Donald Trump is shoring up his cabinet, preparing for the transfer of power from President Obama come late January. He’s picked generals, small business leaders and some individuals whose positions necessitate a close eye. Now Secretary of State is up for grabs.
Trump is considering a few men for the role of Secretary of State, a role responsible for the foreign affairs of the US, serving at the direction of the President.
Among those names floated for the short list are Bob Corker-Tennessee Senator, Mitt Romney- Former Governor of Massachusetts and 2012 Republican Presidential Nominee, David Petraeus- a retired general and former C.I.A. director, and Rex Tillerson- current CEO of Exxon-Mobil.
All four men will bring different strengths of leadership to the table, but some think that a few of these men are disqualified off the bat. Mitt Romney was quite vocal about his feelings on Donald Trump, having this to say earlier this spring:
But wait, you say, isn’t [Trump} a huge business success that knows what he’s talking about? No he isn’t. His bankruptcies have crushed small businesses and the men and women who worked for them. He inherited his business, he didn’t create it. And what ever happened to Trump Airlines? How about Trump University? And then there’s Trump Magazine and Trump Vodka and Trump Steaks, and Trump Mortgage? A business genius he is not.
Since then, Romney (who was a self-avowed #NeverTrump voter) has gone down on one knee and kissed Trump’s ring. This might restore Mitt to Trump’s good graces, but there is hardly any underlying loyalty to the President-Elect.
And David Patraeus served his country with honor, but was dismissed from his position as CIA director after having an extramarital affair with his biographer, playing fast and loose with classified government information along the way.
Bob Corker, the Tennessee Senator, has earned a more favorable reputation inside the beltway with Democrats and Republicans alike. Politico reports:
The 64-year-old former mayor of Chattanooga has earned a reputation on Capitol Hill as a no-nonsense legislator who often finds himself in the middle of major deals, from a sweeping border-security compromise to attempts to defuse brewing conflicts over Senate rules on nominations.
As chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Corker’s chief accomplishment was legislation that would give Congress an up-or-down vote on President Barack Obama’s controversial nuclear deal with Iran. That negotiation forced Corker to maneuver between the White House and fierce critics of the administration’s talks with Tehran, such as Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).
But the man who is causing the most dissension among Democrats and Republicans alike is Rex Tillerson. Tillerson, CEO of Exxon-Mobil is already a player in the international scene due to his connections with Russia, countries in the Middle East and Latin America– Exxon has locations in more than 50 countries. Tillerson is set to retire as CEO by the end of 2017 but still has tens of millions of dollars tied up in Exxon stock. If he becomes the Secretary of State, his oil empire will directly benefit from decisions he would make as Secretary of State. Democrats are up in arms over this fearing conflicts of interests.
Democrats signaled that they would raise such issues in a confirmation hearing. Sen. Bob Menendez (D., N.J.), a Foreign Relations Committee member, said Mr. Tillerson would bring a number of conflicts of interest to the job and called his expected nomination “alarming and absurd,” offering Russia “a willing accomplice in the president’s cabinet guiding our nation’s foreign policy.”
Republicans are also nervous about Tillerson’s potential appointment, saying Russia is not a country we should meddle with at the moment:
A number of Republicans have urged Mr. Trump to be wary of Russia, warning that it is trying to expand its influence in ways that run counter to U.S. interests in places such as Ukraine and Syria.
If Trump appoints any of these leaders, it will be a direct departure from the past few years of John Kerry and Hillary Clinton, career politicians who assumed the responsibilities of Secretary of State after failed Presidential runs. Romney and Tillerson have decades of business experience between them, and Corker is a unifying presence in the Senate. Trump has shown a propensity to appoint men and women with decades of experience, strong men and women who are not just skill-based, but have personalities of leadership.