Tillerson responds to McCain: ‘I make a distinction between values and policy’

Tillerson responds to McCain: ‘I make a distinction between values and policy’
© Greg Nash

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson responded to Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainGOP rushes to cut ties to Moore GOP strategist: 'There needs to be a repudiation' of Roy Moore by Republicans World leaders reach agreement on trade deal without United States: report MORE Sunday after the Arizona Republican pushed against Tillerson in an op-ed last week and warned it is "dangerous" to look at foreign policy as "simply transactional."

McCain's New York Times piece referenced earlier remarks from Tillerson, who said conditioning the United States' foreign policy too much on values forms barriers to advancing the country's national interests.

"With those words, Secretary Tillerson sent a message to oppressed people everywhere, 'Don't look to the United States for hope,' " McCain wrote last Sunday.

" 'Our values make us sympathetic to your plight, and when it's convenient we might officially express that sympathy.' " 

This Sunday, on NBC's "Meet The Press," Tillerson sought to clarify his remarks.

"America's values of freedom, of treatment of people, human dignity, freedom of expression throughout the world, those are our values," Tillerson said.

"Those are enduring values. They are part of everything we do."

Tillerson said those values serve as "the guidepost" and "the boundaries as we develop our foreign policy approaches and our diplomatic efforts."

"But I make a distinction between values and policy," he said.

"A policy has to be tailored to the individual situation. To the country. To its circumstances. To the broader issues that we are addressing in terms of advancing our national security interest, our national economic interest."

The country's policies, he said, have to be adaptable and they have to change. The same isn't true for its values, he said.

"Our values can never change. Our values can never be put in a position of having to be compromised," he said.

"And so the values guide our policy, but if we put our values in the front of our policies and say 'this is our policy,' we have no room to adapt to changing circumstances to achieve our ultimate objective," he continued.

"And I think if we are successful in achieving our ultimate diplomatic and national security objectives, we will create the conditions for the advancement of freedom in countries all over the world."

Tillerson also said he has great respect for McCain.