If Mike Pompeo approaches approaches the world’s crises in the same calm, dignified, knowledgeable way that he handled today’s hearing, the Department of State will be in excellent hands. Americans on both sides couldn’t help but be impressed by the CIA Director’s measured, expert testimony — in many ways showing just how wise Donald Trump was to nominate him.
Pompeo, who has a long history with the intelligence community — dating back to his days in the U.S. House — deftly handled the complicated questions thrown at him, barely stopping to consult his notes. When Democrats tried to goad him into contradicting Trump, the director politely — but firmly — reminded the committee that his job was to be the face of the president’s agenda abroad. On being called a defense hawk who’s willing to take severe action, Pompeo soberly explained that as a veteran:
I know firsthand the painful sacrifices of our men and women in uniform. So when journalists, most of whom have never met me, label me — or any of you — as ‘hawks,’ ‘war hardliners,’ or worse, I shake my head. There are few who dread war more than those of us who have served in uniform. And there is a great deal of room between a military presence and war. War is always the last resort. I would prefer achieving the President’s foreign policy goals with unrelenting diplomacy rather than by sending young men and women to war.
In the middle of high stakes negotiations with countries like North Korea, China, Iran, and Russia, Pompeo ticked off a number of ways that America could diffuse these threats — without war. “There is much diplomatic work left to do, including supporting the President’s intent to meet with the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. That meeting will take place against a backdrop of commitment by our President to achieve denuclearization and prevent America from being held at risk by a North Korean arsenal of nuclear weapons. I… am confident that we will not repeat the mistakes of the past. President Trump isn’t one to play games at the negotiating table — and I won’t be either.”
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On the controversial Iran nuclear deal, which Mike and other leaders have roundly criticized, he said he supported the president’s push to “fix” the agreement, explaining that, “The issues surrounding Iran’s proliferation threat are real and we, along with our allies, must deal with the long-term risk… Iran’s activities in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon threaten the very existence of Israel, and the global reach of Hezbollah threatens us right here in the homeland.”
The most blatant attempt to undermine Pompeo’s values came from Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), who insisted that complaints about discrimination had gone up under the CIA director (video here). Citing atheist activist Mikey Weinstein as her only source, she asked Pompeo to explain how he could hold pro-family, pro-faith beliefs and still run a diverse department. “Well,” he responded, “Look at my record. As CIA Director, I’ve treated everyone with dignity and respect. I’ve promoted them regardless of race, religion, or gender… and I’ve held them accountable when they needed it… I didn’t undermine a single policy… I’m proud of the work I did to continue to develop and create a diverse workforce.”
Then, to the obvious surprise of Shaheen, he demolished Weinstein’s phony “intel” with an actual statistic: complaints like these had actually decreased 40 percent from 2016-17. “And I’m proud of that,” he said. Dumbfounded, Shaheen stumbled to thank him and conclude her time. Later, when Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) tried to paint Pompeo as a hater or Islamophobe, Mike asked him to stop and consider the facts. “My record is exquisite in dealing with people of very different faiths… I’ve heard these critiques… I promise I will treat persons of other faith or no faith with the dignity they deserve.”
Booker’s attack became more intense, suggesting that Christians who believe in the Bible’s definition of sexuality had no business running a government agency. Mike replied simply, “When I was a politician, I had a very clear view that [a same-sex couple] should not be married. Senator, I continue to hold that view.” When Booker interrupted and asked how he could lead the State Department with that belief, Pompeo reminded him that you can disagree with someone and still treat them with respect. “We have married gay couples at the CIA, you should know. My respect for every individual, regardless of sexual orientation, is the same.”
Other times, he highlighted the importance of human rights, responding to Senator Marco Rubio’s (R-Fla.) call to make that a priority. “Make no mistake: America is uniquely blessed, and with those blessings comes a duty to lead. As I have argued throughout my time in public service, if we do not lead the calls for democracy, prosperity, and human rights around the world, who will? No other nation is equipped with the same blend of power and principle.” His predecessor, he implied, put human rights — and more importantly, religious liberty — on the backburner. He would not. That anticipated priority was highlighted in the letter of support from 50 international religious freedom groups, who applaud Pompeo’s commitment to make the issue of religious freedom a top focus in our foreign policy.
Elsewhere, he has the support of former national security officers, his CIA team, conservatives, and even people as politically opposed as Hillary Clinton, who said she sees a “glimmer of hope” in the unity Pompeo has achieved in his current role. “If he will rebuild the State Department, and start listening to those who have very valuable experience,” she went on, “maybe we can work ourselves out of this hole we’re in.” Surely, if she can see the good in Mike’s confirmation, several Democrats — like the 14 who supported him for director — could too. In this very important chapter in world history, America could do no better.
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