Menendez 'alarmed' after meeting State Department nominee
Herb Jackson , Washington Correspondent, @HerbNJDC Published 2:24 p.m.
ET Jan. 5, 2017
Sen. Bob Menendez said Thursday that a discussion about Cuba with Rex
Tillerson, President-elect Donald Trump's choice for secretary of state,
left him "a little alarmed," and that the proposed nominee's overall
foreign policy stances amounted to "broad strokes, but not a lot of depth."
Menendez, a Democrat from Paramus, is a senior member and former
chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, which will hold hearings
next week on Tillerson's nomination, ahead of Trump's inauguration on
Jan. 20. Born to parents who fled Cuba ahead of the revolution that
brought Fidel Castro to power, Menendez has resisted President Obama's
efforts to reopen relations with Cuba after decades of U.S. policy
imposing economic and diplomatic isolation.
"He basically said, I don't know a lot [about Cuba], and I need more
time on that," Menendez told reporters after meeting with Tillerson for
about 75 minutes in his Capitol Hill office. Tillerson left the meeting
without talking to the media, which is normal for nominees.
Menendez said Tillerson said he knew there were strong arguments on both
sides of the Cuba issue, but he only discussed the points made by those
who support removing restrictions, so Menendez told him about
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"I'm a little alarmed because obviously as the secretary of state,
you're going to have to know your audience when you are engaging them,
and to come meet me and not to have an idea, a more thorough idea about
what U.S.-Cuba policy should be means you don't know your audience,"
Menendez also said that when asked about relations with Turkey,
Tillerson said that the United States was hoping to "bring them back
into the fold."
"I said, does this mean we are willing to accept authoritarian figures
and dictators as part of our foreign policy? And he goes, 'Well, we've
dealt with dictators in the past.' And I said yeah, and we've faced the
consequences of dealing with them. As someone who's a strong believer
that human rights and democracy is not only an American beacon of
principle across the world but it's also one that inures to our national
interest … that was a concerning answer," Menendez said.
Menendez said he remained open to the nomination and looked forward to
hearing more in public hearings.
"I'm not going to say that anything individually [during the meeting]
was disqualifying," he said.
But he said he did not feel that Tillerson had a clear idea of Trump's
policy views other than defeating the Islamic State.
"He's a very nice man and he's smart, but I would say … there's not a
lot of depth here in terms of U.S. foreign policy, there's broad
strokes," Menendez said.
Source: Menendez 'alarmed' after meeting State Department nominee -