Pete Buttigieg just rolled out details on his foreign policy vision. Here are the big takeaways.
Pete Buttigieg,. Mayor of South Bend, and Presidential candidate, stopped at Indiana University to lay out his foreign policy plans. IndyStar
BLOOMINGTON — Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg rolled out his foreign policy and national security vision to a packed auditorium Tuesday at Indiana University.
It was Buttigeig's first address detailing a specific piece of his primary campaign agenda. While Buttigieg has been mayor of South Bend for two terms, he indicated he wanted to drive home his experience as an intelligence officer in the war in Afghanistan.
On the issues: Here's where Buttigieg stands
Buttigieg's address was light on details about how he would implement many of his ideas, and some points were familiar refrains from past interviews. But in general, he called for an end to open-ended wars, for the United States to fight authoritarianism abroad, to treat climate change as a security threat, to recommit to former President Barack Obama's Iran nuclear deal, to deter Russia from interfering in U.S. elections and to be a world leader.
He spoke for an hour, often drawing loud ovations from the crowd of more than 1,800 in Bloomington, a liberal college town in what's a largely conservative state.
Here are the big takeaways:
Recommit to the Iran nuclear deal
Like many fellow top Democrats seeking the nomination, Buttigieg said he believes the Iran-nuclear deal negotiated by the Obama administration was preventing that nation from developing nuclear weapons.
"Whatever its imperfections," he said of the Obama-era deal, "this was perhaps as close to the real 'Art of the Deal' as diplomatic achievements get," he said, referencing the title of President Donald Trump's business-oriented memoir.
A year ago, Trump reimposed sanctions on Iran by withdrawing the U.S. from the 2015 agreement.
Buttigieg said a nuclear Iran poses too great a threat on Israel and Europe.
He would take on Russia
Buttigieg said he would use diplomatic, economic and cyber tools to ensure Russia doesn't exploit weaknesses in U.S. elections.
"Their unacceptable interference in our elections weakened America both by helping to elect an unstable administration and by eroding confidence in our democracy itself," he said.
End 'endless' wars
Buttigieg thinks Congress should assert more authority over the authorization of wars, including in Afghanistan and future conflicts. He opposes, at this point, war on Venezuela or Iran.
He said the United States needs a clearer definition of the missions and their aftermath when it sends troops into conflicts.
He said he fears the day when news emerges of the first U.S. casualty in the war on terrorism involving someone who was born after Sept. 11, 2001.
"As someone who deployed to that war on the orders of a president — who believed, way back in 2014, that our involvement in Afghanistan was coming to an end — the time has come for Congress to repeal and replace that blank check on the use of force and ensure a robust debate on any future operations."
He would fight climate change
Buttigieg didn't drop an elaborate "Green New Deal," but he does support combating climate change as a national security priority. That would start, but not end, with rejoining the Paris climate accord, he said.
As mayor of South Bend, he oversaw emergency operations in two historic-level floods. He also referenced recent tornadoes in Alabama, fires in California, and the hurricane damage in Puerto Rico.
"Despite what we hear from this administration and far too many Republicans in power, climate disruption is here," he said. "It is no longer a distant or theoretical issue, it is a clear and present threat."
He's also called for a carbon tax and dividend to create other economic incentives to fight climate change, and to quadruple U.S. spending to at least $25 billion a year to research renewable energy, energy storage and carbon storage.
He also said he wants to find ways to empower rural Americans to help by managing soil and implementing 21st-century farming techniques, though he provided few details.
Be a voice in the world
Buttigieg said Trump hasn't had much of a foreign policy position, and called for renewed American leadership abroad. He also wants to fight authoritarian regimes.
He acknowledged some past Democratic administrations also have struggled with foreign policy, though he didn't name any or go into detail.
"While the current administration lacks a coherent policy, it does show a pattern — a troubling one — when it comes to its conduct abroad," he said. "This administration has embraced and emboldened autocrats, while alienating democracies and allies around the globe. It has undermined America’s alliances, partnerships and treaties."
Fight right-wing terrorism at home
Buttigieg drew loud applause for saying the U.S. needs to fight acts of terrorism committed by Americans at home.
"Knowing that in the past decade, more Americans in America have been killed by right-wing extremists than by al-Qaida or ISIS, we need to acknowledge this threat, too, and redirect appropriate use of ..." he continued to speak, but his words were drowned out by the sound of cheering and clapping.
When asked afterward by IndyStar, Buttigieg's campaign said he was referencing data from the Anti-Defamation League, which has reported that 73 percent of terrorism deaths in the U.S. in the past 10 years were committed by right-wing extremists, compared to 23 percent linked to Islamic extremism.
Compete with China as it expands influence
Buttigieg said China is attempting to promote what he called authoritarian capitalism across the world, and the U.S. should counter with its own economic value system. He said the Chinese government also is expanding its intelligence efforts, calling it a surveillance state, and the U.S needs to counter that.
He said China is filling a vacuum left by America's withdrawal from the world stage and criticized Trump's tariffs on the country, which he said are raising prices on Americans. Buttigieg said 20th-century policies won't work in today's world, and the problem is bigger than the cost of a home appliance.
But, he pointed out, the U.S. also should look for opportunities to work with China, such as combating climate change.
Tougher policy toward Israel
Buttigieg said the United States needs to encourage what he called the right-wing government in Israel to use military force only when necessary and to preserve the rights of all of its citizens.
He said the closer an ally, the more important it is to speak truth to them, asserting the security and survival of Israel is vital to the United States.
Buttigieg said the Netanyahu government is turning away from peace. He also said Israeli citizens should be able to criticize that government, just as U.S. citizens can criticize their own government.
He supports a two-state solution, which involves an independent state of Palestine alongside Israel. Buttigieg said he would take steps to ensure American taxpayers "won't foot the bill" to help Netanyahu annex Jewish settlements of the West Bank, a move some argue would violate international law and provoke Palestinian leaders.
Fight for stability in Central America and Africa
On a rainy afternoon in South Bend, Mayor Pete Buttigieg announced that he is joining several others in seeking the Democratic nomination for President. IndyStar
Buttigieg spoke on the need to help promote economic security and social stability in various nations in Africa and Central and South America, but was light on details.
He said the U.S. should address the crime, corruption and poverty in Central and South America, especially, that leads to mass migration. He said the U.S. should work closely with Mexico to help it become more prosperous.
He suggested the U.S. could isolate dictatorships to promote democracy.
He pointed to the growing economies of African nations and said that the U.S. should stand ready to promote its values on that continent.
He took on Trump
Buttigieg took numerous shots at Trump during the speech, all to raves from the crowd.
He referenced policymaking-by-tweeting as a bad idea, suggested foreign governments could curry favor by staying at Trump-brand hotels, said he hoped to retire by the time he was the president's current age and accused the president of exchanging "love letters on White House letterhead" with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
But Buttigieg doesn't have Trump's long wind-up when delivering lines attacking opponents. He just throws them in as he's making his points.
Consider this: "I often speak of the need for our politics and policies to contemplate the year 2054, the year in which I hope to retire, after reaching the current age of the current president," he said, to a slowly developing laugh and then applause.
It's not a one-way street. Trump likes to call the mayor "Alfred E. Neuman," the boyish Mad magazine mascot.
Call IndyStar reporter Chris Sikich at 317-444-6036. Follow him on Twitter: @ChrisSikich.