On one hand, Donald Trump’s pick of Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State has come under fire. The head of ExxonMobil is being criticized for his cozy relationship with Vladimir Putin, his lack of diplomatic experience, and the fact that he is a corporate bigwig who champions fossil fuels even as many bemoan the growing threat of global warming.
On the other hand, Tillerson is touted as a world class manager who is well-connected with major foreign powers. He understands international economic variables as well as geopolitical and sovereignty issues. And by assuming the new position, he is willing to work for 1/145th of his current salary.
But there is more to the story. Great resistance is emerging – and it’s not what you think.
Social conservatives view Tillerson with a wary eye, and for good reason. These social conservatives are the base of Trump’s support (they voted for him 81-19 percent), and some of them are critical of Tillerson. There are two problems they have with Tillerson.
1. While Tillerson headed the Boy Scouts of America from 2010 to 2012, he helped persuade the organization to admit gay youths and leaders.
2. ExxonMobil contributes to Planned Parenthood, the nation’s leading provider of abortions.
Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, wrote a sharply worded message to supporters Monday. He wrote, “Tillerson may be the greatest ally liberals have in the new Cabinet for their abortion and LGBT agendas. To hear that Donald Trump is appointing a man who not only led the charge to open the Boy Scouts to gay troop leaders, but whose company gives directly to Planned Parenthood is upsetting at best.”
Evangelicals have been steady critics of President Obama’s insistence on putting LGBT rights at the center of its foreign policy and for permitting foreign aid for organizations that provide access to abortion.
Just how much Mr. Tillerson would actually push for such initiatives from his perch as lead diplomat is unknown, and he would be serving at the pleasure of the new president, if confirmed. But by making this appointment, Trump may run afoul of Perkins, and millions of other evangelicals Perkins represents.
Tillerson will already face enough opposition to threaten his confirmation. Republican Senators McCain, Graham, and Rubio have all expressed serious doubts about his nomination, largely due to his ties to Mr. Putin. Now, with his left-leaning social views well-documented, one must assume that strong social conservatives such as Senators Ted Cruz and Mike Lee may have a hard time voting for him.
Trump said, “Through hard work, dedication, and smart deal making, Rex rose through the ranks to become CEO of ExxonMobil, one of the world’s largest and most respected companies.” The question is, with his pro-abortion and pro-LGBT background, will “hard work, dedication, and smart deal making” be enough to get confirmed?
One thing is for certain. There will come a time when social conservatives draw a line in the sand and stand up to the new President. The question is whether this is that time and this is that line in the sand.
We will know soon enough.