Imagine a nominee for Secretary of State who is so bigoted that he once accused Christian organizations and houses of worship of remaining silent about crimes committed in the name of Christianity by groups like the far-right Army of God or the Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army of Joseph Kony.
Imagine that this nominee said that the “silence… from the best-funded Christian advocacy organizations and many churches across America is absolutely deafening,” that it “casts doubt upon … adherents of the Christian faith,” and that it made Christian leaders “potentially complicit” in acts of terror like the murder of an abortion doctor or the bombing of a clinic.
Or, imagine that his targets are Jewish groups. Picture him saying, “There are organizations and networks here in the United States tied to radical Judaism in deep and fundamental ways. They’re not just in places like Lebanon and Uganda, but in places like Coldwater, Kansas, and small towns all throughout America.”
Now imagine that three Democratic Senators said they would vote to make him the nation’s next Secretary of State.
The Bigot, Part I
Replace “Judaism” and “Christianity” with Islam, and you’ve got Mike Pompeo, Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State. Democratic Senators Heidi Heitkamp, Joe Donnelly, and Joe Manchin have already said they will vote to confirm Pompeo. If they do, they will have put a bigot in the nation’s highest diplomatic position – and put a stain on their own party’s right to claim the mantle of inclusion.
After the Boston Marathon bombing, a smug-looking, inappropriately smiling Pompeo took to the House floor to condemn mainstream Muslims. “The silence in the face of extremism coming from the best-funded Islamic advocacy organizations and many mosques across America is absolutely deafening,” Pompeo said. “It casts doubt upon the commitment to peace by adherents of the Muslim faith.” He went on to call Muslim leaders “potentially complicit these acts.”
In fact, Muslim groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) had promptly condemned the bombing, as they always do, even though they shouldn’t be obliged to do so. Pompeo was lying.
The attack on Muslims wasn't a one-off. Pompeo has a long history of anti-Muslim comments, and of associating with Islamophobic hate groups and leaders.
Pompeo isn’t big on the separation of church and state, either. “To worship our lord and celebrate our nation at the same place is not only our right, it is our duty,” Pompeo once proclaimed from a church pulpit.
If Mike Pompeo becomes Secretary of State, the global face of the United States will be that of a man who fears and despises 1.8 billion Muslims. That’s not just wrong. It's also placing our foreign policy in the hands of someone who has expressed hostility toward nearly one out of every four people on the planet.
The Bigot, Part II
Pompeo’s bigotry isn’t limited to Muslims. He’s hostile to the LGBTQ community, too. He opposed the repeal of the military’s oppressive “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, saying that “we cannot use military to promote social ideas that do not reflect the values of our nation." His other bigoted words and deeds include the promotion of several anti-marriage equality bills. He described the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling as “a shocking abuse of power.”
“America had worshipped other Gods and called it multiculturalism,” Pompeo once said. “We’d endorsed perversion and called it an alternative lifestyle."
During his Senate hearing, Pompeo refused to say whether he considered homosexuality a perversion. “Senator,” he responded, “when I was a politician, I had a very clear view on whether it was appropriate for two same-sex persons to marry. I stand by that.”
As Secretary of State, Pompeo will be a voice for hate and repression rather than justice and equality.
Bigotry isn’t Pompeo’s only problem. If he is confirmed, American diplomacy will be guided by a man who, as CIA director, openly hinted that the United States was working to destabilize the government of Venezuela. That’s undoubtedly true, and is consistent with many decades of American covert activity in Latin America, other parts of the developing world, and Western Europe. It will, however, make Pompeo a uniquely ineffective diplomat.
But then, Pompeo doesn’t seem to believe in diplomacy. He certainly doesn’t support the arms agreement with Iran, one of the singular diplomatic achievements of the last ten years. “I look forward to rolling back this disastrous deal with the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism,” Pompeo said last year.
Pompeo doesn’t think much of international law, either. He has defended torture techniques that include waterboarding, has defended the use of CIA “black sites” for torture. “These men and women are not torturers, they are patriots,” Pompeo said of US torturers, adding that US torture programs were “within the law, within the Constitution.” (They are patently not constitutional.)
The Climate Killer
There’s another reason to oppose Pompeo’s nomination: The fate of the planet is at stake. That’s why more than 200 environmental groups oppose him. He has expressed doubt about climate change for years. He opposes another major diplomatic achievement of recent years, the Paris Accords, saying that the agreement “t puts an undue burden on the United States of America.”
Pompeo had even harsher words for the agreement when it was passed. He called it “bow(ing) down to radical environmentalists" and accused President Obama of a "perverse fixation on achieving his economically harmful environmental agenda."
"Federal policy should be about the American family,” Pompeo once said, “not worshipping a radical environmental agenda."
Pompeo was often called “the Koch Brothers’ favorite Congressman,” because he received more money from the right-wing energy billionaires than any other member of the House during his time there. His anti-climate, pro-fossil fuel agenda helps explain why. Now, with the help of these two Democrats, he is about to become the Koch Brothers’ Secretary of State.
Despite his bigotry toward Muslims and the LGBTQ community, his hostility toward diplomacy, his support for torture and his contempt for international law, his smug indifference to the fate of the planet and its inhabitants – despite all these disqualifiers, three Democratic senators have indicated that they will vote to confirm Pompeo.
"Pompeo demonstrated during this nomination process and during our meeting in March that he is committed to empowering the diplomats at the State Department so they can do their jobs in advancing American interests," Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota said in a statement.
“After meeting with Mike Pompeo, discussing his foreign policy perspectives, & considering his distinguished time as CIA Director & his exemplary career in public service, I will vote to confirm Mike Pompeo to be our next Secretary of State,” tweeted Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia.
Sen. Joe Donnelly of Indiana said he had a “productive conversation” with Pompeo, adding: “I believe Director Pompeo is capable of advancing US interests and leading the State Department, and I will support his nomination."
Imagine a Muslim or LGBTQ child reading those words and realizing, with a sick feeling in her heart, that these senators are throwing their support to someone who hates them – for no other reason than because they exist. Imagine being a citizen of another country and realizing that the United States has now publicly affirmed its contempt for international law and its indifference to the fate of the earth.
There is no way to justify the choice these senators have made. Pompeo’s secret trip to North Korea, which was leaked at an opportune time for his nomination, is certainly no reason to support him. That trip undercut the State Department’s professional diplomats and violated the bright white line that should exist between intelligence work and diplomacy.
Some people will defend these senators by saying they represent red or red-leaning states. They’ll say that support for Pompeo is politically expedient, a way to appear “tough” or “reasonable,” or “willing to reach across the aisle.”
But, if there are polls showing that these senators need to support Pompeo to survive, they haven't been published. Voters seem to respond to integrity, something that’s in short supply here. And some things are more important than political expediency. Standing up to naked bigotry must surely be one of them. Respect for the rule of law and concern for the future of the planet should be high on the list, too.
We’re told that the Democratic Party shouldn’t apply “litmus tests” for its politicians. Maybe that’s why the party’s leaders haven’t chastised these senators for supporting Pompeo. But the question must be asked: if the party can’t even take a stand against hate, does it stand for anything?