(CNSNews.com) – Former Secretary of State John Kerry, in a speech in the Middle East Sunday, implicitly criticized President Trump for policies such as withdrawing from the Paris climate accord, saying that the United States “needs to build partnerships and cannot turn its back on the world.”
On climate change, he told graduates at New York University Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, “the reaction of some people my friends, is to play to the lowest common denominator of common politics. Close the doors, pull back from the world and pretend that we can solve problems by ourselves – for ourselves, too.”
“I want to make it clear: We won’t win, any of us, ultimately, by retreating within our borders, by focusing on our own nations only, and going it alone,” he said, adding that the world is “too interconnected” for that to work.
Kerry did not mention Trump by name. But he spoke about a political culture in the U.S. where facts were distorted and civil discourse was threatened.
“True civil discourse is also under threat all around the planet, eroding rights alongside trust,” he said. “Certainly in my country, our politics has become almost all accusatory, all bombastic.”
“We leap to a conclusion. I’m wrong, you’re right. I’m right, you’re wrong, back and forth, without any intervening exchange.”
“And in the end, my friends, we’re left asking: How in a civil society can you make important decisions, that build a consensus of support, if you can’t even agree on what the facts are?”
“The way we win the future is by recognizing the importance of truth, the importance of integrity … the importance of being able to win by restoring a baseline of facts to global decision making,” Kerry said.
In introducing Kerry, NYU President Andrew Hamilton outlined his career, and described him as “a key architect of the enormously important Paris climate accord, signing the historic agreement in 2016 to reduce carbon emissions.”
Hamilton also alluded to Kerry’s work on the Iran nuclear issue, praising him for leadership on issues like “advancing nuclear proliferation,” he said – before correcting himself, “advancing nuclear non-proliferation,” and then adding, “I fear it is others who are doing the opposite!”
Kerry himself did not refer to the nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), from which Trump withdrew this month.
But in acknowledging Hamilton’s introductory remarks, he quipped, “Given what’s going on today, I’m glad to be invited anywhere, folks.”
Elsewhere in his speech, Kerry spoke about global challenges of various types, including large populations of young people without jobs or hope or prospects.
“When frustration turns into desperation, we all have a problem,” he said, adding that violent extremist groups use inequality and corruption and indignity as “recruitment tools.”
“Inequality has also grown in most countries, fueling instability,” Kerry said. “In the United States of America today, 52 percent of the income earned by our nation goes to one percent of people. I’ve said it over there at home and I’ll say it here because I’ve said it at home: That is not sustainable.”
The former secretary of state recently came under fire for discussing with foreign leaders – including Iran’s foreign minister – Trump’s then-looming decision to withdraw from the JCPOA.
“The United States does not need John Kerry’s possibly illegal Shadow Diplomacy on the very badly negotiated Iran Deal,” Trump tweeted one day before he announced the withdrawal. “He was the one that created this MESS in the first place!”
Kerry’s silence on the deal during his speech in Abu Dhabi may have been in recognition of the fact that the UAE government, senior members of which were in attendance, has itself been sharply critical of the JCPOA. The UAE and Saudi Arabia are outspoken regional rivals of the Shi’ite regime in Tehran.