Senate Approval of Mike Pompeo's Secretary of State Nomination Would Spell Disaster for Planet Earth
It is hard to think of a worse candidate than Mike Pompeo to lead the State Department. As leaders of national organizations working toward a more just, sustainable, and peaceful world, we are not trying to sound hyperbolic in asserting that Pompeo is a threat to people everywhere and to the survival of the planet. His performance at last week's Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing only confirmed how dangerous he really is.
The Senate's confirmation of Pompeo to lead the CIA was a grave mistake, but thankfully, it is a mistake that can now be rectified. The Senate—particularly the 14 Democrats and one Independent who cast their vote for Pompeo to head the CIA—should make amends and reject Pompeo’s nomination for secretary of state. No senator can now credibly argue that Trump deserves the benefit of the doubt.
The State Department is an entirely different institution from the CIA. Its mandate is vast, with a portfolio of issues ranging from international climate change negotiations to diplomacy to avert war, and from protection of religious freedom to human rights and women’s reproductive health. Given such a massive portfolio, there’s simply no room for the person heading the State Department to be an anti-Muslim, climate-denying warmonger who has ardently defended torture. In other words, that person must not be Mike Pompeo.
The secretary of state is supposed to be the nation’s top diplomat, but Pompeo has a unique disdain for diplomacy. During his hearing last week, he gave no indication that he would push to preserve the Iran nuclear deal, and he has in the past advocated for military strikes on Iran. He also refused to rule out a first strike on North Korea. He is a hawk’s hawk, and his hard-fisted approach to highly sensitive diplomatic issues could undo the best chance we have had in a very long time for foundational peace on the Korean peninsula.
Mike Pompeo’s hawkish tendencies alone would be bad enough, but he is set to join the Cabinet of a president who cavalierly threatens nuclear war and who is now being advised by a national security adviser with views so extreme, he was previously unable to be confirmed by a Republican Senate. Senators hoping to prevent the next war may not be able to stop Donald Trump or John Bolton, but they can help constrain them by rejecting Pompeo's nomination.
Yet as dangerous as the threat of war is now, we are already living with an existential threat to humanity: climate change. On this front as well, Mike Pompeo is intolerably dangerous. He is an unabashed denier of the basic science of climate change. Letting him represent our country in international climate negotiations, as is the responsibility of the secretary of state, is like having a fox guard a henhouse, eat the hens—and then deny that the hens ever existed in the first place.
It is no surprise that Pompeo holds such extreme views on climate change. He owes his political career to the Big Oil billionaire Koch brothers. They not only kick-started his run for the House seat representing Wichita, Kansas, where Koch Industries is headquartered, they also showered him with so much cash that when his tenure ended in Congress, Pompeo was the all-time top recipient of Koch Industry money, according to OpenSecrets.org. In fact, Pompeo is such a scion of the Kochs that the nicknames "Koch Brothers' Congressman" and "the Congressman from Koch" have haunted his political fortunes.
To the detriment of the planet, the Koch's investment in Pompeo has delivered sound dividends. Pompeo described former president Barack Obama's involvement with the U.N. Paris Climate Agreement as "bow(ing) down to radical environmentalists." Further, while National Intelligence Assessments under both Democratic and Republican administrations found that climate change poses a threat to national security, and the Department of Defense characterized climate change as a "threat multiplier," Pompeo told the Senate last year that viewing climate change as a major national security threat is "ignorant, dangerous, and absolutely unbelievable."
Pompeo's underwhelming concession at the April 12 Senate hearing that humans "likely" contribute to climate change comes straight from the climate-denier's playbook. It provides us no comfort and in no way demonstrates that Pompeo sees climate change as the global emergency that it is.
As the Senate weighs his nomination, they must also examine his record on human and civil rights. Here too, Mike Pompeo's career and beliefs should be disqualifying. Throughout his decades in the public eye, he has expressed deeply troubling views on the most basic rights of Muslims, LGBTQ individuals and women.
The United States—and the rest of the world—cannot afford to have Mike Pompeo as secretary of state. The Senate must vote down his confirmation.