Tag Archives: Pompeo

Corruption Everywhere

Talk about the “times that try men’s (and women’s) souls.”

I am not naive; I know the dark side of America’s history. I know we have repeatedly failed to live up to our professed values. But there has also always been a bright side– a reason this country has been a beacon of hope for so many oppressed people, a reason idealistic citizens have dedicated themselves to public service, a reason millions of  individuals have been proud to be Americans.

It is no longer possible to ignore the degree to which those values and ideals are being trashed by the gangsters in this administration and the self-serving GOP cowards in the Senate. Washington lawmakers are no longer engaged in disagreements about policy. Instead, the government has been paralyzed by an administration that is a criminal enterprise–a criminal enterprise abetted by Republicans in the Senate, most prominently Mitch McConnell.

The corruption is breathtaking, and Trump is only one manifestation of the rot.

The Campaign Legal Center recently filed an FEC complaint detailing the NRA’s coordination with Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin in the 2016 campaign. It used a shell corporation through which it illegally funneled millions in in-kind contributions– unlawfully coordinating with Johnson and other candidates it was backing.

Last August, Jonathan Chait had an article in New York Magazine titled “The Whole Republican Party Seems to be Going to Jail Now,” in which he ticked off the operatives who were then behind bars (and those who belonged there).

There was Paul Manafort, who embezzled funds, failed to report income, and falsified documents, and his partner and fellow Trump campaign aide, Rick Gates, who confessed to participating in all these crimes.

There was (and is) Wilbur Ross.

Forbes reported that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross may have stolen $120 million from his partners and customers. Meanwhile Ross has maintained foreign holdings in his investment portfolio that present a major conflict of interest with his public office.

There were the three Trump cronies running the Department of Veterans Affairs, despite lacking  any official government title or public accountability. According to Pro Publica, all three “used their influence in ways that could benefit their private interests.”

Chait concluded that

Trump appears to select for greed and dishonesty in his cronies…. The sorts of people Trump admires are rich and brash and disdainful of professional norms, and seem unlikely to rat on him. The sorts of people who are apt to work for Trump seem to be those who lack much in the way of scruples.

The administration is understaffed and disorganized to the point of virtual anarchy, opening up promising avenues for insiders to escape accountability. Trump’s public ethos, despite his professions during the campaign that he could “drain the swamp” and impose a series of stringent ethics reforms, runs toward relativism — he famously tolerates anybody who supports him, regardless of criminal history or other disqualifications, defining their goodness entirely in terms of personal loyalty. And above all there is the simple fact that Trump himself is a wildly unethical businessman who has stiffed his counterparties and contractors, and worked closely with mobsters, his entire career. A president who is continuing to profit personally from his office is hardly in any position to demand his subordinates refrain from following suit.

Chait’s article was written in August of 2018. Since then, among other scandals, we have seen William Barr besmirch the reputation of the Department of Justice by mischaracterizing the Mueller Report and refusing to follow clear laws requiring him to inform Congress about the whistleblower complaint.  We have seen Mike Pompeo turn the State Department into a tool of Trump’s ego. (A Washington Post article reported a growing belief among State Department officials that Pompeo has subordinated the Department’s mission and abandoned colleagues in the service of President Trump’s political aims.)

It is highly likely that Mike Pence was involved in the effort to blackmail Ukraine’s President into manufacturing dirt on Biden’s son.

Even administration officials unconnected to the events that triggered the Impeachment inquiry are conspicuously corrupt and incompetent. Betsy DeVos, anyone? Elaine Chao? Rick Perry? (Whoops–evidently Perry is involved in the Ukraine cesspool.)

Political scientists are busy trying to explain how we got here, and–assuming we can turn things around, which is by no means a given–we’ll need to know how and why and what to do to avoid a repeat. But all I can focus on is the need to clean house.

Whatever happens with Impeachment, in 2020 we need massive turnout and an overwhelming rejection of both the criminals who currently control our federal government, and their enablers in the Senate.

We can argue about policy later.

 

 

What Do Those Words Mean?

Given the overheated rhetoric coming from all sides in our current iteration of culture war, it’s tempting to dismiss the introductory paragraphs of a recent column originally published by Open Democracy as more of the same:

Any schoolchild in the United States knows that the US Declaration of Independence guarantees individuals’ rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Now, imagine what these principles mean for right-wingers and religious fundamentalists: where “life” refers to fetuses; “liberty” includes the prerogative to discriminate against LGBTIQ people; and “the pursuit of happiness” is reserved for straight, white patriarchs.

Dismissal, however, would be a mistake.

The concerns addressed by the column were triggered by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s announcement of a new government body: The Commission on Unalienable Rights.

According to its statement of intent, the Commission is needed as human rights “discourse has departed from our nation’s founding principles of natural law and natural rights”.

 In case you’re wondering how to distinguish “natural” rights, they’re the ones bestowed by God (at least according to Pompeo’s commissioners). One of them, Peter Berkowitz, argues that Christianity is the source of all human rights. Another, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf Hanson, sees marriage equality for LGBTIQ people as a sign of the “End Times”

Pompeo has raised eyebrows at the State Department and among America’s (increasingly concerned) allies by his efforts to conjoin America’s foreign policy and his religious fundamentalism.

An article in The New York Times noted Pompeo’s willingness to connect foreign policy to his religious beliefs.

No secretary of state in recent decades has been as open and fervent as Mr. Pompeo about discussing Christianityand foreign policy in the same breath. That has increasingly raised questions about the extent to which evangelical beliefs are influencing American diplomacy.

The Times listed Pompeo initiatives prompted by his religious beliefs, including the move of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, and the expansion of Trump Administration anti-abortion policies–effected by terminating financial support for international organizations that support reproductive rights.

In speeches, Pompeo has expressed his belief that mankind is in a “never-ending struggle until the Rapture.” He told a reporter for The New York Times Magazine that the Bible informs everything he does.

His interpretation of Biblical mandates, needless to say, is not universally held even among Christians. But the fact that other people hold beliefs that differ from his hasn’t dissuaded him from his obvious belief that his is the Truth that must be imposed on everyone else.

As Open Democracy reports,

In an op-ed published by the Wall Street Journal, the Secretary of State attacks “politicians and bureaucrats [who have created] new rights”, and thus “blur the distinction between unalienable rights and ad hoc rights granted by governments”. He also asserts that “rights claims are often aimed more at rewarding interest groups and dividing humanity into subgroups”.

Women, non-Christians and gay people are thus categorized as “interest groups.”

The new commission’s initial assault is against abortion and the rights of LGBTQ people, but as the article points out, that’s only the opening salvo.

Unless you are part of the narrow demographic of rich, white men deemed to have rights in 1776, they’re coming for you too. In fact, their ideology threatens the vast majority of people – which is one reason it must be justified as “natural” and God-given.

I can think of few things more terrifying than people in positions of power who are convinced that their God has told them how He (and believe me, for these “Christians” God is always a “He”) wants them to interpret “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.”

This Administration cannot leave soon enough.

This Isn’t Making Us Safe

The Senate has now confirmed Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State, despite deeply disturbing reports of his longstanding Islamophobia. Nothing like having a man with a well-deserved reputation for decidedly undiplomatic bigotry as the country’s chief diplomat. I’m sure his disdain for the world’s largest religion will serve him especially well in negotiations in the Middle East…

At least Pompeo understands–or seems to understand–that religious hatred is not generally considered a positive qualification for the job at hand, and he has downplayed it.

Not so John Bolton. Trump’s choice of a National Security Advisor is an even more obvious mental case than the current occupant of the Oval Office. His disdain for the United Nations, his preference for war over diplomacy (and the short fuse that impels him to favor military action at the drop of anyone’s hat) are well known. Less well known is his fixation with–and hatred of– Islam.

Dispatches from the Culture Wars has the story:

NBC News has an article about the Gatestone Institute, headed until he took the job as National Security Adviser by John Bolton for the last four years. Gatestone is one of the lesser-known but best-funded of a web of Islamophobic groups that push white supremacist rhetoric about how Muslims are going to destroy white European hegemony through immigration.

The Gatestone Institute is a New York-based “advocacy group.” It issues warnings about the looming “jihadist takeover” of Europe, which will lead to a “Great White Death.” The post quotes NBC News:

The group has published numerous stories and headlines on its website with similar themes. “Germany Confiscating Homes to Use for Migrants,” warned one from May 2017, about a single apartment rental property in Hamburg that had gone into temporary trusteeship. Another from February 2015 claimed the immigrants, for instance Somalis, in Sweden were turning that country into the “Rape Capital of the West.”…

Some of the group’s work was widely distributed, including a claim about Muslim-controlled “no-go zones” in France that Texas Sen. Ted Cruz cited in an op-ed article during the 2016 Republican presidential primary campaign.

Gatestone’s president, Sears Roebuck heiress Nina Rosenwald, said in an email that Bolton was not involved in any of the articles and that Gatestone has no knowledge of Russian trolls having promoted its work.

Rosenwald emailed numerous links to support Gatestone’s claims, including a number in French and German. One entry flagged as documenting “warring Muslim gangs” in Marseille, France, when translated into English, says only that the city had deployed specialized police officers to a high-crime area, with no mention of warring Muslims.

Speaking of disinformation and dishonesty, Bolton wrote the foreword to a book by Pam Geller, who co-chairs an equally disreputable White Supremacist group with Robert Spencer, Stop the Islamization of America. Geller has been described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as “one of the most flamboyant anti-Muslim activists in the United States.” She routinely bashes Islam and Muslims on her blog (titled “Atlas Shrugs”), and is a regular contributor to Breitbart.

Bolton and Pompeo: Trump’s “best people”–working hard to make the world safe for White Christians.

Forgive me if I don’t feel very secure.

Don’t Ever Say It Can’t Get Worse…

My mother–who under no circumstances could be considered an optimist–had a couple of favorite sayings: “Every silver cloud has a black lining,” and “Things are never so bad that they can’t get worse.”

Until Donald Trump’s election, I didn’t believe her.

Yesterday we learned that Rex Tillerson had been fired as Secretary of State and that he would be replaced by Mike Pompeo. Tillerson has hardly been a star, but he was one of the few seemingly rational actors in an administration epitomized by appointees like (arguably lobotomized) Betsy DeVos. (As one Facebook post described Tillerson, “He was terrible, but not insane.”) And it didn’t escape notice that he was dismissed immediately after issuing a strong statement in support of Theresa May’s assertion that Russia was behind the poisoning of a British spy and his daughter.

Mike Pompeo is evidently a favorite of our buffoon of a President, which is probably enough to disqualify him without knowing more. But let me share a description of our new Secretary of State from The Nation:

In the Republican wave election of 2010, when Charles and David Koch emerged as defining figures in American politics, the greatest beneficiary of Koch Industries largesse was a political newcomer named Mike Pompeo. After his election to the House eight years ago, Pompeo was referred to as the “Koch Brothers’ Congressman” and “the congressman from Koch.”…

Pompeo’s pattern of deference to his political benefactors is likely to make him a better fit with Trump. Pompeo will bring to the position an edge that Tillerson lacked. He is a foreign-policy hawk who fiercely opposed the Iran nuclear deal, stoked fears about Muslims in the United States and abroad, opposed closing the Guantánamo Bay detention camp, and defended National Security Agency’s unconstitutional surveillance programs as “good and important work.” He has even gone so far as to say that NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden “should be brought back from Russia and given due process, and I think the proper outcome would be that he would be given a death sentence.”

Pompeo’s open disregard for privacy rights in particular and civil liberties in general, as well as his penchant for extreme language and more extreme policies are anything but diplomatic. That makes him an even more troublesome Secretary of State than Tillerson, who was relentlessly corporate in his worldview but not generally inclined to pick fights—even when it came to standing up for a State Department that decayed on his watch.

The Nation is a publication with a point of view, but it doesn’t do “fake news.”  If this description is even remotely accurate, my mother was right. Things are never so bad that they can’t get worse.