Watching the Rex Tillerson confirmation hearings before the Senate yesterday, one thing was clear: Marco Rubio don’t much like Tillerson’s kind. As Senator Rubio listed the atrocities being perpetrated by bad actors around the world, he’d give Mr. Tillerson a steely look and ask leading questions:
Is Mr. Putin is a war criminal?
Do you sanction human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia?
Will you redo a blockade in Cuba?
At a certain point, Mr. Tillerson says,”Our interests are not different, Senator” implying that Mr. Rubio was acting like they were.
Some political commentators are musing that Mr. Rubio is attempting to extract some piece of the power pie by being tough on Tillerson–perhaps a one-on-one sit down with him and a concession on some priority and then he’ll vote to let the nomination out of committee. Maybe. His tone and demeanor were oddly personal and aggressive.
I was left to wonder if Mr. Rubio didn’t like Mr. Tillerson personally, if he didn’t like business people in the diplomatic world generally, or if he was spiteful because Mr. Tillerson was a very tangible consequence of his own loss to a man he feels is grossly ignorant of the world.
If the posturing was pure politics, it seems like stupid politics. First off, Mr. Rubio didn’t give John Vietnam Kerry this difficult of a time and one could reasonably argue that Kerry’s behavior regarding the Vietnam war was disloyal or treasonous. Second, does Mr. Rubio want to start off with the new president from a position of hostility, and who is giving him this genius advice? Third, if he sets up a purely adversarial role now, how will later concessions look to his loyal fans?
Taking Mr. Rubio literally, and assuming that he is genuinely concerned that we have a potential Secretary of State who doesn’t care about human rights, war crimes, and is a completely driven instead by profit, what did he expect Mr. Tillerson to say?
If Mr. Tillerson is morally obtuse, he’s not going to say anything bad about Putin or Saudi Arabian’s 10th century treatment of women. If, as is more likely, Mr. Tillerson sees this bad behavior but must negotiate with these world leaders and countries, he cannot say anything needlessly provocative either.
There are different world views at play. I’m in the conservative camp who feels that it was wrong to foment civil war in Libya, that a tyrant friendly to America was preferable to civil war. Same goes for Egypt and the Soros-funded Muslim Brotherhood debacle. That since we committed to Iraq, we should leave forces there so a power vacuum wasn’t created. I thought it was terrible weakness to not put a defensive shield in Poland. It was stupid to not push the Castros harder. It was folly to fund and arm Iran. It’s plain evil to treat Israel as the enemy.
Strength does not have to mean constant tinkering and meddling. It can mean innovation, overwhelming power, and distinct but strategic uses of that power. That’s a big change from nation-fussing. It tends to be more, well, Reaganesque. Rhetorically strong, backed up with overwhelming military might, and less intervention.
Tillerson may be the more pragmatic, less interventionist type. Is that a bad thing?