At 90, George Shultz is going strong. More than two decades after his retirement from public life after serving as Ronald Reagan’s secretary of State, Shultz clearly demonstrated on Tuesday night that he can still be provocative and outspoken on the issues of today.
Shultz said that anyone who believes the Obama Administration’s Afghanistan policy will work is “out of their mind” and that Congress adjourning without dealing with the ’01 and ’03 tax cuts has left the American business community in a state of uncertainty.
The World War II Marine and economist who also served as secretary of Labor and later Treasury secretary in the Nixon Administration was honored at the annual Freedom dinner of the International Republican Institute in Washington D.C.
Following the presentation of IRI’s Freedom Award from Sen. John McCain (R.-Ariz.), IRI’s chairman, Shultz sat down on stage across a coffee table with fellow Reagan Administration alumni Richard H. Solomon and engaged in a lively conversation on current events.
Asked about the Obama policy toward Afghanistan, Shultz said that anyone who believes a policy of setting a withdrawal date next year whether we win or lose is “out of their mind.”
“Come on!” Shultz exclaimed about Obama’s concept of leaving regardless of the outcome in Afghanistan. “I’m a Marine.”
Regarding the current economic turmoil, the onetime University of Chicago economist said that Republicans who have departed power in Washington are just as responsible for “getting us in the mess we are in” as are the Democrats now in power.
The causes of this economic turmoil, Shultz believes, are “anti-growth policies,” federal bailouts “for this and that,” spending that resulted in “tax rates going up every time a bill is passed,” and, most recently, Congress adjourning last week without deciding to extend the tax cuts and thus leaving American business in a state of “uncertainty.”
But how could we expect Congress to deal with the issue of tax reduction, he asked the audience, “when they couldn’t stand up to [ending] the estate tax?”
Shultz also had some unkind words for the United Nations, an organization he worked with closely while secretary of State. The UN Security Council has “no teeth,” he said, recalling how the Security Council passed a resolution calling on Hezbollah not to rearm. Now Hezbollah is rearming and launches its attacks from hospitals, schools, and mosques, which makes it difficult to launch a counterattack—the essence of assymetrical warfare, he said.
As to whether the U.S. can come out of this situation, the former diplomat offered an unequivocal “yes.” Recalling how “we’ve always come back,” Shultz recalled how Jimmy Carter used the term “malaise,” and during his presidency, unemployment and inflation were in double-digits and the Soviets were marching into Afghanistan.
Then Ronald Reagan came in, he said, developed a “good economic and political strategy and stood tall against the Soviet Union and turned things around.”
What is needed now to lead America, Shultz concluded, “are a tough-minded Reaganesque kind of people.”