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Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, April 12th, 2018

Disturbing Senate confirmation hearing shows why Pompeo should not be confirmed

This morn­ing, Mike Pom­peo — who is Don­ald Trump’s choice to replace Rex Tiller­son as Sec­re­tary of State — gave tes­ti­mo­ny to the Sen­ate For­eign Rela­tions Com­mit­tee in advance of the full Sen­ate’s vote on his con­fir­ma­tion.

Some Repub­li­can sen­a­tors were sat­is­fied with gen­er­al answers Pom­peo gave regard­ing his admin­is­tra­tive skills in how he has man­aged the CIA.

Oth­ers had seri­ous con­cerns about how Pom­peo would per­form as Sec­re­tary of State, which is one of the coun­try’s old­est and most impor­tant posi­tions, dat­ing back to the admin­is­tra­tion of George Wash­ing­ton.

Sen­a­tor Ed Markey of Mass­a­chu­setts was par­tic­u­lar­ly dis­tressed with Pompeo’s response regard­ing a ques­tion on North Korea. Pom­peo was will­ing to say that he could see cir­cum­stances in which Amer­i­ca would have ground troops occu­py North Korea. Sen­a­tor Markey seemed hor­ri­fied at that response.

Sen­a­tor Bob Menen­dez of New Jer­sey seemed con­cerned that Pom­peo would not be forth­com­ing to Con­gress regard­ing the inten­tions of the Pres­i­dent.

Pom­peo refused to answer when the Sen­a­tor asked him about a pri­vate meet­ing with Trump. Menen­dez asked if Trump had dis­cussed Spe­cial Coun­sel Robert Mueller’s inves­ti­ga­tion with him. Pom­peo said flat­ly: “ Sen­a­tor, I’m not going to talk about pri­vate con­ver­sa­tions I’ve had with the Pres­i­dent.”

When asked again lat­er in the hear­ing regard­ing the pri­vate meet­ing said that he could not recall the con­ver­sa­tion, remem­bered there was a meet­ing, remem­bered the date of the meet­ing, but could not recall what the Pres­i­dent said in the meet­ing. He insist­ed the Pres­i­dent did not ask him to do any­thing improp­er.

When asked how he would know that if he can­not recall the con­ver­sa­tion, Pom­peo gave a cir­cu­lar and con­vo­lut­ed response say­ing that he would have recalled if the Pres­i­dent had asked him to do some­thing improp­er.

Sen­a­tor Cory Book­er seemed par­tic­u­lar­ly con­cerned with Pompeo’s rela­tion­ships with extrem­ist right wing radio per­son­al­i­ties who have spo­ken open­ly and pub­licly about their Islam­o­pho­bic sen­ti­ments.

Book­er first thanked Pom­peo for his def­er­ence and respect in vis­it­ing his office pri­or to the hear­ing, and then brought up spe­cif­ic top­ics of con­ver­sa­tion from that meet­ing that he felt con­cerned and uncom­fort­able with.

Book­er stat­ed that Pom­peo had implied that Mus­lim peo­ple had a respon­si­bil­i­ty to speak out against any act of ter­ror per­formed by a Mus­lim per­son, and if they did not, then they were com­plic­it in that act of ter­ror­ism.

Pom­peo strug­gled to to artic­u­late his posi­tion. He insist­ed that he is accept­ing of all peo­ple regard­less of reli­gion, and told Book­er that what he meant was that Mus­lim lead­ers had an “oppor­tu­ni­ty” to speak out against ter­ror­ism.

He had a hard time explain­ing him­self as Sen­a­tor Book­er brought to the hear­ing quotes from Pom­peo mak­ing dis­parag­ing remarks about peo­ple who wor­ship dif­fer­ent gods, peo­ple of the Mus­lim faith, and his quote that Mus­lim peo­ple had a “spe­cial oblig­a­tion” to speak out against ter­ror­ist attacks.

Pom­peo stut­tered and shift­ed uncom­fort­ably as he described him­self as a man who accepts all peo­ple from dif­fer­ent faiths or those who choose to have no faith, and that all peo­ple had a respon­si­bil­i­ty to speak out against ter­ror­ism.

Sen­a­tor Book­er stat­ed that he was hap­py to hear Pom­peo say this out loud in in the hear­ing. “Words mat­ter,” Book­er said. Actions are also impor­tant, and Book­er stressed that Pom­peo needs to under­stand that his past actions and rela­tion­ships give the appear­ance that as Sec­re­tary of State he may not be moti­vat­ed to uphold Amer­i­ca’s val­ues, includ­ing free­dom to prac­tice any faith tra­di­tion.

Sen­a­tor Book­er then pressed Pom­peo on his posi­tion on the free­dom to mar­ry.

Pom­peo made it very clear that he felt mar­riage equal­i­ty was wrong, but insist­ed that he accepts LGBTQ+ peo­ple and that his posi­tion does not mean that he sup­ports dis­crim­i­na­to­ry poli­cies against peo­ple who don’t iden­ti­fy as straight het­ero­sex­u­als. Book­er asked very point­ed­ly: “Do you think that being gay is a per­ver­sion?” But Pom­peo refused to take back his pre­vi­ous state­ments.

“I stand by my posi­tion on this issue,” he said.

Sen­a­tor Book­er con­clud­ed his line of ques­tion­ing by not­ing his con­cerns about Pompeo’s posi­tion that Mus­lim peo­ple have an oblig­a­tion to speak out against ter­ror­ism, and his posi­tions on reli­gious free­dom and the right for peo­ple of same sex to mar­ry. Book­er stat­ed that the Sec­re­tary of State must uphold the Con­sti­tu­tion and that the posi­tions of the Sec­re­tary of State mat­ter.

Sen­a­tor Rand Paul was dis­sat­is­fied with the respons­es that Pom­peo gave regard­ing his will­ing­ness to use mil­i­tary force around the world.

Paul asked if Pom­peo believed that the Pres­i­dent should be able to enter into a con­flict, and not­ed the pow­er to declare war rests with Con­gress, not the Pres­i­dent.

Paul quot­ed the Con­sti­tu­tion to Pom­peo, who seemed to dis­agree with Paul’s inter­pre­ta­tion of the pow­ers the Pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States has to enter into  con­flicts. Sen­a­tor Paul expressed seri­ous con­cerns about Pompeo’s posi­tion on remain­ing in Afghanistan. Paul point­ed out that all of the peo­ple who were involved in the Sep­tem­ber 11th attacks are gone, and: “We are now send­ing peo­ple to war who were not born when 911 hap­pened.” Sen­a­tor Paul com­pared the quag­mire of Afgan­istan to Viet­nam and drew com­par­isons. Pom­peo dis­agreed with Paul’s com­par­i­son and reit­er­at­ed his posi­tion of the pow­ers of the Pres­i­dent.

Sen­a­tor Bri­an Schatz of Hawaii had a sim­i­lar line of ques­tion­ing as Sen­a­tor Paul. He asked specif­i­cal­ly what lim­i­ta­tions he believes are applied to the Pres­i­dent by Arti­cle II of the Con­sti­tu­tion. As Pom­peo shift­ed uncom­fort­ably, he implied that he is not a con­sti­tu­tion­al law expert, and this par­tic­u­lar issue has been debat­ed for some time.

Sen­a­tor Schatz remind­ed Pom­peo that he had served in Con­gress, and that his job as Sec­re­tary of State would require him to answer to Con­gress, and requires a com­mit­ment to diplo­ma­cy and inter­na­tion­al norms.

Schatz lat­er tweet­ed: “I will be vot­ing no on Mike Pompeo’s nom­i­na­tion to be Sec­re­tary of State. Diplo­mats should believe in diplo­ma­cy. America’s top diplo­mat must be pas­sion­ate about diplo­ma­cy. Mike Pom­peo has not demon­strat­ed that he val­ues diplo­ma­cy, diplo­mats, or the State Depart­ment itself.”

Pom­peo seems to favor mil­i­tary solu­tions, take a very right wing and exec­u­tive branch cen­tered per­spec­tive to for­eign pol­i­cy.

That’s a prob­lem. Sec­re­taries of State must be com­mit­ted to diplo­ma­cy across the world and embrace the free­dom and democ­ra­cy that Amer­i­ca stands for.

As Sen­a­tor Book­er stat­ed, “Words mat­ter.”  The words that Pom­peo spoke today demon­strate that he is will­ing to keep infor­ma­tion from Con­gress and the Amer­i­can pub­lic. He is will­ing to make for­eign pol­i­cy deci­sions with­out input from Con­gress.

Pom­peo does not respect the basic pre­cepts of the Con­sti­tu­tion, includ­ing the First Amend­ment, which pro­vides that Con­gress shall make no law respect­ing an estab­lish­ment of reli­gion, or pro­hibit­ing the free exer­cise there­of.

Pom­peo seems more inter­est­ed in pleas­ing Don­ald Trump and hid­ing what­ev­er mem­bers of the For­eign Rela­tions Com­mit­tee want to know about their secret meet­ing regard­ing Mueller’s inves­ti­ga­tion. He should not be con­firmed.

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