Washington – Democrat Stacey Abrams assailed the Trump administration’s “know nothing” diplomatic strategy Friday and tied voting rights issues to what she described as the nation’s diminished reputation.
The speech before the Council on Foreign Relations came a week after Abrams decided against a run for the U.S. Senate but left open the possibility of a White House bid or a 2022 rematch for governor.
It could be seen as an attempt by Abrams, a former Georgia House minority leader, to burnish her foreign policy chops if she seeks federal office. She also addressed the National Security Action Forum earlier Friday and has written several foreign policy papers.
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At an event packed with students and diplomats, Abrams lamented the “decimation of our foreign policy apparatus” and said President Donald Trump’s approach to foreign policy was shaped by xenophobia and “fear mongering.”
“My deepest fear is we’ll have to take a long time to restore our standing in the world because our credibility has been diminished,” she said, adding: “You cannot bar transgender people from our military and at the same time argue against countries criminalizing the LGBTQ community.”
She said it will take a concerted effort from a Democratic president to rebuild the ranks of foreign diplomats and recalibrate the approach to foreign policy.
“We are going to have to restore and rebuild our credibility, and that means we’re going to have to confront the very real damage that’s been done by our current administration,” she said.
As she often does, Abrams assailed Gov. Brian Kemp for refusing to step down as the state’s top elections official even as he campaigned for governor. She refused to concede last year’s election to Kemp as she ended her bid for the job. His allies call her a “sore loser” for refusing to accept his victory.
“If you want to manipulate an election, be in charge of it,” she said. “That’s what happened in Georgia.”
And she drew a line between voting rights – long one of her top policy priorities – and the nation’s approach to international relations.
“When you suppress minority participation, that’s the first step toward autocracy. We like to think that we’re invulnerable, but we are not,” she said.
“When I think about the 2020 election, my deepest fear is that we won’t simply face voter suppression but the more insidious effect will happen – people will think they don’t count.”
In a round of questions – she quipped it was like “foreign policy Jeopardy” – she also addressed a hodgepodge of other issues.
On China investments in infrastructure: “While the results of having infrastructure in places long denied the accoutrements of development is good, we should be deeply concerned with how it’s happening ... China is not only building infrastructure, it’s building relationships.”
On what she expects from a presidential candidate: She said she wants to hear a cogent proposal for victory, a plan to end voter suppression and a strategy that recognizes “we aren’t running against Donald Trump but for America.”
On a potential trade war with China: “When you decide to weaponize trade, you run the very real risk undermining economics and breaking communities.”
On the U.S. stance toward Russia: “Russia has a very deep embedded interest in the dysfunction of America ... We have to have leadership in this room and across the country and around the world who understands the global good of democracy is good for us all.”
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