CIA Director Mike Pompeo spent five hours fielding questions from the Senate Armed Services Committee during his confirmation hearing. Pompeo, the current director of the CIA, was nominated as a replacement for Rex Tillerson, and his nomination has drawn criticism as one more step down the road to a “war cabinet,” ready to encourage Trump’s most bellicose impulses.
The face that Pompeo presented to the committee was calm, measured, and seemed worlds away from the aggressive foreign policy stances and disregard for human rights that haunt his record as Senator and CIA director. But his repeated refusal to address his long history of Islamophobia and homophobia, his support of torture, and his knee-jerk rejection of diplomacy gave the impression that, for Pompeo, the hearing was just a formality.
The same Pompeo who has been one of the most committed opponents of the Iran Deal stated unequivocally that there is no evidence that Iran has violated the agreement. He has repeatedly called for extreme, destructive responses to North Korea’s nuclear program, but during his hearing, he explicitly stated “I am not advocating for regime change.” When Senator Ben Cardin asked about the May 12 Iran Deal certification deadline, he refused to answer, saying that it was too far in the future to tell—which could, to be fair, be interpreted generously as an honest assessment of the administration’s approach to long-term strategy. But his repeated refusal to comment on “hypotheticals” when asked about concrete policy issues meant that little could be learned from his statements, other than his willingness to overwrite his own record as the situation demands.
Indeed, his steadfast commitment to stonewalling those who would question his actions should be troubling for those who value a commitment to transparent foreign policy founded on a commitment to peaceful diplomacy. On April 18, it was leaked that Pompeo had met in secret with Kim Jong Un at the beginning of April, the highest-level meeting between the US and North Korea since Madeleine Albright met with Kim Jong Il in 2000. The talks are a step in the right direction for international diplomacy. But they’re also a calculated move to deflect the Senate’s and the public’s attention away from a hawkish and prejudiced track record that disqualifies Pompeo from being the nation’s top diplomat. If he’s confirmed, there’s every reason to expect that Pompeo will continue to treat Congress with the same lack of respect and disdain for cooperation as he showed at the hearing. Those members of Congress who are on the fence about his fitness to lead the State Department—and those who have already committed to opposing his nomination—must take this opportunity to exercise their ability to make sure that the first representative of the U.S. abroad is not one with such a fundamental disrespect for human rights.
The Senate is voting on Pompeo’s nomination soon – contact your Senator and urge them to say no to Pompeo, and no to Trump’s war cabinet!