Rea­gan sec­re­tary has ad­vice for Trump

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - Doyle McManus

— Ge­orge Shultz, Ron­ald Rea­gan’s longest­serv­ing sec­re­tary of state, didn’t en­dorse ei­ther can­di­date in this year’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, even though he’s a life­long Repub­li­can. He de­clined to dis­close who got his vote on Elec­tion Day.

But the con­ser­va­tive el­der states­man who has worked on U.S. for­eign pol­icy for more than 50 years has some friendly ad­vice for Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump.

Strength and re­solve are im­por­tant, Shultz told me this week; Trump has that part right.

But al­liances are essen­tial too. “With­out al­lies, you don’t get any­where,” he said in an in­ter­view at Stan­ford Univer­sity, where he’s a fel­low at the Hoover In­sti­tu­tion.

The GOP for­eign pol­icy es­tab­lish­ment is will­ing to help the new pres­i­dent. The is­sue is whether Trump and his in­ner cir­cle are will­ing to ac­cept the hand.

If you want other coun­tries to help achieve U.S. goals, he said, you need to of­fer them re­spect, lis­ten to their con­cerns and cul­ti­vate long-term re­la­tion­ships. “It’s a lit­tle like gar­den­ing,” he added. That com­bi­na­tion of strength and diplo­macy is what en­abled Ron­ald Rea­gan to win the Cold War, Shultz ar­gued. There’s a les­son there, he seemed to sug­gest, for Trump — although he said this was ad­vice he would give any pres­i­dent, not a cri­tique of the pres­i­dent-elect.

He said the United States has an in­ter­est in a “more con­struc­tive” re­la­tion­ship with Rus­sia, some­thing Trump has long called for. “A Rus­sia that’s col­laps­ing, with thou­sands of nu­clear weapons, is the last thing we need,” he said.

But he also said the three Baltic coun­tries, which feel threat­ened by Rus­sia, “need re­as­sur­ance” that the North At­lantic Treaty Or­ga­ni­za­tion will de­fend them. (Dur­ing the cam­paign, Trump said he might not de­fend NATO coun­tries that aren’t spend­ing enough on de­fense. But Pres­i­dent Obama said this week that Trump in­tends to main­tain the U.S. com­mit­ment to NATO.)

Shultz sug­gested that Trump seek broad-scale talks with China, too. “The new pres­i­dent should say to the pres­i­dent of China: ‘Why don’t you and I ... get to­gether and make a list of all the things where col­lab­o­ra­tive ac­tion on our part would be ben­e­fi­cial?’” he said. “And then list what are our points of ten­sion and what can we do about them ... and let’s work our way through that agenda.”

There’s still work to do to pre­vent pro­lif­er­a­tion of nu­clear weapons, he added. At one point in the cam­paign, he noted, Trump said Ja­pan and South Korea might need nu­clear forces.

Bad idea, Shultz said, not­ing that Trump later aban­doned the sug­ges­tion. “The more you pro­lif­er­ate, the more chances you get that some­one will set one off,” he said.

One more is­sue Shultz hopes the pres­i­dent-elect will think about: cli­mate change.

“Peo­ple who say the cli­mate isn’t chang­ing are in the process of get­ting mugged by re­al­ity,” he said. “Zika is the tip of the ice­berg. With cli­mate change, trop­i­cal dis­eases are com­ing north, car­ried by mos­qui­toes.... and we’re not ready for it.”

Trump was never Shultz’s first choice for the GOP nom­i­na­tion. “God help us,” he told re­porters in an un­guarded mo­ment in Au­gust.

But he’s keep­ing an open mind now. “Fin­gers crossed,” he said.

Shultz con­fers of­ten with another for­mer sec­re­tary of State, Henry Kissinger; they’re both will­ing to help the new ad­min­is­tra­tion find its foot­ing in for­eign pol­icy.

Is this a cyn­i­cal, Washington-style con­ver­sion by man­darins who want to curry fa­vor with the new boss? “I’m not look­ing for a job,” Shultz joked. He’s 95. In truth, it sounds more like old-fash­ioned pa­tri­o­tism — an of­fer from an el­der states­man to help a new team avoid rookie mis­takes.

Bot­tom line: The GOP for­eign pol­icy es­tab­lish­ment is will­ing to help the new pres­i­dent. The is­sue is whether Trump and his in­ner cir­cle are will­ing to ac­cept the out­stretched hand. That’s still an open ques­tion.

Last week, Eliot Co­hen, a for­mer of­fi­cial in the Ge­orge W. Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion who de­nounced Trump as un­fit for the pres­i­dency, en­cour­aged national se­cu­rity ex­perts to help the new ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“If any­thing, hav­ing pro­fes­sion­als serve who re­mem­ber that their oath is to sup­port and de­fend the Con­sti­tu­tion — and not to truckle to an in­di­vid­ual or his clique — will be more im­por­tant than ever,” Co­hen wrote in the National In­ter­est.

Then Co­hen talked with Trump’s tran­si­tion staff. It didn’t go well.

“Changed my rec­om­men­da­tion: stay away,” Co­hen wrote Tues­day on Twit­ter. “They’re an­gry, ar­ro­gant, scream­ing ‘You lost!’ Will be ugly.”

Doyle McManus is a columnist for the Los An­ge­les Times. Read­ers may send him email at doyle.mcmanus@la­times. com

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