JUDY WOODRUFF: This morning, I sat down with outgoing Secretary of State John Kerry at the U.S. Institute of Peace. He was one of many Obama administration officials participating in an event called Passing the Baton, focused on a smooth transition between administrations.
I began by asking him just how smoothly the transition to the Trump team is going.
JOHN KERRY, Secretary of State: Well, it’s going pretty smoothly because there’s not an enormous amount of it.
There are some people that have been in the building for a period of time. But, you know, quite candidly, I think there has not been a lot of high-level exchange at this point in time. I’m still expecting to meet with my successor at some point in the near term.
JUDY WOODRUFF: You haven’t met with him yet?
JOHN KERRY: No, I haven’t met with him yet.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you expect to?
JOHN KERRY: I do.
JUDY WOODRUFF: What are the one or two things that you wish you had known in the very beginning that you only learned later and maybe painfully?
JOHN KERRY: What troubles me a little bit is that people are not separating a remarkable transformation that is taking place globally naturally from things that we’re really responsible for.
Let me give you an example, Arab Spring. We didn’t start the Arab Spring. We couldn’t have stopped the Arab Spring, particularly with respect to Syria. And I think there are some things that might have been able to have been done.
But that had nothing to do with the red line. And let’s make that absolutely clear, folks. President Obama never retreated from his red line. He never changed his mind about his readiness to bomb Assad to make it clear, you don’t use chemical weapons, never. There’s a mythology that’s grown up around this.
One of the greatest challenges we all face right now, not just America, but every country in the world, is, we are living in a factless political environment. And every country in the world better stop and start worrying about authoritarian populism and the absence of substance in our dialogue, if you call it that.
JUDY WOODRUFF: What can the U.S. do about that?
JOHN KERRY: Well, we’re going to have to fight for it.
I think a lot of people are struggling with the, what do you do about it? If policy is going to be made in 140 characters on Twitter, and every reasonable measurement of accountability is being bypassed, and people don’t care about it, we have a problem.
And it’s not just our problem here in the United States. It’s all over the world.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Secretary Kerry also called for a new Marshall Plan to help countries in critical regions around the world educate their exploding youth populations and prevent them from being radicalized.