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Pompeo’s Petty Despotism

National Security Advisor John R. Bolton (L), acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney (C), and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in the Oval Office on July 26, 2019. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

The story of Mike Pompeo’s meltdowncontinues:

The State Department will not allow NPR’s diplomatic correspondent on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s government airplane for an upcoming trip, which includes a stop in Ukraine, following the secretary’s extraordinary outburst last week over being questioned about Ukraine during an interview with the network.

Michele Kelemen, who has covered the State Department for nearly two decades, was scheduled to cover Mr. Pompeo’s official visit this week to Europe and Central Asia, traveling with the diplomatic delegation.

She was told on Sunday that she would not be allowed to fly as a member of the press pool on the government airplane with Mr. Pompeo. It was not clear how long the ban on her travel with Mr. Pompeo’s official delegations might last.

The association of journalists covering the State Department issued a statement on Monday criticizing the action as improper retaliation against NPR.

It is unacceptable for the Secretary of State to retaliate against a news organization because he happens to dislike the questions from one of their reporters. Pompeo’s actions in the days since his disastrous interview and blowup on Friday have been even more discrediting and pathetic than his earlier behavior. Retaliation against the press for any reason is disturbing, and to do it because Pompeo made a fool of himself under fairly mild questioning is ridiculous. Punishing a news outlet because a reporter asked the right questions is authoritarian behavior that we should not accept from our government. It reflects very poorly on the State Department, and it is a disservice to the people that work there:

Government officials work for the public, so they shouldn’t expect to be given kid glove treatment by the press, and they shouldn’t take out their anger on journalists that are just doing their jobs. Pompeo has further disgraced himself by acting as if he is a petty despot with this decision to remove another NPR reporter from the pool that was assigned to cover his upcoming trip. The Secretary of State has all of the vanity and arrogance of a diva, but none of the talent. Every action Pompeo takes just proves that he is unfit for the office he holds, and with each interaction with the press he shows that he cannot cope with being asked serious questions about his conduct and the policies of this administration.

The news report concludes with this criticism from a Fox News host:

Even a Fox News host, Steve Hilton, a self-described big fan of Mr. Pompeo, chided the chief diplomat’s “whining” invective.

“For goodness’ sakes, Mr. Secretary, don’t be such a baby,” Mr. Hilton said on Monday. “You should be able to handle tough questions by now. And don’t be such a bully.”

The anti-diplomat currently running the State Department has boasted about bringing “swagger” to Foggy Bottom, and over the last year and a half we have seen what that “swagger” means in practice: angry tirades, constant dishonesty, and attacks on the free press. Pompeo’s boastfulness and arrogance have been a poor attempt to disguise his pettiness and weakness, and now everyone can see him for what he is. The ugly Pompeo chapter in the State Department’s history will serve as a cautionary tale of what future Secretaries of State should never do.

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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