Posted by: coastlinesproject | January 30, 2017

Rex Tillerson; A Trojan Horse on the Trump Estate?

A Trojan Horse on the Trump Estate?

Rex Tillerson

December 28, 2016



As 2016 sputtered down to an uninspiring end, Plum Island continued to enjoy an almost unprecedented spate of calm weather. There had been no significant storms in either the fall or early winter. But the calm spell had given me time to continue reflecting on Donald Trump’s selection for Secretary of State who might soon be in charge of seeing that the United States adheres to the Paris climate change accords and work for world stability.


The more I looked at Rex Tillerson, the more I thought some of my colleagues in the environmental movement were barking up the wrong tree. For example, I posted an article that showed how Henry Kissinger had met Vladimir Putin early in the young KGB agent’s career and explained that Kissinger hoped to use that connection to work with Tillerson. I thought it was a fascinating insider’s glimpse of how personal diplomacy is actually conducted in the real world. But the piece evoked the response that all three men were fascists of the same feather.


Fascists, really? Someone whose family had fled Europe to escape the Nazis? Someone who had been an avowed communist? Someone who had worked his way up through the engineering ranks to become head of the largest oil company in the world?


But the thing that made me first realize that Tillerson might not be so bad was a quote from Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren who said she had received a letter from an old law school friend who was married to Tillerson. She assured Warren that Tillerson would make a thoughtful Secretary of State. If one of the most liberal Senators in Congress was willing to give Tillerson another look, shouldn’t I do the same?


I also remembered that when Tillerson took over as the CEO of Exxon Mobile one of the first things he did was to appoint a committee to look into Exxon’s policies on climate change. Then he announced that climate change was real and directed his executives to start cutting funding to organizations that denied climate change. More recently he had come out in favor of the Paris Climate Accords.


Exxon’s many executives and scientists heralded these moves as a long overdue. They had grown weary of Exxon’s former CEO, Lee Raymond’s personal beliefs that climate change was just a concocted hoax.


Then I read an eloquent letter to editor in the Dallas Times. It was written by Emily Roden who described her experience sitting on a jury in the Denton County Court House.


“Perhaps it was the middle-aged man’s business suit, perhaps it was his impressive stature or charisma but almost everyone in that jury room felt this man was the best person to be our foreman. But he declined saying simply, ‘I’m not interested in the spotlight.’”


During a break, Roden was busily checking on her e-mails and remarked to the mystery man how much work she had to do. He just smiled and went back to reading his newspaper.


But from that first day everyone on the jury also noticed another man who also sat in room and always had an earpiece jammed into his right ear. During lunch breaks the two men would sit together and talk quietly. The two mystery men became the object of the entire jury’s curiosity.


Finally one of the jury members screwed up his nerve and asked, “Just who are you and what do you do?”


The mystery man pointed to an article about Exxon Mobile and said, “I work for them and there are a lot of people who hate me for what I do, so they give me and my family big guys like these to protect us.”


Roden’s face reddened as she remembered complaining about how much work she had to do and it didn’t take her too many Internet searches before she realized she was sitting beside Rex Tillerson.


The case they were deciding involved a young girl who had been sexually assaulted by her mother’s boyfriend. The majority of the jurists were convinced of the sex offender’s guilt but defense had done a good enough job, that there were two holdouts.


That was when Tillerson began to speak. “Very humbly and delicately, without an ounce of condescension he walked us through the details of the case. With patience this man who strikes multimillion dollar deals with foreign heads of state brought our scrappy jury together—to bring a sexual predator to justice and to deliver justice to a scared and deeply wounded little girl.”


A local non-profit agency had been helping the young girl throughout the process. Emily had been so struck by the group’s mission that she toured their facility and made a small donation to their cause.


On a whim she e-mailed Tillerson to ask him to do the same. To her surprise she received an e-mail right back thanking her for her note and her jury duty and ensuring her that he would contact the agency.


A few days later the director of the group called to tell her that Tillerson had followed through with a generous contribution. He also had Exxon contribute to Planned Parenthood. Not the moves of a hard-core social conservative, but the moves of a non-ideological problem solver.


All of these stories plus the fact that Tillerson’s name had been given to Trump by two of George Bush’s former Secretaries of State, Condoleezza Rice and James Baker, made me think that Tillerson might prove to be one of the only sane voices in Trump’s entire cabinet, a Trojan horse who might counter his boss’s penchant for    tweets and unpredictability.


Plus, if there is one thing that oil companies have always been good at, it has been thinking far into the future and supporting policies to make the world stable for their long-term investments, if nothing else. That will be crucial if we are to make it though the next decade and the next decade will be crucial for the future health of our planet.




William Sargent’s latest book, Plum Island; 2016, is available in local bookstores and at













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