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Transition to Trump: Rex Tillerson for State may be Trump’s boldest choice yet

The worst-kept secret in the entire world was revealed on Tuesday when Donald Trump formally announced he was appointing another private industry business titan to his cabinet, this time for the position of Secretary of State.

Joel Gherke of the Washington Examiner reports, “President-elect Trump named Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson as his nominee to lead the State Department Tuesday morning, and said Tillerson, as one of the ‘most accomplished business leaders and international dealmakers in the world,’ was ready to guide U.S. Donald Trumpforeign policy in the Trump administration.

“’Rex Tillerson's career is the embodiment of the American dream,’ Trump said. ‘His tenacity, broad experience and deep understanding of geopolitics make him an excellent choice for Secretary of State.

“’He will promote regional stability and focus on the core national security interests of the United States,’ Trump added.”

Tillerson is facing mandatory retirement at his current job, so it looks like he would have had a lot of time on his hands next year if Trump hadn’t found him a new challenge. Representing the United States abroad sounds like the perfect way to make the best use of his expertise and established relationships.

In choosing the head of a major international corporation to lead the State Department, Trump sent yet another signal to the Washington establishment that there’s a new game in town. As a matter of contrast, Obama’s two secretaries of state were both prominent Democrat party politicians with near universal name recognition.

Tillerson is well-known in the corporate world and by the higher-ups of the political sphere but I’m guessing 99 percent of the country has never heard of him. That doesn’t mean he isn’t qualified or faces an even more daunting trial to be confirmed, but the lack of popular push could be a factor if the vote is close.

Democrats are already questioning the nomination as are some Republicans. Kyle Feldscher of the Washington Examiner reports, “Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar said Tuesday that the selection of Rex Tillerson to be secretary of state is troubling both because of his Russian connections and his lack of diplomatic experience.

“Speaking on CNN, Klobuchar said that while the Exxon Mobil CEO might have business dealings with countries all over the world, that's not the same as having foreign policy experience. She added that his selection at a time when fears over Russia's hacking of U.S. political networks are at an all-time high is worrying.”

Ah yes, the elitists are worried about “qualifications” and government experience. Judging by their treatment of Trump until he won the election (and after), they’ll also be saying Tillerson’s “unfit” to serve.

I suppose these same people reasoned Hillary Clinton and John Kerry were “fit” to be Secretary of State because of their “service” in the Senate.  In the same CNN interview, Klobuchar said Mitt Romney or Senator Bob Corker would have faced an easier time in confirmation hearings -- as if this fact alone would have made them a superior choice.

Tillerson supposedly has visited over 60 countries in his capacity as CEO of Exxon-Mobil, but according to these establishment snobs, such experience doesn’t compare to being part of the staid Senate that sits around talking about foreign policy instead of really influencing it.

And then there’re Tillerson’s Russian connections. Tillerson apparently knows Vladimir Putin well and has statements on the record opposing sanctions for Russia. Instantly the Democrats and a few wishy-washy neoconservative Republicans suspect the new American diplomat would be so chummy with Vlad and his comrades that he’ll forget all about America’s interests.

Nonsense. It’s just one factor to consider in what promises to be lengthy and potentially combative confirmation hearings.

All of these faux concerns wouldn’t amount to much except it will require only a few Republican senators failing to support Tillerson to take down his nomination – assuming the Democrats would all oppose him in unison. That’s a big assumption, of course, since Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia and a handful of other Democrat senators from blood red states will certainly be weighing political considerations when Tillerson’s name comes up for a vote.

Burgess Everett of Politico writes, “Donald Trump is daring a fight with the Republican Senate with his nomination of ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, and his confirmation is far from a sure thing…

“No Republicans have explicitly said that they will vote against Tillerson, but GOP Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Marco Rubio of Florida and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina have all expressed worries about Tillerson.

“Rubio, who is emerging as a pivotal swing vote on Tillerson, said on Tuesday that he has ‘serious concerns’ about the nomination despite Tillerson's business prowess.”

It should be noted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell already announced he’s supporting Tillerson, as did Majority Whip John Cornyn and several former Republican secretaries of state. Even Mitt Romney was gracious in “defeat.” Those Republicans who would vote “no” on Tillerson would likely face a groundswell of anger from the new president and the vast majority of their own party members.

I’m guessing based on those considerations Rubio will back down when the time comes. As for McCain and Lindsey Graham, who knows? It seems like they enjoy being pariahs among their own colleagues and they certainly don’t give a hoot about what conservatives think.

It’s always possible that something in Tillerson’s personal life will emerge to provide the wavering senators some cover. Other than that, it looks like Tillerson gets through rather easily.

Two more from Tuesday: Perry for Energy and Zinke for Interior

It probably won’t end up drawing the kind of attention (or reaction) that Donald Trump’s choice for secretary of state is receiving, but former Texas governor Rick Perry is being called on by the president-elect to lead what could be a key department in his upcoming administration.

Timothy Cama of The Hill reports, “If the Senate confirms Perry as secretary of Energy, he would oversee a department whose main missions include research on emerging energy technologies, regulating energy efficiency, managing the nation’s nuclear weapons and building nuclear reactors for Navy vessels...

“On the campaign trail, Trump said little about his plans for the Energy Department’s responsibilities.

“More generally, he has promised to unleash fossil fuels like oil, natural gas and coal, which could lead to a shift at the department away from alternative energy programs.”

Yes indeed. Under the reign of the great green emperor Obama, hot gases, high winds and decomposing organic compounds (biofuels) have been given an inordinate amount of consideration from an energy standpoint. Thanks to Obama and the Democrats, everyone now knows what Solyndra is – or was -- and also clearly understands the definition of “boondoggle.”

“Green energy” has become synonymous with government waste. “Green jobs” are those created when hundreds of millions of federal dollars are dumped into politically inspired projects that produce little energy but lots of appreciation from the media and Hollywood types.

Perry would be partly responsible for steering the conversation back to ventures that actually deliver something that heats homes and powers machinery.

And while some of Trump’s cabinet appointees are relatively unknown to the public – like Rex Tillerson – Perry should be one of the more recognizable faces…at least to Republicans.

Perry is certainly seen by many conservatives as a pro-business solid red-state governor with some establishment leanings, but he’s perhaps most famous for his embarrassing memory gaffe during a presidential primary debate in 2011. At the time, the Texas governor was trying to name the federal agencies he’d eliminate, including Education, Commerce…and Energy.

The Department of Energy was the one Perry couldn’t remember. Now he’s set to lead an agency he once proposed to eliminate if he were elected president. This fact is certain to come up during his confirmation hearings.

Speaking of resource development, it looks like Trump is not set on his choice for interior secretary. Whereas it was reported a few days ago that Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers was set for the position, it’s apparently still up in the air.

Rachel Bade and John Bresnahan of Politico report, “President-Elect Donald Trump is expanding his search for an interior secretary, considering Western state Reps. Raul Labrador of Idaho and Ryan Zinke of Montana for the post, multiple sources told POLITICO.

“Both men were interviewed for the job Monday at Trump Towers in New York. The face-to-face meetings follow reports that Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), the No. 4 House Republican, has been the favorite to lead the department with domain over the nation’s natural resources. McMorris Rodgers, who currently chairs the House Republican Conference, also visited Trump Towers in New York City Monday.”

Both Labrador and Zinke would likely be considered more conservative than the establishmentarian McMorris Rodgers. But with all three seemingly still in the running it’s very hard to tell who would have an advantage here.

(Note: This report from The Hill indicates Zinke was offered the job but hasn’t yet accepted.)

The only thing that appears certain is Trump is doing his due diligence on his cabinet. There have been a dizzying number of people going in and out of Trump Tower for the past month. Heck, Trump even met with rapper Kanye West on Tuesday to talk about “life” (and possibly about performing at his inauguration).

Trump seems open to meeting with just about anyone…but it appears that only the best are getting an “offer” from him.

By leaving his businesses, Trump’s only fulfilling a campaign promise

“He’s only running for president to elevate his brand and make more money from his businesses.”

I can’t attribute the quote to any one person, though it was an often heard refrain all throughout Donald Trump’s run for the presidency, first during the Republican primaries and then in the general election campaign when the leftists, Democrats and #NeverTrumpers couldn’t seem to get their arms around the fact that a billionaire reality TV star was catching on so well with the common folks out there in America’s hinterlands.

Early on, Trump’s business status gave many conservatives pause as well. Should the unthinkable happen – Trump actually win the White House – how would he deal with separating his new “most powerful person in the world” duties with those of his private dealings?

It turns out he won’t have to. He’s giving up the Trump empire.

Anna Giaritelli of the Washington Examiner reports, “President-elect Donald Trump announced on Twitter late Monday that he will release control of his businesses before taking the Oval Office on Jan. 20.

“’Even though I am not mandated by law to do so, I will be leaving my businesses before January 20th so that I can focus full time on the......Presidency. Two of my children, Don and Eric, plus executives, will manage them. No new deals will be done during my term(s) in office,’ Trump tweeted around 11:30 p.m. EST Monday.”

Of note is the fact daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner are not mentioned as receiving any delegated Trump business duties. Trump is reportedly trying to find a way for them to work in his administration, so they have to stay separate as well.

In passing on the news via Twitter, yet again the president-elect bypassed the news industry to make a major announcement through social media. Trump the media master understands he can control the message and still get it broadcast to the world through conventional news reporting, since the establishment journalists must cover such things one way or the other.

Who needs a written statement when you can announce it yourself in 140 characters or less? And besides, it makes the liberals in the media mad when you don’t throw them a bone.

Trump has led perhaps the most unconventional transition of all time and I would think he’ll conduct his presidency the same way.

In agreeing to back out of his businesses ahead of his inauguration Trump is merely keeping another of his campaign promises to put his “new job” first and leave the day-to-day operations of his company to his kids. Nothing really new to report here. Probably the only thing Trump will share in common with Obama after assuming office is his love for golf. But if Trump wants to play, he just needs to head out to his golf club in nearby Sterling, Virginia.

If it wasn’t clear already from Trump’s spending a year-and-a-half of his life on the campaign trail, dumping in tens of millions of his own money and putting his brand and reputation on the line by entering politics, Trump’s latest announcement proves he’s serious about governing the country and “making America great again.”

Trump likely also figures being president will be more interesting than his other pursuits. His adult children know the insides and outs of the business so there’s nothing more to be done there. You could almost say Trump is “retiring” to the Oval Office.

A lot of men retire to play more golf. Trump is leaving his companies behind to be president. That’s just the way a man like Donald Trump does things. Always bigger, always grander.

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