Rex Tillerson

Trump Nominating Rex Tillerson Secretary of State

Exxon-Mobil CEO could become an advocate for liberalization and cooperation as top diplomat.


President-Elect Donald Trump announced this morning on Twitter that he intended to nominate Exxon-Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson for the position of secretary of state, calling him "one of the truly great business leaders of the world."

Tillerson has been the CEO of Exxon-Mobil since 2006, and has been with Exxon-Mobil for 41 years, joining as a production engineer. He was expected to retire from the company by March.

Tillerson has often spoke about technological progress bringing the U.S. closer to an era of energy abundance. "We face an urgent need to learn the appropriate policy lessons to fully leverage this historic moment," he said in public remarks in 2014. "We need new policies designed for this new era of abundance not policies based on the fear of scarcity."

In 2012, Tillerson spoke to the Council on Foreign Relations, where he noted the that while energy independence and energy security were used interchangeably in political discussions, they meant different things. "I think what the U.S. policy and what's in the best interest of American consumers has been and should be—is securing access to energy in a reliable, relatively affordable way," he explained. "And if we're able to do that, where it comes from should be of little consequence to us, if it's reliable, if I have a system of policies that ensure I have reliable, affordable sources of energy."

Tillerson added: "If you don't like the people you're buying it from, that's a different issue. That's a different issue." Tillerson has had significant experience on that front, dealing with all kinds of foreign regimes that control access to resources in their countries. Exxon-Mobil has been in a years-long legal battle with Venezuela over its nationalization of oil resources and the status of contracts that pre-dated the Hugo Chavez regime.

In 1998, Tillerson became responsible for Exxon-Mobil's holdings in Russia, subsequently entering the company into agreements with Russia's state-owned oil company, Rosneft. In 2013, he was awarded the Order of Friendship, a decoration bestowed by the Russian government on foreigners it finds have worked to improve relations between their countries and Russia, for Exxon-Mobil's contribution to "developing cooperation in the energy sector."

Exxon-Mobil continued to work in Russia despite sanctions imposed in 2014 in response to Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine and its annexation of Crimea. "Today, commercial success is driven by efficient international cooperation," Putin told the CEO of Rosneft and to ExxonMobil's lead manager in Russia during a video conference call. "Businesses, including Russian and foreign companies, perfectly realize that and despite certain current political difficulties, pragmatism and common sense prevail, and we are pleased to hear that."

The prevailing Russophobic mood today means Tillerson's professional relationships with Russia will be interpreted in an antagonistic way. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has taken the lead on this. "Vladimir Putin is a thug, bully and a murderer, and anybody else who describes him as anything else is a liar," McCain said on Fox News. Such an attitude runs counter to any diplomatic strategy that privileges friendly, productive relationships over self-serving sanctimony. It's important to remember that Exxon-Mobil was not the only operator unwilling to jeopardize its interests in Russia over a political squabble between Russian and Western leaders—the U.S. government, despite limited sanctions and bombastic rhetoric, continued to cooperate with Russia on matters that mattered to it, like getting to space.

Sanctions are blunt tools that sacrifice economic freedom for the perception of political victory, and rarely actually work. For their targets, they can serve as scapegoats for other domestic problems. Free trade, on the other hand, leads to friendlier relations. Interconnectedness—globalization—doesn't just promote prosperity, it also promotes peace and security. It's similar to what Tillerson touched on in his 2012 CFR speech—energy security comes not from "energy independence" but from a diverse set of sources made possible by policies that promote trade and cooperation. It leaves room for optimism.

In the same 2012 speech, Tillerson expressed hope that energy privatization in Mexico could "open up opportunities for greater partnerships and collaborations and bringing technology to bear on the huge resources" the country had. A secretary of state who advocates for privatization, liberalization, and free markets would be a welcome change from the kind of self-important career politicians who try to pass aimless but persistent interventionism as productive diplomacy.

In a round-up last month of secretary of state appointments Trump could make that wouldn't be so bad, I noted that looking to the private sector was a good idea, and that "the State Department could benefit from being guided by someone with extensive experience in the private sector." Tillerson's confirmation hearing could be illuminating, if they aren't derailed by the kind of Russophobia interventionists like McCain and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who tweeted that a "friend of Vladimir" is not what he was looking for in America's next top diplomat, are already peddling. Republicans will have 52 senators next year, placing Tillerson, at his confirmation hearing, in a position to break the anti-Russian fever that's seen an anti-Trump-fueled resurgence in Washington.


NEXT: The Most Important Graph in the World

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. So he has actual qualifications? Good to know. I figured Trump was just trolling leftists again.

    1. It’s a two-for.

  2. “Exxon-Mobil CEO could become an advocate for liberalization and cooperation as top diplomat.”

    Well, the very likely probability for graft and corporatism aside I suppose it beats Cold War II: Electric Boogaloo.

    As I told a friend after the election, the best we can hope for is an overall feeling of ambivalence towards the cabinet posts. Some will be great examples of a new course, some will be outright rewards for financial support and some will be frustratingly authoritative shitheads. Best we can hope for here is a combination of the former two examples.

    1. In our sprint towards total facists corruption, at least trump offers the possibility that we can slow down the train to destruction. He will certainly have plenty of corruption within but at least the path to total banana republic status is slowed down a bit by him.

      Under that repugnant hag, we would have been Europe in 1 year.

    2. “the very likely probability for graft and corporatism”

      So….who is more likely to be susceptible to the lure of money and graft?

      1) A career politician who has no productive income beyond influence peddling.

      2) A retiring CEO who is independently wealthy enough for the most luxurious retirement imaginable

  3. ‘ in response to Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine and its annexation of Crimea’

    Are Reason writers out of their minds? (This is not a rhetorical question…)

    1. Care to expand on that? Why do you think the sanctions were imposed?

    2. Note- that’s a serious question.

    3. Something something… CUCKS… mumble mumble… COZMOZ… blah blah blah… FAGGITZ… yada yada… KOCKTAIL PARTIEZ…

  4. I’m interested in hearing what he has to say on key issues and I actually trust the Senate Republicans to give him as much a hard time in confirmation hearings as Democrats will. Amazing how Trump is succeeding in making the Senate function the way it is supposed to with regard to birddogging the president and his executive decisions.

    My biggest concern is actually that he came so highly endorsed by Condi Rice, James Baker and Robert Gates. Hopefully they’re simply vouching for his competence not his actual worldviews aligning with theirs.

  5. where it comes from should be of little consequence to us, if it’s reliable


    1. What difference – at this point – does it make where the oil comes from as long as it’s soaked in blood.

  6. Peace for our time!

    1. You’re an inspiration.

    2. Almost as good as coffee! 😎

  7. Russiaphobia? I’d said it’s more like opposition to the normalization of authoritarianism.

    1. Sure. Remember when Hillary expressed her opposition with a mis-translated “reset” button? Then deepened the relationship by giving them control of a large portion of American uranium production in return for a massive bribe speaking fee.

      1. And how is that not exactly what this new administration is signaling?

  8. I love it. He is far more qualified than any of the off-the-shelf political hacks available for the job. The last two such hacks have been an absolute disaster. And, his mere existence is enough to drive liberals into seizures. It is a perfect pick.

  9. At ExxonMobil, we share the view that the risks of climate change are serious and warrant thoughtful action. Addressing these risks requires broad-based, practical solutions around the world. Importantly, as a result of the Paris agreement, both developed and developing countries are now working together to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, while recognizing differing national responsibilities, capacities and circumstances. In our industry, the best hope for the future is to enable and encourage long-term investments in both proven and new technologies, while supporting effective policies. Which is what we are doing. We have long supported a carbon tax as the best policy of those being considered. Replacing the hodge-podge of current, largely ineffective regulations with a revenue-neutral carbon tax would ensure a uniform and predictable cost of carbon across the economy. It would allow market forces to drive solutions. It would maximize transparency, reduce administrative complexity, promote global participation and easily adjust to future developments in our understanding of climate science as well as the policy consequences of these actions.

    Forget about the whole Russia thing for a second… this guy is a climate change true believer (or says he is) who supports a carbon tax. Why are we not discussing his awfulness for this reason alone?

    1. 1. Do you really think he believes the first half of that piece of wordsmithing? It has the bland mark of corporate communications with a Legal review feel to it.

      2. The second half of that statement is exactly what the CEO of Exxon would advocate. Get rid of all those pesky regulations that cost Exxon money to comply with – And replace them with a simple tax they can pass through to their customers.

      1. I don’t disagree, but I’d certainly like to know how he feels on the subject personally (as I do recognize that the statement is from Exxon, not him personally). Won’t it matter if this guy goes to these climate change conferences and echos bullshit that John Kerry has said? Does that not concern you even a little bit?

        1. It should definitely be a concern. It makes absolutely no sense that the likes of Exxon and Shell would ever echo support for any of these regulations, carbon taxes, paris accords etc… The only reason that a massive corporation would support such massive increases in costs to their bottom line would be that they get to design the regs for purposes of protectionism or advantage over competition.

          Anyone in the fossil fuels industry that does not call Anthro. climate change a total scam is obviously corrupted.

          Since there is no proof that it is human caused, no honest business man would support regulations that damage profit margins. He is a cronyist.

          1. Going hard against the climate change BS would destroy their ability to do business in Western Europe, New Zealand, and Australia.

            I work for a healthcare company. Whatever we think of Obamacare, we keep it to ourselves and play nice in public.

            1. Ever hear of regulatory capture? If you load an industry down with burdensome regulations (but don’t intend to kill it entirely), then whoever is #1 will have the resources to meet the burden, while the “7 dwarves” competitors will almost certainly suffer more. In a short time the hierarchy of competitors could ossify, meanwhile the #1 company certainly has the ear of regulators.

              So Exxon would have little reason to oppose certain types of regulations, it would solidify their place among smaller competitors.

              Also it is possible a carbon tax would replace multiple other regulations and lighten the load overall. In that event Exxon would still have to compete, not just comply.

    2. It’s against the law for him to be a denier, hopefully that will change.

  10. It’s important to remember that Exxon-Mobil was not the only operator unwilling to jeopardize its interests in Russia over a political squabble between Russian and Western leaders?the U.S. government, despite limited sanctions and bombastic rhetoric, continued to cooperate with Russia on matters that mattered to it, like getting to space.

    But that’s totes different… because government…

    If you’re hearing loud popping noises this morning that’s just progtard’s heads exploding over the thought of some EVUL OIL KKKORPORAYSHUN CEO becoming Secretary of State. First Trump announces plans to nominate a fast food CEO who’s against the minimum wage and whose restaurants have produced “sexist” commercials for Sec. of Labor, and now an Oil CEO for Sec of State. Yep, he’s trolling the shit out of the progtards.

    1. Like him or not, many of his nominations are very compelling. At least you know they are not just dyed in the wool Marxists like every one of brak’s morons in government.

      In our march towards massive government, perhaps trump will slow it down a bit but you can bet there will be a healthy does of cronyism and enrichment.

  11. When in charge of Exxon, he had an obligation to do the best he could for Exxon shareholders. As Secretary of State, he will have an obligation to do the best for the USA. He seems bright enough to see that; and to do that.

    1. Not only that, his being a businessman gives him a natural advantage over any politician. Business is nearly the opposite of government in that performance is actually measured and ROI is calculated.

      In business, if your current strategy is clearly not working or it is causing negative unintended consequences, the stratgegy gets changed or eliminated. Nothing is kept unchanged simply because “that’s how we’ve always done it,” nor is FYTW an acceptable answer to give to shareholders’ questions.

      Sure, the guy may turn out to be a terrible SOS, but simply because he is not cut from the same political cloth as the previous, career politicians who were POS Secretaries of State, I’m prepared to give the guy the benefit of the doubt for a little while.

  12. Conspiracy theory:

    His mission will be to audit the State Department and expose/punish all of Hillary’s enablers.

  13. Good. Gooood. Everything is going according to plan.

  14. Wow, an actual Russian sympathizer in one of the highest office of government. What could possibly go wrong?

    1. I don’t know? What could go wrong with Obama whipping his dick out over Syria and telling Putin his is bigger?

  15. Brianna. true that Kathryn`s st0rry is impressive… I just received themselves a Jaguar E-type from bringing in $5324 recently and-over, ten-k this past-munth. it’s definitly the coolest work Ive ever done. I started this 3 months ago and straight away started to bring home minimum $81.. per/hr. straight from the source


  16. Liam. I agree that Carl`s bl0g is cool… I just got a great new Honda since getting a cheque for $9458 thiss month and just a little over 10/k this past-munth. without a doubt its the most financially rewarding I’ve ever had. I started this six months/ago and almost immediately started earning at least $75, per hour. go now


  17. when i looked at the figure of 14786 dollars .Than I have no other choice but to accept , what i saw .They have been doing this for a year and get rid of their debts.. Yesterday they purchased new Aston Martin ?
    visit This Site.

  18. Elizabeth. true that Janice`s comment is unimaginable… last saturday I got a top of the range Mazda MX-5 since I been bringin in $9155 this last 5 weeks and-just over, 10k this past month. it’s certainly the most-financialy rewarding I’ve ever had. I began this 10-months ago and almost straight away got at least $69, per-hr. browse this site


  19. Facebook gives you a great opportunity to earn 98652$ at your home.If you are some intelligent you makemany more Dollars.I am also earning many more, my relatives wondered to see how i settle my Life in few days thank GOD to you for this…You can also make cash i never tell alie you should check this I am sure you shocked to see this amazing offer…I’m Loving it!!!!

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.