Trump only learned about Tillerson recently as a result of an unlikely happenstance
The Washington Post has an interesting piece that reveals more about how Trump operates and how much he knows about things. And there is good news and bad news.
WaPo first explains Trump was not happy with his Trump wasn’t happy with his State Department finalists. That is excellent news because his finalists, Bolton, Giuliani, Romney, Petreas, were all awful choices. It shows that Trump has good instinct.
On the other hand, WaPo reveals further it was only by random chance that the name of Rex Tillerson ever came up. Tillerson, I hope, could prove to be a very good pick for US-Russia relations but it almost did not happen:
Then, by happenstance, Trump welcomed into his office a man who has served presidents of both parties, Robert M. Gates. Trump asked his guest, a former CIA director and former defense secretary, what he thought of the four candidates. After Gates ran through his thoughts, it seemed that Trump was “looking for a way out,” a person familiar with the session said.
Trump asked whether there was someone else to consider.
“I recommend Rex,” Gates told Trump, referring to Rex Tillerson, the chief executive of ExxonMobil. Gates said in an interview that he had not gone to the meeting intending to recommend Tillerson, and he did not recommend anyone else.
Separately, on the previous day, former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice had proposed Tillerson to Vice President-elect Mike Pence. Rice and Gates, who run a consulting firm that counts ExxonMobil as a client, had jointly concluded that Tillerson might give Trump a fresh alternative.
Trump “seemed intrigued,” Gates said. “It was not something he had considered.”
It was only by happenstance that Gates was invited to talk to meet with Trump, and then it was only by happenstance that his name ever came up -- Gates had not prepeared to recommend him but thought of him on the spot.
This is worrying in that it shows Trump for all his instinct does not have a lot of breadth. But for a chance recommendation by Gates and Rice he might not have known where to find a person to carry out the foreign policy he espoused in the election.
Another piece of good news is that Tillerson reportedly does not want to work with Bolton who has been touted as his likely deputy Secretary. The New York Times:
Another impediment is that Mr. Tillerson has expressed misgivings about having Mr. Bolton as his deputy, according to a person who has spoken with Mr. Trump in recent days. But Mr. Bolton remains under consideration for the job. And he enjoys a powerful ally in Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate and Republican megadonor who favors the kind of hard-nosed posture that Mr. Bolton would bring.
The downside is that the alternative to Bolton being touted is Elliot Abrams, a Bushian who was part of the Never Trump movement and is every bit as hawkish as Bolton.
Is it too much to hope for Trump's instincts and perhaps another chance event result in a good Deputy Secretary of State as well? Given that Tillerson is not a career diplomat this could be another important post in the Trump administration.