Organised at short notice, Amcham’s farewell to ambassador McKean at the Cercle Munster was nonetheless attended by around 80 guests.
“It is a happy occasion to see everyone here, but also a sad occasion to say goodbye to someone who we all love and appreciate,” said Amcham chairman Paul Schonenberg.
Given an opportunity to speak in public one last time in Luxembourg, the ambassador warned his audience that he may be a little bit provocative at times. “I know that is unusual for an ambassador, but I’m leaving in three days so I’m not that worried about getting fired,” he quipped.
McKean focused his address on what the US president-elect has said about key aspects of foreign policy--“because it will impact Luxembourg and Europe.” In addition, McKean said that foreign policy is the area in which a president has a lot of power, free of many of the checks and balances that restrain many facets of domestic policy.
The ambassador quoted New York Times columnist David Brooks, a Republican but clearly not a fan of the president-elect, who wrote that Donald Trump’s statements “should probably be treated less like policy declarations and more like Snapchat. They exist to win attention at the moment, but then they disappear.”
McKean suggested that the pragmatic leadership of Trump’s secretary of defense and secretary of state nominees, James Mattis and Rex Tillerson, might offer some counterpoint to Trump’s White House staff, and especially the ideologically motivated Michael Flynn and Steve Bannon. “It will be interesting to see who emerges as the most trusted advisor.”
Addressing four key foreign policy areas--the Iran nuclear deal, climate change, Nato and the European Union, and Russia--the ambassador challenged the veracity and intention of Trump’s statements to date, and even pointed to contradictory statements by many of the president-elect’s own advisors.
“There’s no overarching strategic vision that president-elect Trump has been able to articulate, or at least none that I could discern,” McKean said. “The critical question is whether or not president Trump will actually do the things that he promised on the campaign trail. My hope is that once he is inside the White House, his advisors will counsel him to reconsider many of the positions that he has taken.”
McKean wrapped up by saying how honoured he was to have served as ambassador to Luxembourg, and reiterated the close relationship between the two countries. He said, however, that he has worked to “reintroduce America to the people of Luxembourg…as honestly and as forthrightly as possible.”
In an emotional farewell, speaking for himself and his wife Kathleen Kaye, McKean said that although people often referred to Luxembourg as a small country, “ironically it has made our world a lot bigger.”