by Matthew Tyrmand
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Development Mateusz Morawiecki was in Washington, on April 2-5, 2017 and proved that he is the only one stationed in Warsaw, without a firm international relations mandate, that should be allowed to leave Warsaw to represent Poland in the District of Columbia.
Morawiecki held meetings with two of the Trump administration’s Cabinet Secretaries (Rick Perry, Energy and Wilbur Ross, Commerce), President Trump’s International Economic Affairs Adviser, Kenneth Juster, and the head of America’s central bank, The Federal Reserve, Janet Yellen. By all accounts he handled himself with aplomb with these American counterparts. He also did public meetings at AEI, the Heritage Foundation (and the Kennedy School at Harvard in Boston later in the week) and did a stellar interview on CNN- the best interview anyone from dobra zmiana has given to the international press thus far.
But it was in the on-record public meetings where Morawiecki separated himself from his Polish political and ministerial peers. After watching his performance (most notably at AEI) it is demonstrably proven to be imperative that when there is an opportunity to express what Polish interests are, in an intellectually challenging and high-level international setting, that he must be dispatched to do so.
The American Enterprise Institute was founded in 1938 to advocate for free market capitalism, limited government, private enterprise, individual liberty, and political accountability after the disastrous interventions by the big government left during the Depression of the 1930’s. For many decades, AEI was a purist voice dedicated to its core mission but in recent years its free market capitalist zeitgeist evolved into a strong advocacy for globalist free markets. The current core philosophy of the institute shuns populism and nationalism in favor of globally oriented best practice governance- which sensibly does embrace free markets as the greatest guarantor of freedom and prosperity, at least in theory. The prevailing belief, and one common among the establishment right, is that open borders, allowing people and capital to flow freely from country to country, is the best framework to deliver the positive free market capitalist outcomes for which they advocate. The pitfalls of these theories, which we are seeing in the EU and USA (migrant crises, abuse of social welfare, “race to the bottom” on labor costs hurting native workers, large scale cronyism by the global financial sector to name a few) of which Morawiecki has rightfully been critical of, are all but ignored by AEI fellows these days.
It is also important to note that both Anne Applebaum and her husband, disgraced former Foreign Minister and noted Octopus aficionado, Radoslaw Sikorski, have deep ties to AEI with Sikorski even serving as a full-time “resident” fellow and acting as Executive Director of the “New Atlantic Initiative” from 2002- 2005. It was rumored that this prestigious fellowship was secured with a well-timed donation from Mrs. Applebaum’s father, Harvey Applebaum, a law partner and wealthy DC energy lobbyist and pioneer in energy sector lobbying. This fellowship was supposed to build Mr. Sikorski’s bona fides as an intellectual, though most of those who knew him in DC, have told this journalist, that his intellect was less than impressive then and evolved little in his time there and since. Apparently not only Poles recognize how shallow Mr. Sikorski is.
Given the philosophical attitude and long standing political ties of AEI, it was clear that this was not going to be an overly friendly room to Mr. Morawiecki, his views, and the government he represents. In fact, the moderator of the panel (entitled: “Cooperation in Turbulent Times”) which Morawiecki joined after his opening remarks, was one Dalibor Rohac. A simple Google search yields many results of articles and editorials Rohac has penned highly critical of the new Polish government and his active spreading of the disinformation talking points of Mrs. Applebaum and Mr. Sikorski. Two of these columns have appeared in the Wall Street Journal in recent months.
Despite what he was up against, Morawiecki calmly and with discipline in idea and point, laid out the economic and political priorities of his ministry and the Polish government. By preaching the real precepts of democracy and accurately demonstrating the legitimacy of the PiS mandate (along with many points about the complicated and oft-misunderstood post-1989 history) he did not allow those who were looking for an in to attack to get what they were looking for. It was a masterful performance. The coup de grace was when Rohac, with no context to justify the segue, asked a question about EU relations framed by relations with EC head Donald Tusk. The question wreaked of a desperation to try and weaken the performance of the invited foreign guest. One could close their eyes and hear Mrs. Applebaum delivering the question in her shrill, pedantic, and condescending tone.
I encourage all to visit the AEI website and watch Minister Morawiecki’s performance from Monday April 3rd. To date, it is the single best on-record public meeting that any member of this Polish government has given in the United States. All the other ministers and deputies should be compelled to watch it so they can learn how to deliver intelligent, incisive talking points to Western audiences of intellectuals and those who remain critical, with or without justification.
Morawiecki certainly proved himself up to the challenge of defending Poland abroad. And Poles should be proud of the job he did. This is a task that does not fall into his core mandate as it is one that resides with other branches of government but there has been a shortage of quality voices who can elucidate complicated themes in English for Western audiences, and hence not much in the way of positive results.
When sending emissaries to Washington, only the best should be allowed to coordinate robust meeting schedules. This should be limited to Morawiecki, Anders, Macierewicz, and Duda; and only with the leanest of delegations. These determinations of who should come when should be left to Ambassador Piotr Wilczek, who is doing a phenomenal job in his new post as the ranking Pole in the USA. He is building high quality and high level relationships on behalf of Poland all over Washington and he is proving to be the best of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which undoubtedly owes to his lack of experience in the foreign service.
Morawiecki certainly has accumulated the most impactful portfolio of responsibilities and oversight in this government given the “tucking in” of the Finance Ministry and Treasury into the Ministry of Development. This makes him the Economics Minister in the truest sense which is a necessary step to reform sclerotic and corrupt legacy systems. He also understands the economic situation and has a vision on how to deliver these necessary reforms. His management experience and competence suggest that he is acting in good faith- not in his political or financial self-interest as so many others in Polish politics have been prone to do. Morawiecki’s intellectual character, competence, non-arrogance, expertise, and integrity put him at the top of the Polish government’s ministerial ranks.
Morawiecki, in my opinion, remains dobra zmiana’s last great hope to responsibly steward Poland to the next stage of successful societal and economic evolution and why I for one am now behind him all the way.