March 3, 2024


IMMEDIATE RELEASE 19 September 2019
Today’s Events in Historical Perspective
America’s Longest-Running Column Founded 1932
President Pompeo
By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift
          WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Pompeo is in the Middle East meeting with the murderous prince, MBS, Mohammad bin Salam, about response options to an allegedly Iranian-inspired drone attack on the Saudi oil fields. Pompeo called it “an act of war,” and President Trump said in a tweet that he was “locked and loaded.”
          Trump has since backed off that tweet, and Pompeo is in Saudi Arabia to persuade MBS to respond to the Iranian provocation and leave the United States out of it.
          After Trump, Pompeo is the single most influential member of the administration – or, perhaps, it is the other way around. He has proven adept at navigating the choppy Trump waters while making it look like the president is commandeering the ship of state.
          He’s a survivor, and in this administration where others are fired by tweet, surviving is quite a feat. He further solidified his position this week with his pick for Trump’s fourth national security advisor, Robert O’Brien.
          O’Brien is no Henry Kissinger, and his lack of stature in the foreign policy community is noticeable. He’s there because Pompeo wanted him.
          When Trump was questioned about the high turnover of national security officials, he responded by saying that working for him is easy. “I make all the decisions, and they don’t have to work.”
          Pompeo is still standing while John Bolton, the former national security advisor, was ousted in a tweet earlier this month, and Dan Coats, the former national director of intelligence, resigned earlier this year.
          Pompeo clashed with Bolton, a hardliner who set his sights on confronting Iran militarily. Bolton isn’t going quietly. He’s already on the speech circuit telling unflattering stories about Trump.
          Coats spoke for the U.S. intelligence community when he told Trump that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election. Trump didn’t want to hear that because he believes it makes his election look illegitimate.
          Coats was on borrowed time since he was caught on camera rolling his eyes reacting to news of Trump’s invitation for Russian President Putin to visit the White House. The meeting didn’t happen, but that didn’t ease the tension between Coats and the president.
          With Coats and Bolton gone, Pompeo has emerged as the foreign policy strong man in the administration. In fact, he is the only strong man left standing in the Cabinet. When he writes his memoir, he will undoubtedly reveal all the bizarre things he stopped this most unusual of presidents from doing. That’s the nature of the beast.
          But we should all wish that he will have significant foreign policy accomplishments to write about, beginning with his efforts this week to tamp down the talk of war in the Middle East.
          Pompeo is a West Point graduate and a former member of Congress, where he served on the House Intelligence Committee. He’s working for a president who doesn’t take in information by reading, and who relies on whomever has his ear at any particular moment, and that person is usually Pompeo.
          Still, although Pompeo’s fortune is tied to Trump, he has an escape hatch available to him. Republican Party loyalists are urging Pompeo to come back home to Kansas and run for the Senate.
          Pompeo said in July that a Senate run was “off the table,” but since then he has avoided committing himself either way and the speculation continues. The filing deadline isn’t until June of next year, and by then Pompeo will be able to make a judgment as to whether he will continue, not as the last strong man standing, but simply the last man standing on what could be a sinking Trump ship.
          Douglas Cohn’s latest books are World War 4: Nine Scenarios (endorsed by seven flag officers) and The President’s First Year: The Only School for Presidents Is the Presidency.
          Twitter:  @douglas_cohn
          © 2019 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
          Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

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