Politics

Goodbye, Mike Pompeo

Mike Pompeo in a U.S. flag–themed mask
Pompeo has done damage to U.S. credibility abroad that will take years to repair. Yuri Gripas/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Pompeo has been a rare survivor amid the chaos and turnover on Trump’s national security team, lasting the whole term, first as CIA director and then as secretary of state. But he was never exactly a Trumpist. There’s little to suggest he shares the president’s skepticism of “endless wars,” his fondness for Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un, or his suspicion of U.S. allies. His defining issue has been a campaign of regime change in Iran, something Trump has seemed fairly indifferent about. But he also isn’t among the hawks who clashed with the president and found themselves out of a job, like James Mattis, H.R. McMaster, or John Bolton.

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Throughout it all, Pompeo hovered somewhere in between, an ideologue who realized that as long as he flattered the boss in private and defended him in public, he’d have leeway to pursue his own agenda. He’s failed even by the terms of that agenda: Iran is now closer to developing a nuclear bomb than it was when he entered Foggy Bottom; U.S. saber-rattling has not deterred China from crushing democracy in Hong Kong, imprisoning Uighurs in Xinjiang, threatening Taiwan, or expanding its control of the South China Sea.

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He’s been the worst sort of hypocrite, somehow both defensive and overconfident. This continued up through the past week, when he was tweeting out grave statements of concern about election meddling in Tanzania and Belarus even as Trump was attempting to undermine the democratic process in the U.S. with baseless claims of voter fraud.

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Pompeo’s rhetoric straddled the line between the self-righteous bombast of the George W. Bush administration and the craven cynicism of the Trump years. By embedding foreign policy even deeper within the U.S. culture wars, he has done damage to U.S. credibility abroad that will take years to repair.

I wrote last month that there are “actually two Trump administration foreign policies, one led by Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the other by Trump himself, and they only sometimes align.” The country will be better off without either of them.

This is part of a series of goodbyes to Trumpworld figures. Read the rest here.

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