December 20, 2016

Trump in Transition (v9)

I've been neglecting the Trump in Transition (TiT) posts, sorry. Let's see if I can pick up where we left off.

I covered the once-a-racist Attorney General, and the public education dismantler, and I covered the guy who actually shared our secrets with foreigners, and I covered the climate change denier at EPA, and the public humiliation of Mitt Romney, who was paraded in and out of Trump Tower and a nice restaurant, only to be passed over for Secretary of State.

The man who was chosen? Rex Tillerson.

You mean, before the announcement last week, you had never heard of him? That's OK. Here's what you need to know:
Rex Tillerson's career is the embodiment of the American dream. 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. 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. Rex knows how to manage a global enterprise, which is crucial to running a successful State Department, and he relationships with leaders all over the world are second to none. I can think of no one more prepared, and no one more dedicate, to serve as Secretary of State at this critical time in our history.
Feel better now? Well, he was an Eagle Scout. And he's got YUGE times to Vlad Putin, so he's got to be good, right?
In those roles (production advisor, president of Exxon Yemen and Esso Exploration, etc.), he was responsible for Exxon's holdings in Russia and the Caspian Sea as well as the Sakhalin I consortium operations offshore Sakhalin Island, Russia.  
Miraculously, Tillerson was independently recommended by both Condi Rice (to Mike Pence) and Robert Gates (to Trump) a day later. The two are consultants to ExxonMobil, by the way - not that there's anything wrong with that. There's also nothing wrong with how Saturday Night Live handled the subject.

There may be something wrong with Tillerson's personal gain if we, say, lift sanctions against Russia, and stuff like that, which will have to be addressed in the extreme vetting process.

Then there was our new ambassador to Israel, NYC bankruptcy attorney David Friedman.  Per the GreatAgain website announcement of the appointment,
With Mr. Friedman's nomination, President-elect Trump expressed his commitment to further enhancing the US-Israel relationship and ensuring there will be extraordinary strategic, technological, military and intelligent cooperation between the two countries.
The announcement also noted that Friedman has "been a long-time friend and trusted advisor" to Trump. As in, he helped Trump with a casino bankruptcy or two.

According to an article in The New Yorker, he also writes for a pro-Israeli settlement website; is supported by the SILOTUS, Jared Kushner; believes the American embassy should be in Jerusalem; has said that President Obama is an anti-Semite, and has said that some liberal Jews, such as those who support a peaceful resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, are worse than some during the Nazi era.
Finally, are J Street supporters really as bad as kapos? The answer, actually, is no. They are far worse than kapos - Jews who turned in their fellow Jews in the Nazi death camps. The kapos faced extraordinary cruelty and who knows what any of us would have done under those circumstances to save a loved one? But J Street? they are just smug advocates of Israel's destruction delivered from the comfort of their secure American sofas - it's hard to imagine anyone worse.  
Naturally, as with every Trump appointment, there is a great deal of passion from supporters and detractors. And sometimes, there's some interesting insight, like this from the same New Yorker article.  Speaking to David Remnick, who wrote the article, Israeli philosophy professor Avishai Margalit said this about the Trump team.
Everything is an outlier. No one can predict anything. It's not as if there is a deviation and you try to explain it. Everything is deviation.You cannot rationalize it. It's a family business, and they treat the White House as a family business, like Don Corleone. He (Trump) doesn't feel that he has to please anybody. You bully everyone and see what happens. 
And that, my friends, is a fascinating take on how this administration is taking shape.