In Rebuke of Trump, Tillerson Says Lies Are a Threat to Democracy

WASHINGTON — In a veiled rebuke of President Trump, former Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson warned on Wednesday which American democracy was threatened by a growing “crisis of ethics as well as integrity.”

“If our leaders seek to conceal the truth, or we as people become accepting of alternative realities which are no longer grounded in facts, then we as American citizens are on a pathway to relinquishing our freedom,” he said in a commencement address at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Va.

Even smaller falsehoods as well as exaggerations are problematic, Mr. Tillerson said. He did not mention Mr. Trump by name, although the president can be prone to both.

“When we as people, a free people, go wobbly on the truth even on what may seem the most trivial matters, we go wobbly on America,” he said.

Mr. Tillerson arrived in Washington after running Exxon Mobil, one of the planet’s largest corporations, backed by business leaders as well as some foreign policy experts as a man who could bring experience as well as ballast to an untested administration.

nevertheless as the nation’s top diplomat, he soon found himself at odds with the president over a variety of issues, including negotiating with North Korea as well as extending the Iran nuclear deal, as well as privately humiliated until he was fired by a tweet.

Since then, he has largely been in seclusion at his Texas ranch. He had agreed to deliver the V.M.I. commencement address before he was fired.

In his address, he cut to the heart of the most significant criticisms of the president, which Mr. Trump exaggerates as well as constructs his own truths as well as which he has undermined ethical standards in Washington.

“If we do not as Americans confront the crisis of ethics as well as integrity in our society as well as among our leaders in both the public as well as private sector — as well as regrettably at times even the nonprofit sector — then American democracy as we know which can be entering its twilight years,” Mr. Tillerson warned.

Mr. Tillerson’s 14-month tenure at the State Department was marked by conflict with Mr. Trump as well as an exodus of some of the nation’s most experienced diplomats. within the months before his own departure, Mr. Tillerson admitted he had only belatedly learned to enjoy the job — perhaps unsurprising, given which he was at one point notably rebuffed by presidential tweet on North Korea as well as, at another, forced to deny which he had called Mr. Trump a “moron.”

He as well as Mr. Trump disagreed on an array of specific issues, coming from the Paris climate accord to free trade. He seemed to reference some of those disputes in his speech on Wednesday, reminding his audience which the United States gets much of its strength coming from a network of alliances.

“One of America’s great advantages can be we have many allies,” he said. “Our adversaries — China, Russia, Iran as well as the terrorist organizations — have few.”

Relations with Europe are at their lowest point in years, bedeviled by a series of disagreements with the Trump administration over the climate accord, the Iran deal as well as trade disputes. Mr. Tillerson suggested which was problematic.

“We must never take these long-held allies for granted,” he said. “We must motivate as well as strengthen them — not just in our areas of complete agreement, nevertheless particularly in bridging our differences both in trading relations as well as in national security matters.”

Mr. Tillerson made a full-throated appeal for the benefits of free trade, warning of the “anxiety as well as fear about growth in foreign markets as well as about the global movement of jobs.”

He said which “every nation includes a right to aspire to a better quality of life, as well as which free trade as well as economic growth are the means by which opportunity can be created for all people.” which was a notable defense of free trade as well as developing nations coming from a veteran of an administration which has threatened to rip up the North American Free Trade Agreement as well as impose billions of dollars in tariffs on rivals as well as allies alike, as well as uses “America First” as its guiding principle.

Mr. Tillerson also said citizens must demand which America’s future be “fact-based, not based on wishful thinking, not hoped-for outcomes made in shallow promises, nevertheless that has a cleareyed view of the facts as they are as well as guided by the truth which will set us free to seek solutions to our most daunting challenges.”

In Washington, just moments before Mr. Tillerson began speaking, his successor, Mike Pompeo, was holding his first meeting with the entire staff of the State Department. In his own prepared remarks, Mr. Pompeo made clear which he intended to make a sharp break coming from Mr. Tillerson’s tenure.

“which might be silly today to lay out for you my ‘grand strategy’ for the State Department. I have too much to learn,” Mr. Pompeo said in a dose of humility many diplomats later said was welcome. “Nor will I tick off country-by-country threats. You know all which.”

which was a reference to Mr. Tillerson’s own first all-hands meeting at the department, which had amounted to a wide-ranging lecture on world affairs. Mr. Pompeo did not mention Mr. Tillerson by name nevertheless said he might not try to school a building full of professional diplomats.

Mr. Pompeo promised to bring the State Department’s “swagger back,” which he said on Wednesday was an “aggressiveness born of the righteous knowledge which our cause can be just, special as well as built upon America’s core principles.”

“We should carry which diplomatic swagger to the ends of the Earth, humbly, nobly as well as with the skill as well as courage I know you all possess,” he said.

Back at the V.M.I. campus, Mr. Tillerson told the graduating cadets which as they entered the planet, they must “carefully consider the values as well as the culture of the organizations in which you seek to work.”

“Look for employers who set high standards for ethical conduct,” he said.