Saturday, January 25, 2020


I'm a bit late getting to Mike Pompeo's NPR interview, but I want to point out that in addition to Pompeo's decision to bully reporter Mary Louise Kelly, he also dealt with questions about U.S. foreign policy by responding as if our greatest enemy -- or at least his and the president's -- is not an overseas antagonist, but Barack Obama.

You know about the bullying:
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, apparently frustrated by questions about Ukraine and former U.S. ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, launched into a profanity-laced rant against an NPR reporter after an interview, the news organization said.

During the interview with NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly that aired Friday, Pompeo refused to say whether he owed an apology to Yovanovitch....

Kelly recounted what happened next in a report that accompanied her interview. She said a staffer escorted her to Pompeo’s private sitting room, where he was waiting....

“He shouted at me for about the same amount of time as the interview itself had lasted,” Kelly reported.

“He asked me, ‘Do you think Americans care about Ukraine?’ ” she continued. “He used the f-word in that sentence and many others. He asked if I could find Ukraine on a map. I said yes; he called out for his aides to bring him a map of the world with no writing, no countries marked. I pointed to Ukraine; he put the map away. He said, ‘People will hear about this.’ ”
But also notice the most important thing Pompeo wants to communicate about the foreign policy he's tasked with executing for President Trump: that Obama sucks and Trump rules.

From the interview transcript:
... in [the last] year and a half, Iran has behaved more provocatively, not less. So is maximum pressure working?

Absolutely working. To put it in context, this is 40 years. When you say worse, they held American hostages in our embassy in Tehran. They had our sailors kneeling. The previous administration gave them billions and billions of dollars to underwrite the very actions that they're taking today. When we came into office, it took a lot of work to fundamentally reshape the diplomatic, military and economic landscape....

... in the last year, [the Iranians] have targeted tankers in the Gulf. They have shot down a U.S. drone, and they have attacked Saudi oil facilities. Is that the desired outcome?

No, of course not. Of course, we don't want them to do those things. And we've raised the cost for doing this. The response in the previous administration when they undertook those actions was to reward them — to reward them, to give them billions of billions of dollars to allow countries to trade with them, to allow them to do all the things that you're seeing today, the ramifications, the tail, the end result of what the previous administration is the activity that we're seeing today. The money that underwrote Hezbollah, that underwrites Hamas, that underwrites Shia militias in Iraq is a direct result of the resources that were provided to them for the eight years prior to us coming into office. We are turning this around....
And on Ukraine:
Change of subject. Ukraine. Do you owe Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch an apology?

... This administration delivered the capability for the Ukrainians to defend themselves. President Obama showed up with MREs (meals ready to eat.) We showed up with Javelin missiles. The previous administration did nothing to take down corruption in Ukraine. We're working hard on that. We're going to continue to do it.
Why, it's as if the president and the secretary of state care less about foreign policy as foreign policy and more about foreign policy as a stick with which to beat their domestic opponents, while the GOP base cheers them on.

Besides Democratic officeholders, the other favorite enemy of Republican voters is the media. And so Pompeo went into this interview ready to bully Kelly the minute she began to talk about Ukraine. In the broadcast interview, Pompeo insisted he'd agreed to talk to Kelly only about Iran. Kelly responded that she'd confirmed with his staff that she was also going to ask him about Ukraine.

I know which one I believe, because today, as The Washington Post's Aaron Blake notes, Pompeo is clearly deceiving us about Kelly's foreign policy chops.
On Saturday, [Pompeo] issued a statement responding to the flap that exemplifies gaslighting.

... The most remarkable portion of Pompeo’s statement, though, came at the end.

“It is worth noting that Bangladesh is NOT Ukraine," Pompeo said in it.

The implication is unmistakable: Kelly couldn’t correctly identify the location of Ukraine on the map, and she instead pointed to Bangladesh.
As Blake correctly notes, even a relative foreign policy novice would know that Bangladesh is thousands of miles to the southeast of Ukraine -- and Kelly is no novice.
Kelly isn’t just a host of “All Things Considered,” she is also a former national security reporter who has traveled overseas extensively in her reporting. She also literally has a master’s degree — in European studies — from Cambridge University in England, which is one of the most prestigious universities in the world.
But what's most important to Republicans, even in the area of foreign policy, is bashing domestic foes. That's the way it's been for years.

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