The Slatest

Rex Tillerson Doesn’t Exactly Sound Like Someone Who Wants to Be Secretary of State

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Beijing on Saturday.

Lintao Zhang/AFP/Getty Images

Despite its early days as a political meme factory with a conservative bent, the Independent Journal Review wants very badly to be a real publication that young people not only click on occasionally, but also take seriously. The publication’s utterly absurd Obama-themed conspiracy theory story last week showed how far the publication has to go. The dilemma facing the IJR is that its growth as a receptacle for pro-Trump gossip has endeared it to the White House, which, in turn, has generated opportunities to appear more like a nonterrible website. The latest example of this mutual back-scratching situation came in the State Department’s decision to restrict press access on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s recent trip to Asia to a single journalist, Erin McPike of the Independent Journal Review. The diplomatic press corps protested the decision; it didn’t matter.

So, on Tuesday, we got the IJR’s distillation of Tillerson, the oilman diplomat, which was a generally dull, scattered, overly adverbed account that featured a chocolate chip cookie on Tillerson’s desk, made mention of the “tumultuous Middle East” and troops “bounding into Iraq,” while, unfortunately, including this sentence: “Broadly, now that Trump’s in office, witness how business background melded with style has upended global dialogue about the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)…” But just as hope appeared to be lost, the piece offered up this tidbit that appears to get to the heart of Tillerson’s Eeyore demeanor: He doesn’t want to be secretary of state! Or, at least, he didn’t.

From the IJR:

So why, then, did he want the gig?

“I didn’t want this job. I didn’t seek this job.” He paused to let that sink in. A beat or two passed before an aide piped up to ask him why he said yes. “My wife told me I’m supposed to do this.”

After watching the contortions of my face as I tried to figure out what to say next, he humbly explained that he had never met the president before the election. As president-elect, Trump wanted to have a conversation with Tillerson “about the world” given what he gleaned from the complex global issues he dealt with as CEO of Exxon Mobil.

“When he asked me at the end of that conversation to be secretary of state, I was stunned.”

When Tillerson got home and told his wife, Renda St. Clair, she shook her finger in his face and said, “I told you God’s not through with you.”

With a half-worn smile, he said, “I was supposed to retire in March, this month. I was going to go to the ranch to be with my grandkids.”

… “My wife convinced me. She was right. I’m supposed to do this.”

There we go. Good takeaway quote. At last, we’re getting somewhere. Now just imagine what we’d know if there had been a dozen seasoned journalists on the plane.