On the one hand, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, up to his neck in Donald Trump’s Ukraine scandal, seems unusually eager to maintain a high media profile. On the other hand, he doesn’t seem to know what to say or do when confronted with good questions from media professionals.
Two weeks ago, Pompeo appeared hopelessly lost when WSMV’s Nancy Amon was far better prepared for an interview than he was. Soon after, the cabinet secretary’s interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos was every bit as cringe-worthy. Reflecting on Pompeo’s on-air comments, MSNBC’s Nicole Wallace told viewers, “That was the worst appearance by an executive branch official I’ve ever seen in my career.”
Alas, practice isn’t making perfect. Yesterday, Pompeo made his third trip of the year to Kansas – where he doesn’t want to be seen as a possible Republican U.S. Senate candidate – and sat down with KMUV in Wichita.
QUESTION: So the President’s press secretary has described some current and former members of your department, the State Department, as “unelected radical bureaucrats.” I know Vice President Mike Pence in an interview recently said an awful lot of the swamp has been caught up in the State Department bureaucracy. Do you agree with these descriptions of the State Department and employees in the department?
POMPEO: I’ve said repeatedly this a talented, diverse workforce capably delivering on America’s mission set. I hope we get a chance, Stephen, sometime to talk a little bit about what I came on today. You seem fixated on this storyline about this inquiry. You seem incredibly fixated on that. I came here to Kansas today to talk about things that really matter, the things that when I walk around and I talk to people they care deeply about here in Kansas.
Note, this was the secretary of State’s opportunity to defend his own cabinet agency against ugly and misguided attacks, but after a brief, perfunctory comment, Pompeo – the nation’s chief diplomat, whose sole professional focus is on American foreign policy – said he only wanted to talk about the issues he hears while walking around Kansas.
It’s as if the Republican is thinking more about his next job than his current one.
Also yesterday, Pompeo sat down with the Wichita Eagle, and that interview turned messy, too.
EAGLE: And what good really is the word of the U.S. in light of the president’s treatment of the Kurds? Has that undercut U.S. credibility?
POMPEO: The whole predicate of your question is insane. The word the United States– I’ll give you a good example – the word of the United States is much more respected today than it was just two and a half years ago.
I realize that Mike Pompeo, a brazen partisan, is always on the lookout for opportunities to take cheap shots at Barack Obama, but the rest of the world seems to disagree with his answer to a question that was anything but “insane.” The United States really did abandon our Kurdish allies, whom Donald Trump has chastised as “no angels.” The affect on American credibility abroad is real, whether Pompeo wants to acknowledge this or not.
If the secretary of State can’t answer some of these basic questions responsibly, why does he keep agreeing to interviews?