George Shultz Speaks Out for Renewing U.S. Leadership Overseas

Despite his lifetime of Republican credentials, Mr. Shultz refused to publicly endorse Mr. Trump in 2016 or this year but did not back his Democratic opponents either. Like Condoleezza Rice, another former Republican secretary of state who now runs the Hoover Institution, Mr. Shultz declined to disclose for whom he would vote in Tuesday’s election, but he left little doubt about his dim regard for Mr. Trump.

Asked for his assessment of the incumbent president, the first thing Mr. Shultz volunteered was his respect and admiration for former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who resigned in protest after Mr. Trump decided to pull troops out of northern Syria and leave America’s Kurdish allies on their own.

“I say, if you can’t hold a guy like Jim Mattis …,” Mr. Shultz said without finishing the thought. He then described a conversation with Mr. Mattis, who is also now at Hoover. “I said, ‘What’d you leave for, Jim?’ He said, ‘Well, the president makes a decision about Syria and doesn’t even ask my opinion.’ It’s a big loss. You’ve got to keep people like that.”

By contrast, Mr. Shultz offered no criticism of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic nominee, with whom he worked when he was secretary of state and Mr. Biden was a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Mr. Shultz remembered that in those days, he could disagree with Democrats without sacrificing mutual respect and friendship.

“He’s that kind of guy,” he said of Mr. Biden. “You can have a big argument, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be friends.” He said he had recently teased Mr. Biden, who is 77, that “from my standpoint, you’re a promising young man.”

Mr. Shultz agrees with Mr. Trump on some issues. He approved of the president’s decision to withdraw from President Barack Obama’s nuclear accord with Iran, which he found flawed, and he praised the recent deals establishing diplomatic recognition between Israel and several Arab neighbors, calling those moves “brilliant.” He likewise endorsed Mr. Trump’s early travel restrictions to stem the flow of the coronavirus.

But Mr. Shultz said it was important to take the virus seriously, noting that he and Charlotte, his wife, stay inside their home on the Stanford campus except for taking walks when the weather is nice. And he said he hoped Mr. Trump would renew the New START nuclear arms treaty with Russia and take on climate change, a subject that he has worked on extensively in recent years as he promotes a carbon tax.