Home/Daniel Larison/Hard-liners Are Desperate to Save Pompeo’s Nomination

Hard-liners Are Desperate to Save Pompeo’s Nomination

Then-Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-KS, speaking at a rally in 2013. He faces a senate grilling for his secretary of state nomination today.Mark Taylor/Creative Commons

The Wall Street Journal editors whine that opponents of Trump’s foreign policy are opposing Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State. They seem a bit nervous that his nomination could fail:

What a message that would send to America’s enemies as President Trump prepares for his North Korea summit, decides on the fate of the Iran nuclear deal, and confronts a hostile Russia. Democrats say they don’t trust Mr. Trump, but in denying him senior advisers they make it more likely he will govern by himself. Mark it down as one more example that hatred for Mr. Trump has caused many of his opponents to abandon rational judgment.

The Senate mistakenly deferred to the president on his last nominee for Secretary of State and confirmed Rex Tillerson. Tillerson’s inept performance over the last year shows that they should have refused to indulge the president’s bad choice. Now that the Senate a second chance to weigh on a nominee for State, it is understandable that critics of Trump’s mostly shoddy foreign policy record would be wary of making the same mistake again.

Pompeo has no more relevant experience to be Secretary of State than Tillerson did a year ago, and there is good reason to fear that his preference for aggressive policies and his disdain for diplomacy will encourage Trump in his worst instincts. No doubt the WSJ editors are hoping for just such an outcome, and so they want Pompeo to be confirmed. The bottom line is that Pompeo is not qualified to be Secretary of State, and someone with so much contempt for the practice of diplomacy shouldn’t be put in charge of U.S. diplomatic efforts. Lame attempts to guilt his critics into supporting him won’t change any of that.

Pompeo’s fate will likely be decided by a handful of “moderate” Democrats: Heitkamp of North Dakota, Donnelly of Indiana, Jones of Alabama, and Manchin of West Virginia. If one of them votes for Pompeo, Pompeo will eke out the narrowest, least impressive confirmation imaginable. If none of them breaks with the rest of the party, Pompeo loses. The White House knows this, and they have been trying to intimidate these Democrats into supporting the nominee:

The White House circled the wagons Wednesday around CIA Director Mike Pompeo’s nomination to become secretary of State, arguing vulnerable red-state Democrats will feel “consequences” in November if they vote against him.

As much as we might like to believe that voters care deeply about such things, I suspect that these Democrats would pay little or no electoral price for opposing Pompeo. For one thing, most voters don’t vote on foreign policy at all, and they are even less likely to punish a senator for voting the “wrong” way on a Cabinet nomination. It is members of the president’s party that should be more worried about their fortunes in a midterm election. Red-state Democrats have little incentive to help get a bad Trump nominee over the finish line when there is an outside chance that Republicans could lose control of both chambers this fall.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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