Home/Daniel Larison/Pompeo the Fabulist

Pompeo the Fabulist

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

Pompeo keeps pretending that the U.S. and North Korea reached an agreement last year:

“Now the task is for us to deliver on what the two leaders agreed to back in June of last year in Singapore,” Pompeo added, referring to the first summit between Kim and Trump.

The Secretary of State has been scamming the public for more than a year with some version of this same line. He pretends that there is an agreement, and then he pretends that the U.S. and North Korea are making progress in implementing the imaginary agreement he made up. Incredibly, his baseless assertions continue to be taken seriously fourteen months after the Singapore summit. Trump’s North Korea policy has not made meaningful progress in all this time, but thanks to Pompeo the fabulist the complete lack of progress can be spun as a work in progress. All that remains is to “deliver” on what was already agreed! Of course, since the two governments didn’t reach an agreement, there is nothing for either side to “deliver.” It is grimly amusing to watch the people that trashed the JCPOA as the worst deal of all time struggle to begin negotiations in earnest, but the downside is that it squanders an opportunity for productive engagement and makes the U.S. into a laughingstock.

Pompeo’s goal here is not to make diplomatic progress with North Korea (he couldn’t care less about that anyway), but to flatter Trump into thinking that the president is responsible for making great progress. Cheryl Rofer made this point earlier today:

To that end, Pompeo will say absolutely anything to maintain the illusion that the Trump administration’s North Korea policy isn’t foundering on their inflexible, maximalist demands. The amazing thing is that he has been allowed to get away with this for so long. Van Jackson marvels:

Pompeo may be able to get away with his lies about North Korea here at home, but his little act doesn’t fool anyone overseas. North Korea knows very well what they agreed to (nothing) and have made very clear that the U.S. has to change its approach to the talks and its demands if there is to be any further progress. Working-level talks between the two governments are delayed again and again because the U.S. hasn’t made any of the changes that North Korea expects, and so Pompeo periodically promises that the negotiations will resume in a few weeks to keep the illusion going. North Korea is gradually ramping up their short and medium-range missile tests, and if nothing changes they are likely moving towards ending their moratorium on long-range missile tests and nuclear weapons tests. Pompeo’s lies will cover up for the failure of Trump’s North Korea policy for only so long, and then there will be no use in pretending any more.

It should be a serious problem that a top U.S. official has been deceiving the public and Congress about this and other issues. Secretary Pompeo’s lies about North Korea are part of a larger pattern of lying to advance Trump’s agenda, and he has so far paid no price for this behavior. The president and his Cabinet officials need to be held accountable when they lie to the public and to Congress, and Pompeo’s disgraceful conduct as Secretary of State calls out for censure and rebuke.

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.