There’s an oversized “I Like Mike” button atop our collection of political and punk rock buttons next to the laptop we write these missives on, and despite everything we were glad to read that our former Congressman and recent Central Intelligence Agency director and Secretary of State appointee Mike Pompeo narrowly passed muster with the Senate’s foreign relations committee and is therefore expected to be confirmed as the country’s top diplomat by the rest of the Senate.
We enthusiastically voted for Pompeo every time he ran for Kansas’ Fourth Congressional seat, and have mostly cheered on his subsequent rise to national power. He’s an obviously serious man, having graduated top of his class at West Point and edited the Harvard Law Review and commanded a tank unit on the borders of the Iron Curtain before starting a highly profitable high-tech aviation firm here in Wichita, where aviation remains a huge chunk of the local economy, and he was always more formidable than any of his Democratic opponents. One the few occasions we’ve run into him around town, he’s also proved a likable enough fellow.
He first ran after a rather undistinguished but longstanding Republican Congressman made a futile bid for Senate seat, and the Democrats thought they would capitalize on President Barack Obama’s recent victory by running an unabashedly liberal but Ivy League-educated Harvard Law graduate with brown skin and a foreign-sounding name, who happened a friend of ours, but Pompeo’s even more impressive resume and stalwart Kansas conservatism won in a rout.
Pompeo faced only perfunctory opposition in the rest of his races, and quickly rose through the Republicans ranks back in Washington, D.C., including on a controversial stint on the investigate committee investigating Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s embarrassing role in the deadly terror attack that killed an American ambassador in Libya in the aftermath of an ill-advised missile strike, and he seemed to us the embodiment of the kind of old-fashioned Kansas Republicanism we long ago signed up with. A couple of years ago President Donald Trump’s impulsive and casually “tweeted” rhetoric usurped that cautious and carefully-worded sort of conservatism, but Pompeo’s rise to power continued. Trump tabbed Pompeo as his as CIA director, and although Pompeo defiantly confirmed the intelligence community’s consensus opinion that yeah, the Russians had interfered in the last presidential election on Trump’s behalf, he was somehow diplomatic enough about it to stay in Trump’s good graces.
The Democrats on the Senate committee were all instinctively opposed to any Trump appointee, and Kentucky’s contrarian Republican Sen. Rand Paul, whose instinctive isolationism is greater even that Trump’s, so the nomination once looked in doubt. But by Monday Trump plied enough flattery and threats against Paul, who would have been hard pressed to explain a “no” vote to his constituents, so Pompeo was spared the unprecedented humiliation of winning confirmation from the Senate without the blessings of its foreign relations committee. There are several Democratic Senators who would have to explain to their Trump-supporting voters why they vote “no” on one of his most serious nominees, Republicans of all sorts will fall in line, and by now it’s a near certainty that Pompeo will be the country’s top diplomatic.
Those progressive Democrats who will certainly vote against Pompeo will muster persuasive arguments about his old fashioned Kansas Republican views about same-sex marriage and the Islamic faith and America’s obligatory role in the world, and both the Paul-ist and Trump-ist segments of the newfangled Republican Party will have their own plausible complaints, but the more sensible middle of the country and its Senate will eventually conclude, just as the fourth Kansas congressional district here in the middle of the country long has, that you could do a whole lot worse than Pompeo. Even the editorial board of The Washington Post has concluded the country is unlikely to do any better, and despite our misgivings these days about both those damned Democrats and any old Trump appointee, we still like Mike.
— Bud Norman