Secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson, the chairman and CEO of Exxon Mobil, is expected to run into some confirmation hurdles given his lack of government policymaking experience and his friendship with Vladimir Putin. Republican Russia hawks like Sens. John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Marco Rubio have already expressed concerns over Tillerson. It would only take three Republican defections, assuming no Senate Democrats vote to confirm him, to sink the nomination.
What the Trump team has done, then, is set up a worthy chain of validators to endorse Tillerson’s selection early. It’s a credible list.
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice described Tillerson as “an excellent choice for Secretary of State” who “will bring to the post remarkable and broad international experience; a deep understanding of the global economy; and a belief in America’s special role in the world.”
Stephen Hadley, who served as national security adviser under President George W. Bush, commended the “strong choice.” Tillerson “has broad experience and established relationships throughout the world,” Hadley said in a statement. “They will be of enormous value as the new administration develops its foreign policy strategy and approach.”
Bob Gates, the former defense secretary to Presidents W. Bush and Obama, “strongly” endorsed Tillerson in a statement as well. “He is a person of great integrity whose only goal in office would be to protect and advance the interests of the United States.” It was Gates, according to the Washington Post’s Philip Rucker, who first recommended Tillerson to Trump, and Rice who helped close the deal.
Rice, Hadley, Gates. What a trio! It’s also the name of a lobbying—er, “international strategic consulting”—firm that maintains Exxon Mobil as a client.
Gates disclosed this relationship in his initial statement. “While ExxonMobil is one of many clients of RiceHadleyGates consulting,” Gates wrote, “I met Rex years earlier through our mutual involvement in and leadership of the Boy Scouts of America.” This sentence was cut in the version sent out by the Trump transition team late Tuesday morning.
There’s been some great “strategic consulting” work all around this transition. Old Bob Dole got Trump on the horn with his client, Taiwan. Rice, Hadley, and Gates got their client in the secretary of state position. Goldman Sachs got Goldman Sachs in all of the other jobs. Congratulations to everyone; keep up the hustle.