Home/Daniel Larison/The Emptiness of Pompeo’s ‘Swagger’

The Emptiness of Pompeo’s ‘Swagger’

Mike Pompeo has established his reputation as a bully and a blowhard, so it is not too surprising that when it comes down to it he is also a coward:

And now we have the answer: Pompeo, in recent months, has essentially been in hiding, protecting himself while his subordinates took the hit — evidently hoping to preserve his influence with Trump. Sometimes his deflections and denials have been outright misleading.

It is fitting that the Secretary of State who boasted about bringing “swagger” to the State Department has led its to one of its lowest points in modern U.S. history. As many of us suspected, “swagger” was just an expression of Pompeo’s own arrogance and his disdain for what the department did. When he had to choose between standing up for the people that worked under him or siding with the president, he has predictably chosen the latter every time. That has allowed him to retain the president’s favor, but it has come at the cost of losing the respect of his subordinates and whatever remains of his integrity. Pompeo may go on to become a senator from Kansas, or maybe he won’t, but he will go down as one of the worst Secretaries of State in the last century.

In addition to the many lies and fabrications he has used to cover up for administration failures, Pompeo has distinguished himself as one of the worst managers of the State Department in modern times:

At the same time, Mr. Pompeo is facing a revolt in the State Department. Confidence in his leadership has plummeted among career officials, who accuse him of abandoning veteran diplomats criticized by Mr. Trump and letting the president’s personal political agenda infect foreign policy.

Many diplomats now contend that Mr. Pompeo has done more damage to the 75,000-person agency than even his predecessor Rex Tillerson, an aloof oil executive reviled by department employees.

“In my view, and I say this with a great deal of reluctance as Secretary Pompeo tried at the start of his tenure to lift up the career service, he has failed the men and women of the department in his most important responsibility — to support them in the deepest crisis the service has faced in memory,” said Nicholas Burns, the State Department’s top career official under President George W. Bush and now a Harvard professor who advises Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s presidential campaign.

Pompeo blusters and boasts that he is defending State Department officials at the same time that he is undermining them and hanging them out to dry. He poses as a self-righteous champion of his department when no one has done more damage to it than he has. The Secretary has proven many times that he isn’t fit for the job, and that has finally become so obvious that most people can see it. In the end, his reputation is being wrecked by the testimony of the diplomats whom he treated so poorly and whose work he disdains, and there is some justice in that.

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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