Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley made headlines in 2016 when he endorsed Bernie Sanders, making himself the only Senator to do so. Merkley made headlines again in 2017 when he vigorously questioned Donald Trump’s Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson on the morality of his various foreign policy statements.
Specifically Merkley claimed Tillerson visited his office where he stated he wanted “moral clarity” to be the center of American foreign policy. On the first day Tillerson was drilled relentlessly by Senator Marco Rubio on everything from his stance on the Philippines to his close ties to Vladimir Putin. Tillerson continuously responded with vague quips that repeatedly focused on his need “for more information.”
Repeatedly Tillerson deflected the questions giving answers that left more to be desired. When Rubio pressed him on Putin’s known associates dying under questionable circumstances Tillerson refused to comment without seeing “information in the classified realm.” When Rubio pressed him on the Russian military’s role in the destruction of Aleppo his response was similar. As was his response when pressed on the murderous dictator of the Philippines anti-drug campaign.
Coming from a nominee for America’s top diplomat, that alone is pretty remarkable. Coming from someone who claimed to be centered on “moral clarity” they are stunning.
Merkley picked up on that inconsistency and drove it home. He slammed Tillerson on the Philippines, “When Senator Rubio asked about the President of the Philippines slaughtering thousands of people, you said you needed more information. To me there is a moral dimension to that,” Merkley stated.
Merkley didn’t stop there and continued to question Tillerson’s commitment to moral clarity when it comes to the Iran deal and his continuous support of dictators. Merkley riffed off Rubio’s questioning seamlessly and really shed light on many of Tillerson’s moral inconsistencies.
In an attempt to block Donald Trump, Senator Merkley and progressives like him will more than likely find themselves with strange bedfellows such as Marco Rubio. Sometimes that might prove to be problematic, but in the case of Rex Tillerson it provided some much needed scrutiny on an incredibly important appointment.