Rex Tillerson, the former Exxon Mobil CEO who is Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State, faced a Senate confirmation grilling on Wednesday.
Despite having never held elected public office, nor served in any public service capacity, Tillerson handled himself adequately when pressed by members of the Senate Foreign Relations committee—which is to say, he sounded relatively measured, and sane, while at the same time his likely soon-to-be-boss was in New York getting into an angry pissing match with CNN’s Jim Acosta.
But just because he looked and sounded like an actual adult human doesn’t mean Tillerson’s testimony before the senate was, y’know, good.
Take, for instance, this exchange with New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen, who asked whether Tillerson would support a national registry of Muslims. (Spoiler: He’d want to mull it over).
Instead of simply saying “no, registries based on religion are abhorrent and contrary to the founding ethos of the United States,” Tillerson—wrapping his answer in conditionals and theoreticals—signaled an openness to the idea, telling Shaheen “I would need to have a lot more information around how such an approach would even be constructed,” and adding that such a registry would likely extend to “other people as well.”
Later, during an exchange with New Jersey Democrat Cory Booker, Tillerson—seemingly attempting to leave himself some wiggle room should such a registry actually be introduced, as has been suggested by some in Trump’s camp—insisted that he does “not support targeting any particular group.” Tillerson’s semi-push-back contrasted sharply with Trump’s Homeland Security secretary nominee, John Kelly, who explained in no uncertain terms during his hearing that “I don’t think it’s ever appropriate to focus on something like religion as the only factor” for tracking, and rejected the creation of such a registry.
But Tillerson’s unnervingly chill demeanor wasn’t just limited to the finer points of religion-based population tracking. Ice-Cold Rex was also subjected to a (surprisingly forceful) line of questions from Florida Republican Marco Rubio regarding the deaths of Russian dissidents under Vladimir Putin, to which he first insisted he’d need more information, and finally acknowledged that, hey, shit happens.
“People who speak up for freedom in regimes that are repressive are often at threat,” Tillerson explained, adding “and these things happen to them.”
Tillerson is expected to be confirmed by the Senate.