Mr. Gates’ former boss, President George W. Bush–who has stayed largely out of political affairs since leaving office–called the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Bob Corker, to push the Tillerson nomination. Mr. Bush’s vice president, Dick Cheney, also a former defense secretary, has called Mr. Tillerson “an inspired choice.”
Yet another former defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, went on Twitter to call Mr. Tillerson “a talented exec” and a “skillful negotiator.” Former Secretary of State James Baker has called Mr. Tillerson a personal friend and an “excellent choice.” Another former secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, as well as Stephen Hadley, a former national security adviser, both praised the choice as well.
.. In part, the reason is simply that these figures all know Mr. Tillerson. Exxon Mobil has been a client of the consulting firm run by Ms. Rice and Messrs. Gates and Hadley, and a client of Mr. Baker’s law firm.
.. But perhaps more important, these establishment figures are comfortable with him, and probably feel his presence at the State Department will give them some input on the course of American foreign policy
Rarely in the history of the American presidency has the exercise of choosing people to fill jobs had such a far-reaching impact on the nature and priorities of an incoming administration. Unlike most new presidents, Mr. Trump comes into office with no elective-office experience, no coherent political agenda and no bulging binder of policy proposals. And he has left a trail of inflammatory, often contradictory, statements on issues from immigration and race to terrorism and geopolitics.
In such a chaotic environment, serving a president who is in many ways a tabula rasa, the appointees to key White House jobs like chief of staff and cabinet posts like secretary of state, defense secretary and Treasury secretary could wield outsize influence. Their selection will help determine whether the Trump administration governs like the firebrand Mr. Trump was on the campaign trail or the pragmatist he often appears to be behind closed doors.
.. The two will have the kind of peer-to-peer relationship that only fellow presidents can have — something that administration officials hope will appeal to Mr. Trump’s pride, as well as his desire to succeed, and make him view Mr. Obama less as a rival.
.. Perhaps the deepest schism is between Stephen K. Bannon, the conservative provocateur and media entrepreneur who was Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman, and Reince Priebus, the Republican Party chairman who came to terms with Mr. Trump’s candidacy.
.. An anti-establishment verbal bomb thrower with ties to the alt-right movement, Mr. Bannon may have little interest in compromising with the Republican-controlled Congress under its current leadership.
.. Some former Republican officials held out hope that Mr. Trump would be receptive to moderating influences, but others worried that he would simply listen to the last person he spoke to.
.. Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, a retired career intelligence officer who is Mr. Trump’s closest foreign-policy adviser, is a candidate for national security adviser, according to an internal transition document obtained by the conservative news site The Daily Caller, as is Stephen J. Hadley, who served in that capacity for Mr. Bush.
.. Mr. Hadley, who might also be considered for defense secretary, pushed Mr. Bush to undertake the troop surge in Iraq and is closely identified with the military interventionism of that administration. A key figure in the Republican foreign-policy establishment, Mr. Hadley had a hand in Mr. Bush’s second inaugural address, in which he called for the United States to be an evangelist in spreading democracy — something Mr. Trump has flatly rejected.
.. Mr. Obama. For all their differences, and the bitter words they flung at each other during the campaign, the two share traits. Both won the presidency as outsiders, and both hold their party’s foreign-policy establishment in contempt.