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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson offered some insight into how he views his role as America’s top diplomat. In an interview with the conservative-leaning Independent Journal Review published Tuesday night, Tillerson said, “I didn’t want this job. I didn’t seek this job. My wife told me I’m supposed to do this.”
“I was supposed to retire in March, this month,” Tillerson said, “I was going to go to the ranch to be with my grandkids.”
President Donald Trump chose Tillerson in December, just over a month after Trump’s surprise election victory. After a meeting with the then-president-elect, Tillerson said he was “stunned” when Trump asked him to be secretary of state. Tillerson’s selection also came as a surprise to some observers due to his lack of government experience.
IJR reporter Erin McPike wrote Tillerson indicated that Trump saw his decades-long career at Exxon Mobil as a qualifying factor for the role, which is responsible in part for establishing US diplomatic policies globally.
Trump had been mulling over several other candidates for the job. Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, was one of them. Romney was seen as a favorite by some, but the Romney-Trump meetings stirred up a grassroots furor among some Trump loyalists because Romney strongly opposed Trump during the campaign.
Despite Tillerson’s apparent reticence, he indicated he is committed to sticking with the job: “I serve at the pleasure of the president,” he said, according to McPike.
The secretary of state has had a rough first few weeks on the job. He has been caught up in controversy over his longstanding ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin, his discussions about climate change, and his attitudes toward reporters.