Tag Archives: Mike Pompeo

The cascade continues

I’ll admit to not knowing anything about Brett McGurk . . . until today.

That’s when I learned that our nation’s leading envoy in the fight to eradicate the Islamic State has decided to quit early. He is angry with Donald J. Trump’s decision to pull out of Syria, to abandon the fight against ISIS in that country. It was a decision that prompted Defense Secretary James Mattis to quit.

Now it’s McGurk who’s hitting the road.

This is a big deal, too.

McGurk had planned to leave in February, but decided to submit his resignation to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

McGurk joined the George W. Bush administration and stayed on through the Obama administration, where he was appointed to his current post.

Two years into the Trump administration, McGurk seems to have had enough.

As NBC News reported: Trump’s decision left McGurk flat-footed, unable to explain to U.S. allies who have been fighting ISIS with the United States why they were neither consulted nor informed in advance. Nor have senior Trump administration officials been able to tell allies and Kurdish forces whether U.S. air strikes will continue in Syria to support the mission against ISIS.

Mattis was quite clear in his resignation letter that part of where he differed with Trump is in the treatment of our allies. They cannot trust us to be faithful to our pledges and commitments.

Neither can key administration operatives who are charged with doing the most serious work possible. In McGurk’s case, it is the task of working with allies in the fight to defeat the monstrous terrorists known as the Islamic State.

The chaos is showing signs of taking a terrible toll on U.S. influence in a world that has grown accustomed to what we once touted as our national indispensability.

No longer can we make that make assertion.

‘Dumb as a rock’? Seriously, Mr. POTUS?

Donald J. Trump, president of the United States, has just posted a Twitter message about a man he nominated to become the secretary of state, the nation’s top foreign service officer.

Mike Pompeo is doing a great job, I am very proud of him. His predecessor, Rex Tillerson, didn’t have the mental capacity needed. He was dumb as a rock and I couldn’t get rid of him fast enough. He was lazy as hell. Now it is a whole new ballgame, great spirit at State!

Yep, that’s our president, the guy who sought to present the United States’ foreign policy statements through its secretary of state.

Now he calls the man he fired earlier this year “dumb as a rock.”

I don’t believe Rex Tillerson is “dumb as a rock.” He ran ExxonMobil oil company before he took the job as the nation’s top diplomat. I don’t believe he was well-suited for the job at State.

It is simply astonishing, though, that the president — our head of state, our commander in chief, the leader of the free world — would resort to the kind of language he is using to denigrate someone he hired for this most sensitive of jobs.

And we’re expected to take the president seriously?

Trump takes ‘unconventional’ to a stunning new level

Donald John Trump pledged to become an “unconventional” president after he was elected to the office.

Of the promises he has kept, this is the one he has upheld in spades.

The president has just “blindsided” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, to cite just the latest example of his unconventional approach to international diplomacy. He uses Twitter to make statements on his own. Trump believes the presidency entitles him to do so. I guess it does, but there’s considerable peril in this practice.

Trump tweeted a message threatening punishment for Turkey if that nation doesn’t release an American who has been held captive for several years. Pompeo has been negotiating for this American’s release and — surprise! — he had no idea the tweet from Trump was coming.

This is how Trump governs. He surrounds himself with “the best people” and then stiffs them whenever he fires off a Twitter message without their knowledge.

He doesn’t bother to tell his national security team when he gets a bur under his saddle and threatens to destroy regimes in, say, North Korea or Iran. He invited Russian President Vladmir Putin to Washington, had his national security adviser put the word out and he never told Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats.

Trump flies by the seat of his pants. He keeps his own counsel. He relies on no one, yet he brings these “brilliant minds” on board ostensibly to provide him with advice.

Unconventional? Yeah, do you think?

It’s also dangerous, reckless, feckless and mindless.

This man with no public service experience is leaving wreckage all along every path he travels. He has brought some good people on board, but he ignores them repeatedly.

This “unconventional” presidency of Donald Trump’s well could get us all into a heap of trouble.

Don’t go anywhere, Mad Dog … please!

As the president of the United States tries to clean up the wreckage of that hideous meeting with Vladimir Putin and the press availability the two of them had, I have a request to make of some key members of the president’s Cabinet.

I still expect to see some members of the administration team to resign. I want to plead for Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis to stay put.

He is one of the rare grownups hired by Trump.

For that matter, I think I’ll offer the same request to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. He’s another adult in the room. He managed to cobble together that summit with Donald Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. Pompeo doesn’t deserve brickbats for the result of that Trump-Kim fiasco.

I’m still expecting White House chief of staff John Kelly to go; then again, he’s been on the bubble anyhow. The charade that Trump put on with Putin in Helsinki well might hasten his departure. I also wouldn’t be surprised to know that U.S. ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman will hit the road.

Perhaps, too, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, whose assessment of Russian meddling was challenged directly by Trump on Monday, might see fit to quit. Coats has acquitted himself well, too.

However, my favorite Trump Cabinet appointee remains the guy with the “Mad Dog” nickname.

Stay put, Secretary Mattis. We need you now … more than ever!

Regrettable = productive?

One man’s “regrettable” must be another man’s “productive.”

North Korean despot Kim Jong Un described his talks with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as “regrettable.”

Oh, but Pompeo had earlier called the talks “productive.”

Pompeo has traveled to Pyongyang to visit with North Korea’s “Dear Liar” after word leaked out that Kim Jong Un was secretly building up his nuclear weapons program after promising to “work toward” getting rid of it.

Are we careening back to Square One with North Korea and its tyrannical leader, the guy Donald J. Trump Sr. described as trustworthy, a “strong leader” and someone who “loves” the people he allows to starve to death while he builds up his military machine?

My only conclusion from afar is that one side’s definition of “productive” is seen as “regrettable” by the other side.

Pathetic.

It’s the intent that matters

James Clapper is the expert on national security and matters relating to deep-cover operations.

I am not.

Still, I want to take issue with an assertion that the former director of national intelligence has said about the Russian meddling in our 2016 presidential election. Clapper has said the Russians actually tilted the election in Donald John Trump’s favor; he said their attack on our electoral process was decisive that Trump essentially is an illegitimate president.

I have trouble buying into that assumption.

Clapper says the Russians targeted three states that Trump won over Hillary Clinton: Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Trump won those states by a grand total of 77,000 votes; their electoral vote count put him over the top and, thus, he was elected president.

My own view — albeit from afar — is that Clinton’s last-minute strategy backfired. She didn’t visit Wisconsin after being nominated by the Democrats. She paid only cursory attention to Michigan and Pennsylvania.

Having said that, I want to make an assertion of my own, which is that the Russians’ intention to swing the election toward Trump is grievous enough on its own.

Clapper is far from alone in his belief that the Russians actually meddled, that they attacked our electoral system. Every national security chieftain on board now or who was aboard during the 2016 election have said the same thing. Even the president’s own team has acknowledged as much; and I include the current secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, who was CIA director when he told a congressional committee that he had no doubt the Russians meddled.

Trump’s response has been shameful in its negligence. He continues to spread the blame around to others who “might” have interfered. He fails to acknowledge publicly that Russian strongman/president Vladimir Putin was involved, which is another assertion that the intelligence committee has made.

James Clapper, a retired Air Force general, is an intelligence professional. He brings strong credibility to any argument about the integrity of the 2016 election. I am just unwilling to buy totally into the idea that Russian meddling actually turned the tide in Trump’s favor.

What matters as much — if not more — is that they intended to sow discord and mistrust in our electoral process.

The Russians have succeeded.

If only the president would acknowledge it, too.

Secretary Pompeo gets to work

Mike Pompeo’s nomination to be secretary of state cleared the Senate committee vote he needed by the narrowest of margins. It was a single vote.

Then the full U.S. Senate voted today to confirm him. The vote was 57-42; Republican John McCain was absent and unable to vote.

What does this mean for the new secretary? The way I see it, it means he has little bipartisan backing to tackle the difficult tasks of forging a foreign policy that commands the attention and respect of our nation’s allies and, yes, its foes.

Secretaries of state traditionally get huge margins. The only recent secretary of state to be confirmed by a margin comparable to the one that Pompeo earned was, interestingly, Donald J. Trump’s first secretary of state, Rex Tillerson.

The Associated Press reported that every secretary of state dating back to the Carter administration had received at least 85 Senate votes for confirmation.

Why is this important? Foreign policy shouldn’t fall along partisan lines. It shouldn’t reflect the deep divisions within our nation’s partisan political machinery. The United States should speak with a single voice when it deals with foreign policy. That’s long been a tradition. Sadly, that longstanding practice now appears to be buried under the deep and bitter partisan divisions.

It reflects the chasm that separates Republicans and Democrats. It is unhealthy in the extreme, particularly since Secretary Pompeo now must take the lead on preparation for the unprecedented summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un, the mercurial leader of North Korea.

Pompeo and Kim already have met. No one has reported precisely how that first meeting — conducted under the cover of secrecy — produced, other than the president saying something about Pompeo and Kim getting “along well.”

The Senate vote will stand, though, as a message that the new secretary of state doesn’t have the bipartisan support he needs to move forward as the prime spokesman for our foreign policy apparatus.

My hope is that he earns it.

Foreign policy no longer a bipartisan effort

It once was thought that “politics stopped at the water’s edge,” meaning that Democrats and Republicans locked arms when facing the rest of the world, setting aside their partisan differences.

A couple of events this week have demonstrated that the late Republican U.S. Sen. Arthur Vandenberg’s words of wisdom no longer apply.

Event No. 1: Mike Pompeo received a partisan vote of confirmation by the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee to become the next secretary of state. The full Senate now figures to confirm Pompeo, with only a couple of Democrats crossing over to cast affirmative votes.

Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who had been thought to be a “no” vote on Pompeo, changed his mind after receiving assurances from Donald Trump about Pompeo’s view regarding the Iraq War, which Paul opposed.

Event No. 2: The president is going to play host this week to a state dinner honoring French President Emmanuel Macron. But here’s the catch: Trump didn’t invite a single Democrat to the White House gala, which is starkly against presidential tradition.

Presidents of both parties traditionally reach across the aisle for these state dinners, which feature sumptuous menus, lots of fine music, toasts and expressions of good wishes.

Not this time, which happens to be the president’s first such state dinner since taking office. What’s more, Macron is head of state of our nation’s oldest international ally. After all, France fought side by side with us while our forebears revolted against Britain’s King George III.

As for the upcoming secretary of state vote, I feel compelled to remind everyone that the office of nation’s top diplomat needs to come in with a semblance of a mandate from the legislative branch of government. It sends the world a message that we remain united in the cause of furthering our nation’s interests.

Former secretaries of state Condoleezza Rice, Hillary Rodham Clinton and John Kerry, for instance, all received unanimous or near-unanimous votes of confirmation by the Senate.

Politics must end at the our water’s edge. It’s not just a quaint notion. It’s real and it’s vital in the conduct of foreign policy.

Pompeo to become diplomat with thin backing

Mike Pompeo is likely to be confirmed as the nation’s next secretary of state, but he’ll take strange route on his way to leading the nation’s diplomatic corps.

Pompeo is the CIA director whom Donald Trump selected to succeed Rex Tillerson at the State Department. He has run into trouble on his way to confirmation: Pompeo won’t have the blessing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which conducted confirmation hearings on Pompeo’s nomination.

A Republican committee member, Rand Paul of Kentucky, is going to vote against Pompeo’s nomination. That will result more than likely in a vote of no confidence from the panel.

That won’t derail his confirmation. The full Senate will get to vote on it, but Pompeo will gain the support of Senate Democrats who might be in trouble in states that Trump carried in the 2016 presidential election. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe  Manchin of West Virginia come to mind; let’s toss in Bill Nelson of Florida while we’re at it. They’re all running for re-election, which seems to give Pompeo a leg up in this strange journey toward confirmation.

Actually, I hope Pompeo does get confirmed. The State Department needs a steady hand and I think Pompeo can provide it … if only the president will allow him to lead the agency.

Tillerson had to fight the occasional battle against being undercut by the president. Tillerson would make a pronouncement and then Trump would countermand him. I don’t want that to happen with the new secretary of state, who’s got a big job awaiting him immediately — which happens to be the preparation for the planned summit between Donald Trump and North Korean despot Kim Jong Un.

What’s more, as head of the CIA, Pompeo has joined other U.S. intelligence officials in confirming the obvious: that the Russians meddled in our 2016 election.

This man needs to be our secretary of state.

‘Great progress’ in advance of summit?

What in the world are we to conclude about this stunning bit of news?

CIA Director Mike Pompeo — who has been nominated to become the next secretary of state — visited North Korea around Easter weekend, where he met with Kim Jong Un.

Pompeo returned from that meeting under the cover of secrecy.

Then we hear today that North Korea has suspended its missile and nuclear tests and has announced plans to close a nuclear test site.

Donald Trump fired off this tweet in response to the announcement from the reclusive North Korean regime:

North Korea has agreed to suspend all Nuclear Tests and close up a major test site. This is very good news for North Korea and the World – big progress! Look forward to our Summit.

The president’s tweet didn’t connect the two events — Pompeo’s secret meeting and the announcement — but Pyongyang’s statement of intent does lend a fresh air of promise to the upcoming meeting between Trump and Kim at a site to be determined.

If the world is able to trust the mercurial Kim Jong Un to keep his word about the suspension of missile tests and the closing of a nuclear test site, then the planned summit could produce a “fruitful” outcome, to which the president alluded while declaring that could walk away from a meeting if it leads down a dead end.

I’m more than willing to link the Pompeo visit with what Kim Jong Un’s government has just announced. If it proves to be a valid link, then we might be on the verge of some historic developments on the Korean Peninsula.

Excellent! Yes?