Mike Pompeo may not be the secretary of state, but he’s already made more history than most people with the title. Earlier this week, the White House made the world’s jaws drop when the president announced that the CIA Director had spent Easter in a secret meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. If Democrats didn’t think the Kansan was capable of diplomacy, they must have second thoughts now.
As even the Washington Post admits, it was a groundbreaking moment for the United States. “No CIA director is publicly known to have ever met with North Korea’s leader and had the chance to engage him in conversation.” Republicans like Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) have been effusive in their praise of Pompeo, who’s completely transformed the culture of the CIA in little over a year. “This is a good example of how critical it is on the merits to confirm Mike Pompeo,” Cotton said of the meeting. “He’s already invested deeply in the upcoming summit between the president and Kim Jong Un. It would send a very bad sign and it would, I believe, set back the preparations and perhaps even the results of that upcoming summit for the Senate Democrats to oppose as a bloc Mike Pompeo’s nomination to be secretary of state.”
And while even Democrats offered reluctant praise (Senator Chris Murphy, D-Conn., called the preparatory work “good”), plenty of liberals are determined to find someone less qualified for the job than Pompeo. Angry they were left out of the planning, Senator Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) insisted that someone who’s nominated to be secretary of State should have “share[d] some insights about such a visit.” That’s ridiculous, Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) fired back. “For years, we have kept back channels to North Korea through intelligence… It’s perfectly natural, then, that he would be the person to have the first meeting and sit-down.”
FRC’s own Lt. General Jerry Boykin was thrilled to hear that Pompeo helped set the table for Trump’s North Korea meeting. “#ConfirmMikePompeo!” he tweeted. “He is already demonstrating diplomacy and leadership that will continue to help the #President revitalize America’s position as leader of the free world.” Ken Blackwell agreed. “Now is not the time to play games. Mike Pompeo is doing vital work on behalf of the president to de-nuke North Korea. Senate Dems should confirm him immediately.”
Meanwhile, some of that “vital work” continues, even without a leader at the State Department. Yesterday, FRC’s Travis Weber and Mary Beth Waddell took part in a D.C. summit hosted by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). USCIRF Chairman Dr. Daniel Mark presided over the opening session, in which former commissioners Robert George, Leonard Leo, and Katrina Lantos Sweet, along with former Religious Freedom Ambassador David Saperstein, called some much-needed attention to religious freedom violations around the world. Among other trends, Leonard Leo talked about a pattern of vandalism and desecration of Christian symbols and holy sites in Europe, a rarely reported — but alarming — development.
The second panel featured Commissioner Cliff May, who led a discussion of practical steps that can be taken to advance religious freedom. Panelist Richard Goldberg of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies talked about the use of sanctions to advance religious freedom, including against Iran. As Tom Gallagher, CEO of Religion News Service, said on his panel, religious freedom advocates need to work to make the press more aware of the good work they are doing. Then Farahnaz Ispahani, a Wilson Center Global Fellow, talked about how to engage women in the defense of religious freedom. Religion is seen by some as anti-woman, she said, and we need to break down this false assumption in order to galvanize women on religious freedom worldwide.
The USCIRF Summit brought helpful attention to the issue of religious freedom, an issue we are always pushing yet one which never seems to make it into the worldwide consciousness. Thankfully, President Trump called attention to it recently when criticizing Turkey’s treatment of Pastor Andrew Brunson, whose religious freedom is being violated as he is being held as a pawn by the Turkish government. Yesterday, USCIRF Vice Chairwoman Kristina Arriaga also strongly call out Turkey on this issue.
While the speakers and panelists discussed plenty of strategies to make positive change, confirming Mike Pompeo would be the most important. A longtime champion of the persecuted around the world, Mike and Ambassador at Large for Religious Freedom Sam Brownback would be exactly the team that millions of men and women of faith have been waiting for.
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