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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a press conference at a foreign ministers meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Nov. 20, 2019.Kenzo Tribouillard / AFP - Getty Images file

Pompeo's 'list of work' is much less impressive than he thinks

Pompeo wants people to believe the Trump administration "built" the anti-ISIS coalition. That's ridiculous.


At a presidential transition event yesterday, Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Joe Biden's choice to represent the United States at the United Nations, delivered an unmistakable message:" America is back. Multilateralism is back. Diplomacy is back."

On Fox News earlier today, Bret Baier asked outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for his response to Thomas-Greenfield's remarks. The Kansas Republican replied:

"Where to begin, Bret? I remember what the previous administration did. They described leadership as leading from behind. President Trump never did that. We built real coalitions -- a coalition that crushed the caliphate in Syria, a coalition that's pushed back against the Chinese Communist Party, a coalition that refused to appease Iran. The list of work that we've done is great."

At this point, we could dwell on the fact that the Trump administration's dramatic policy failures toward Iran have undermined U.S. interests to a spectacular degree. We could also focus attention on the fact that the Republican White House has effectively nothing to show for it's efforts to "push back" against China.

But what struck me as especially important was Pompeo's claim that he and the rest of the Republican administration "built" the anti-ISIS coalition.

That's not what happened.

In reality, it was the Obama/Biden administration that invested enormous diplomatic energy into building that coalition. As the New York Times' Michael Crowley noted, "Say what you want about Obama's policies, but he gathered dozens of countries into a counter-ISIS coalition which Trump inherited. It's a basic fact."

Quite right. It's also a basic fact that when Donald Trump directed his national security team to come up with a plan to counter ISIS, officials recommended an approach that looked awfully similar to the one Obama had already put in motion, which the Republican eagerly embraced.

Several months later, The Daily Beast reported, "The White House has asked defense officials to come up with new ideas to help brand the Trump campaign as different from its predecessor."

In other words, as I explained in my book (see chapter 5), Trump and his team wanted to continue with Obama's policy toward ISIS, but they didn't want to look as if they were continuing Obama's policy.

If Pompeo wants to thank his Democratic predecessors, I'm sure Obama and his team would be gracious, but the outgoing secretary of State really shouldn't lie about these basic details.