Pompeo: Why his confirmation is in jeopardy
“Amid a series of difficult Senate confirmation fights facing President Trump,” Mike Pompeo’s nomination for secretary of state “was supposed to be the easy one,” said Elana Schor and Nahal Toosi in Politico.com. But after combative hearings of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week, Pompeo’s nomination is in real trouble. Committee Democrats grilled the CIA director on his previous, hard-line statements that we should tear up the Iran nuclear deal and overthrow North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. They questioned him about reports that Trump once asked him to get the FBI to scale back the Russia investigation. Even Republicans chipped in, asking him whether he’d ever push back against the president’s worst instincts. Pompeo’s evasive answers—that he now favors diplomacy over confrontation, and that Trump never asked him to do anything “inappropriate”—left Democrats “frustrated.” With Republicans Sen. Rand Paul already saying he’ll vote “no” and Sen. John McCain ill, Pompeo will need Democratic votes to be confirmed.
Pompeo’s biggest problem is his “long history” of far-right extremism, said Zack Beauchamp in Vox.com. After riding the Tea Party wave to Congress, the West Point graduate endorsed the belief that homosexuality is a “perversion,” and in 2013 even suggested that Muslim leaders were “potentially complicit” in the Boston Marathon bombing. Do we really want this bigot as our chief diplomat? More concerning is Pompeo’s hawkish worldview, said Richard North Patterson in The Boston Globe. He and the new national security adviser, John Bolton, have a history of “exaggerating threats, scorning serious diplomacy, and imagining that American power can mold the world to their liking.” For all his flaws, former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson did at least “speak for moderation.”
These are all “legitimate concerns,” said The Washington Post in an editorial. But Trump is facing a “chaotic confluence of actual and looming foreign crises,” involving Syria, Russia, North Korea, and Iran. The State Department and national security apparatus are already “badly depleted,” with “dozens of senior positions” vacant. It’s simply too “parlous” a time to be without a secretary of state. Pompeo is also one of the few officials who has “the trust of the president,” said Michael Allen in the Washington Examiner. That’s essential, as other nations will know he genuinely speaks for Trump. For the sake of the nation, Democrats must put politics aside and confirm Pompeo. ■