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Let’s give Rex Tillerson a chance, what could possibly go wrong?

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Let’s give Rex Tillerson a chance, what could possibly go wrong?

Liz Stahl | Staff Illustrator

Liz Stahl | Staff Illustrator

Liz Stahl | Staff Illustrator

Liz Stahl | Staff Illustrator

By Jaime Viens | Columnist

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In a move that met much criticism early last month, President-elect Donald Trump nominated Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil, to be our next Secretary of State.

Since we obviously don’t need to speculate about Tillerson’s relationship with big oil executives — as we already know he is a big oil executive — I say that, in the spirit of the new year, we all find it in ourselves to give Tillerson a chance, and here are five reasons why.

1. Big oil is notorious for fostering amiability abroad.

If we learned anything from World War II, the Iran-Iraq War, the Gulf War or the Heglig Crisis, it should be that oil brings people together. All of our differences easily falter under the immense weight of our mutual rapacity for fossil fuels!

And when we consider that, according to 2016 company filings, Tillerson owns $218 million in ExxonMobil stock — the fate of which is still unknown — in addition to being their chairman and CEO, his dedication to furthering the interests of the public, and of peace, is clear.

After all, nothing in American history suggests a corporate-leaning Secretary of State would allow oil interests to influence the decision to, say, invade a nation, engage in a decade-long war or alter foreign affairs indefinitely.

2. He’s committed to cross-cultural friendships.

No one cares quite like a friend and no one holds friendship to higher virtue than executives of the fossil fuel industry … Other than Vladimir Putin, that is!

In response to a 2011 negotiation between ExxonMobil and Rosneft, a Russian-owned oil company, Putin awarded Tillerson in 2013 with the highest honor a foreigner can receive in Russia — The Order of Friendship.

Soon after, a photo of Vladimir Putin smiling — sort of — next to his good buddy Rex went public. It’s like my mom always tells me, “The most foolproof way to make friends is to promise them billions of dollars.” Works every time.

3. He has experience with negotiating.

So Tillerson is good at building relationships and understands the value of our interests abroad,  what more could we possibly demand of our next Secretary of State?

When it comes to holding the third highest office in American government, legitimate political experience pales in comparison to 41 years as an employee of the highly respectable fossil fuel industry.

To add to his resumé, Tillerson reportedly was named the director of a United States-Russian oil firm in the Bahamas in 1998, according to a document leaked to a German newspaper, Süddeutsche Zeitung, in December 2016. Exxon representatives came forward saying that his directorship was resigned when he became company CEO in 2006, and that they had placed the affiliate firm in the tax haven of the Bahamas for the mere sake of “simplicity and predictability.” And if that doesn’t scream “international diplomat,” I don’t know what does.

Tillerson also personally brokered the $500 billion deal with Putin over Arctic drilling in 2011. Unfortunately, U.S. sanctions against Russia, following the annexation of Crimea and the invasion of Ukraine in 2014, put plans on hold. But still, silly sanctions could never squander the valuable experience of his failed negotiation.

As you can see, the versatility in negotiating that Tillerson has done — oil — coupled with the range of countries he’s developed productive relationships within — Russia — is more than enough to qualify him for the job.

4. He enables progress.

ExxonMobil, one of the world’s largest big oil corporations, has been setting the standards of the fossil fuel industry for decades.

Over the course of the past year, the Los Angeles Times and Inside Climate News have exposed evidence that Exxon oversaw groundbreaking climate research nearly 30 years ago and, without revealing its scientists’ conclusions to the public, began to act at the center of climate denial.

If the company that has provided Tillerson the entirety of his professional experience gives us any insight into the man himself, then let’s give honesty another chance. After all, he’s probably known the secret to solving the climate crisis for years, and that’s knowledge worth trusting.

5. The potential for nicknames, like the man himself, are rich.

Rex Tillerson. The name, the man, everything about him inspires creativity.

Maybe you’ll seize the opportunity to pawn your own political beliefs onto children using a playful dinosaur-themed nickname.

Or perhaps you’re of a more refined humor, so you’ll call him “Rexit,” obviously referring to his decision to break off from his dominant position within ExxonMobil, and move onto bigger and better things like increased financial stability.

If you prefer a more subtle approach, you could stick to the light-hearted, “that guy.” Or simply “Secretary of State,” if you like to keep things professional.

And my personal favorite, “not Hillary Clinton,” for those of you that recognize the dangers of having a corporatist in office, and are just glad to see that, with Tillerson in charge, all those reservations are in the past.


With the appointment of Tillerson as our next Secretary of State, many have expressed concerns about the future of American foreign affairs. But maybe we’ll get lucky and he’ll destroy all of our international relationships on the first day, rendering his own position useless.

Either way, I say no more. It’s time to turn our backs on our minds, our feelings and our pride and come together as one people, blindly optimistic about our mistakes. What could go wrong?

Jaime primarily writes about social and environmental issues for The Pitt News.

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Let’s give Rex Tillerson a chance, what could possibly go wrong?