It came as some surprise to the Hungarian public that yet before the US presidential election in November lsaid. Why did you do it?
It wasn’t that surprising to me and my family. When I got here, our idea was to stay until the end of the presidential term. The presidential election really had nothing to do with this decision. We started now to be home for Thanksgiving and Christmas. That is why the decision was made on 1 November. I like being an ambassador, but my grandfather rank is even more to my liking.
How old is your grandson?
He had just turned fifteen. And I fell out of his life for two and a half years, so I didn’t see him on the football team, and much more. Our family is very small and we are very close to each other.
He arrived in Hungary in 2018 as Ambassador of Donald Trump. What was your goal and were you satisfied with the result?
I come from the business world, and there’s the rule: you can never be satisfied, because there’s always room for improvement. But as I look back over the last two and a half years, I can say that when I got here, the relationship between our countries could not have been worse. And when I get on the plane next Friday, I will be able to say that our relations could not be better. We have achieved a lot, which has only benefited the United States and Hungary.
The culmination of political relations was probably when President Trump received Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in the White House last year. Yet many in Hungary think that you have not done enough to protect American interests, including the tug-of-war around the CEU. What do you respond to these criticisms?
Today, I think, a more important question is what is happening with the coronavirus epidemic or how the economy has developed. As for my criticisms of the Hungarian government’s policy, I would like to recall a flight – probably the longest ever – that I did with Henry Kissinger from Singapore to New York when we wanted to achieve, unsuccessfully, anyway, that New York could host the 2012 summer. Olympics. Kissinger told me that private diplomacy is more important than public diplomacy. I followed this in my work here. Nor would I have rushed to the Index to complain to the Orbán government. If I thought they could handle something differently, I personally expressed it. I kept in mind that the solution would be good for both Hungary and the United States. I fell in love with Hungary, but it is not a perfect country, nor is its government perfect. Neither does the United States. It is in our constitution that we strive for a perfect union. I am sure that the Hungarian government thinks the same way. Believe me, I heard my voice – but I did so discreetly. The President and the Hungarian Prime Minister have an excellent relationship. I recently talked to Trump for an hour at the Oval Office when I also submitted my resignation letter. He once said: Let’s call Victor! As it turned out, the prime minister was just in the kitchen when he was heralded: the president was calling. He asked: yet, why the president? To the United States, ”was the answer. You can build on such relationships.
It was not always clear what direction their embassy would follow. Recently, the Index reported support for its Facebook campaign on the Western track, which is critical of the Hungarian government, blaming Viktor Orbán for the close Russian relationship. How do these two lines fit together?
On my visit to the White House, which I mentioned earlier, I also visited the first lady; I have known the presidential party for at least fifteen years. Melania Trump he asked our shared photo on Instagram, where it was viewed by millions and liked by 800,000 people. So don’t think I’m unaware of the importance of social media. Facebook is very important. But freedom of the press is also very important to us. I saw the post in question for the first time when you did. We are happy to show you everything that will help make relations between our countries even better. And we can reach a lot of people on Facebook.
You mean, like, their embassy doesn’t have a say in what they post?
I don’t think I should be involved in every single line they put out. The aim is not to support or attack the Hungarian government. But to help build relationships.
He mentioned the coronavirus. 2020 is another difficult year for the United States in other respects: George Floyd’s death in May sparked a wave of protests and unrest. Do you think your president will be re-elected? Are you going to vote for Donald Trump at all?