for oil and gas production. Because oil projects require huge amounts of capital and only pay off fully over decades, Tillerson has favored doing business in countries that offer political stability, even if this stability was achieved through authoritarian rule.
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[ExxonMobil] works as a partner to dictators under a version of the Prime Directive on “Star Trek”: It does not interfere in the politics of host countries. The right kinds of dictators can be more predictable and profitable than democracies.
The New York Times editorializes today that Donald Trump has chosen for Secretary of State an apologist for Russia, and apparently for deputy Secretary of State, John Bolton, “a conservative ideologue who has spent his career pushing dangerous policies.” Flawed Choices for the State Department.
Trump has selected another oil industry toadie, former Texas Governor “Goodhair” Rick Perry, to lead the Department of Energy — one of the three government agencies Perry campaigned on eliminating, but could not remember during a debate. Oops! Rick Perry, Ex-Governor of Texas, Is Trump’s Pick as Energy Secretary:
President-elect Donald J. Trump plans to name the former Texas governor Rick Perry as his secretary of energy.
The selection of Mr. Perry to lead the energy agency would offer a rich irony: During a televised debate in 2011, when he was seeking the Republican nomination, Mr. Perry intended to list the Department of Energy among agencies he wanted to eliminate, but he could not remember its name.
While Texas is rich in energy resources and Mr. Perry is an enthusiastic advocate of extracting them, it is not clear how that experience would translate into leading what is also a major national security agency. Despite its name, the Department of Energy plays the leading role in designing nuclear weapons and in ensuring the safety and reliability of the nation’s aging nuclear arsenal through a constellation of scientific laboratories.
About 60 percent of the Energy Department’s budget is devoted to managing the National Nuclear Security Administration, which defines its mission as enhancing national security through the military application of nuclear science.
The administration manages the country’s nuclear weapons stockpile and runs American programs on nuclear nonproliferation and counterterrorism. The two men who served as President Obama’s energy secretaries were physicists, one with a Nobel Prize, the other a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Governor “Goodhair” is a giant intellectual leap backwards. Steve Benen reminds us:
Trump said of Perry in July 2015, “He should be forced to take an IQ test before being allowed to enter the GOP debate.” A week later, Trump added, “He put on glasses so people think he’s smart. People can see through the glasses.”
Apparently, however, Perry is smart enough to join Trump’s cabinet [and to manage the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile — holy crap!]
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It’s quite an evolution for the former governor. During his presidential candidacy last year, Perry went further than nearly anyone in condemning Trump, calling the television personality “a barking carnival act” who represents a “cancer on conservatism,” and who would send the Republican Party to the “graveyard.”
Less than a year later, however, the Texan started hinting that he was looking for a job on Trump’s team.
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[Perry] will now lead a federal agency he doesn’t think should exist. And as we discussed the other day, during Trump’s transition process, this keeps happening.
Jeff Sessions is Trump’s choice for Attorney General despite his record of hostility towards civil rights.
Betsy DeVos is Trump’s choice for Education Secretary despite her opposition towards public schools.
Ben Carson is Trump’s choice for Housing and Urban Development Secretary despite his hostility towards the Fair Housing Act.
Tom Price is Trump’s choice for Health and Human Services Secretary despite his opposition to programs that provide health security to millions of Americans.
Andrew Puzder is Trump’s choice for Labor Secretary despite his contempt for labor laws.
Scott Pruitt is Trump’s choice to lead the EPA despite Pruitt vow to fight the agency’s policy agenda.
This is not an encouraging pattern.
Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post notes that “The president-elect appears to be assembling not a government but an anti-government.” This is consistent with the anti-government rhetoric of the GOP.