While the Democrats morph into a neoconservative party of paranoiacs whose main issue is hating on Russia, and the John McCain-Lindsey Graham duo arises to make its last stand in a Trumpified GOP, Rex Tillerson is the perfect target of their ire. Seeking to delegitimize the President-elect as a Russian-controlled Manchurian candidate, the CIA-Clinton-Saudi axis of “resistance” is on the warpath, and Tillerson’s alleged ties to Vladimir Putin are taking center stage in what is bound to turn into a knock-down drag-out fight on the Senate floor.
What’s noteworthy about this gathering storm is that Trump seems to welcome it: despite the rising tide of cold war hysteria, the Trump team is determined to have this fight right out of the starting gate. Instead of waiting for the inevitable assault, they’re going on the offensive against the War Party – and that is a welcome development for those of us who support détente with Russia.
President-elect Donald Trump’s choice for Secretary of State is the CEO of Exxon, a company that has always opposed the American empire’s favorite ploy short of war: economic sanctions. Exxon is one of the principal supporters of USA Engage, a business lobby that has for years argued against Iranian and Iraqi sanctions, and that believes in “positively engaging other societies through diplomacy, multilateral cooperation, the presence of American organizations,” and that “the best practices of American companies and humanitarian exchanges better advances U.S. objectives than punitive unilateral economic sanctions.”
Contrary to the brainless leftist narrative that characterizes Big Oil as the driving force behind the War Party – remember “No Blood for Oil!”? – the reality is that the oil industry, including Exxon, opposed the Iraq war, just as they opposed the economic sanctions that preceded it. Iran sanctions are equally unpopular with the oil industry, and, as a New Yorker profile of Tillerson put it: “In general, Tillerson and ExxonMobil have argued against economic sanctions as an instrument of American foreign policy.”
Tillerson went to work for Exxon directly after graduating from the University of Texas at Austin in 1975 with a degree in engineering. Thirty years later, he was named chairman and CEO. He made his mark in the company during his tenure as chief of Exxon’s Caspian operations, where he forged strong relations with the Yeltsin and subsequently the Putin governments. A multi-billion dollar deal with the Russian state-owned Rosneft was nixed when the US imposed sanctions after Crimea voted to secede from Ukraine and rejoin the Russian Federation. Tillerson reportedly made several trips to the Obama White House trying to get those onerous sanctions removed. As Secretary of State, he will be well placed to inaugurate a new era of peaceful and mutually beneficial trade relations with Russia – a point that critics of Trump’s supposedly protectionist policies will undoubtedly fail to note.
The Russia sanctions issue wasn’t the only time Tillerson butted heads with the Obama administration: Exxon signed off on a deal with autonomous Kurdistan to drill for oil, a bold move which ran into opposition from the central government in Baghdad: the corrupt regime of then Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki wanted a cut. The State Department was furious with Tillerson, but he was unrepentant: “I had to do what was best for my shareholders,” he said, according to the above-cited New Yorker profile. Not too surprising considering Tillerson has said that his favorite book is Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. (And he’s not the only member of Trump’s team to hold the Russian-born novelist in high esteem.)
The big issue, however, will be with Tillerson’s alleged “close ties” to Putin. Much will be made of of his acceptance of Russia’s “Order of Friendship,” which the heavy-breathers in the Hate-Russia lobby will inevitably liken to Charles Lindbergh’s acceptance of the Service Cross of the German Eagle in 1938 – because, as we all know, Putin is Literally Hitler, as Hillary Clinton once opined. Poor Lindsey Graham was recently seen clutching his pearls and declaring that he finds Tillerson’s receipt of this medal “a bit unnerving,” but even the Washington Post – second only to Keith Olbermann in their crusade to convince us that Trump is one of the bad guys in “The Americans” – scoffs at the Senator’s alarm:
“You don’t have to be a close personal friend of President Vladimir Putin to be awarded Russia’s Order of Friendship, much less the globetrotting head of one of the world’s most powerful corporations.
“You can be a basketball coach who couldn’t cut it in Cleveland….”
Yes, you can be former Cleveland Cavaliers coach Dave Blatt, who “was fired midway through his second season in January, even though his Cleveland Cavaliers were in first place and would eventually go on to win the NBA title. What wasn’t good enough for Cleveland was perfectly fine for the Kremlin. Blatt was awarded an Order of Friendship in 2014 for his successes as the head coach of the Russian National Team between 2006 and 2012.”
Yet facts won’t matter to the conspiracy theorists masquerading as Very Serious People who see a Russian spy under every bed: these loons, some of whom are US senators, are already slavering for a bruising fight. No doubt Tillerson will be hauled before this drooling mob and asked “Are you or have you ever been …?” In addition to McCain and Aunt Lindsey, Little Marco Rubio has expressed trepidation that a “friend of Russia” could be our Secretary of State.
The editors of the Washington Post have given us a forewarning of the interrogation to come. Darkly opining that Trump may be “driven by undisclosed personal or financial interests” in his unwillingness to view Russia through the lens of J. Edgar Hoover, Tillerson, they rant, must be subjected to an inquisition at which “senators should seek clear statements recognizing the well-established facts about Russia’s belligerent behavior.”
This from a newspaper that has supported every American war of aggression in the modern era, and whose op ed page is a nesting place for flocks of war birds, including the well-known shrike Jennifer Rubin.
The Tillerson nomination is a very good sign of what we can expect from the Trump administration: he’s an opponent of sanctions, which are in and of themselves a form of warfare. He enjoys wide contacts around the world, and he has a proven ability to deal with even the worst despots while keeping the interests of his employer – in this case, the people of the United States – at the forefront of his mind. And he’s neither Mitt Romney nor John Bolton, both of whom were at one time said to be frontrunners to take the helm at Foggy Bottom – and neither of whom agrees with Trump’s “America First” foreign policy.
Even better, this nomination is a clear signal that the Trump administration isn’t going to be intimidated by the War Party, even in the midst of one of its bouts of media-driven hysteria. While the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the over-the-edge wackos who have taken over the Democratic party scream and yell that the omnipotent Russians are about to raise their flag over the White House, Team Trump is ready to take them on with a nomination that is sure to provoke them.
Let’s have it out! Let the public hear the ranting demagoguery of the Democrats and their “Republican” collaborators as they exhibit the latest incarnation of the paranoid style in American politics. Like Senator Joseph McCarthy – who was not nearly as sloppy as his present day epigones – let them go overboard in their fantastic portrayal of a Vast Conspiracy until the public is thoroughly sick of them. These people are their own worst enemies.
So get out the popcorn, and pull up a chair. This is going to be instructive – and fun.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
You can check out my Twitter feed by going here. But please note that my tweets are sometimes deliberately provocative, often made in jest, and largely consist of me thinking out loud.
I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).
You can buy An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), my biography of the great libertarian thinker, here.