Skim through this USA Today write-up of its interview with Trump Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and take note of how often the ex-congressman turned top Trump adviser is described as “angry,” is dismissive of the questions, or just generally comes off as an ass. It might be that the secretary was just having a bad day—perhaps he swallowed a bee or something. But he comes off as a man at the very end of his rope, doing his best to rebut the facts of the world with the Trump-required answers but no longer able to pretend at grace as he does it.
This exchange is especially peculiar, or would be in any mostly competent administration.
Pompeo reacted angrily when asked about the North Korean foreign minister’s statement, made hours after the talks dissolved, that the offer Kim made in Hanoi was final.
“That’s not what the North Koreans said,” Pompeo responded. “Don’t say things that aren’t true. … Show me the quote from the North Koreans that said this was their one and only offer. Where’d you get that?”
After he was read a quote from Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho – in which he said “our proposal will never be changed” – Pompeo fell silent for about six seconds. Then he countered, “What they said is they’re prepared to continue conversations with us and that’s what we intend to do.”
Hey, look, it’s the entire Trump administration in a nutshell. Angrily denounce a question as fake news and call the questioner a liar. Get read the actual damn quote, a quote that a supposed top administration official in charge of that precise thing clearly would be expected to have been aware of. Sit in a stupor until the brain kicks in, then declare that, even though the thing happened exactly as the questioner said it did, it’s still not true because reasons. Next question.
Pompeo has certainly had a busy week, and is apparently going to be kept busy by upcoming visits to the various states to shore up Republican election chances on Trump’s behalf. (Farmers in Iowa are rightly irate over Trump’s trade war, for example, so Pompeo will have to smooth things over with the usual implausible platitudes.) And he’s almost certainly being screamed at by the incompetent, buffoonish Trump behind the scenes, so he has reason to be in a foul mood.
That doesn’t mean we have to feel sorry for him, however. He knew what he was getting into, just as surely as all the others did. Back when he was a congressman, Pompeo made a name for himself as a tea party-branded conspiracy crank with an anti-Muslim, anti-science, anti-whatever chip on his shoulder, so the man already had learned how to advance through the party by saying demonstrably false things for momentary gain. He jumped at the chance to become one of Trump’s designated incompetents. He’s presumably right where he wants to be.
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