Pompeo vote won't guarantee Democrats a win in November

Pompeo vote won't guarantee Democrats a win in November
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Individuals nominated to be secretary of State usually have overwhelming bipartisan support in the U.S. Senate. The job of chief diplomat is one so important that our representative to the world ideally should have the backing of both Democrats and Republicans in the initial confirmation process.

This was not the case with Donald Trump’s first pick to be secretary of State. Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonReport: Trump UK ambassador fired deputy for mentioning Obama in speech Overnight Defense: Ex-Navy secretary slams Trump in new op-ed | Impeachment tests Pompeo's ties with Trump | Mexican president rules out US 'intervention' against cartels Pompeo-Trump relationship tested by impeachment inquiry MORE could only amass 56 votes for his confirmation. (In contrast, the choice of George W. Bush — Condoleezza Rice — had 85 yes votes. John F. Kerry and Hillary Clinton got 94 votes for their selection by the Obama administration.)


Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoTrump says he will 'temporarily hold off' on declaring Mexican drug cartels as terror organization West Bank annexation would endanger Israel's security House approves two-state resolution in implicit rebuke of Trump MORE, Trump’s latest choice to be secretary of State, is in no way enjoying bipartisan support.


His nomination barely got by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. One Republican was very vocal about voting “no” on Pompeo; Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulTrump's legal team huddles with Senate Republicans Democratic congressman calls for study of effects of sex-trafficking law McConnell says he's 'honored' to be WholeFoods Magazine's 2019 'Person of the Year' MORE (R-Ky.) at the last moment flipped and voted “yes.”

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says he will 'temporarily hold off' on declaring Mexican drug cartels as terror organization House Judiciary Committee formally receives impeachment report Artist behind gold toilet offered to Trump sells banana duct-taped to a wall for 0,000 MORE believes that Iraq was a mistake, that regime change has destabilized the region, and that we must end our involvement in Afghanistan,” Paul tweeted after being vigorously lobbied by Trump. “Having received assurances from President Trump and Director Pompeo that he agrees with the President on these important issues, I have decided to support his nomination to be our next Secretary of State.”

It seems to me that Paul’s change of heart and vote was based on the wrong criteria. A “yes” vote should be more than a purported policy agreement (past and present). Instead it should be based on whether or not the nominee has the right temperament, training and, most important, philosophy for this most sensitive position.

Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael Kaine'Granite Express' flight to take staffers, journalists to NH after Iowa caucuses Overnight Health Care — Presented by Johnson & Johnson — Senate panel approves Trump FDA pick | Biden downplays Dem enthusiasm around 'Medicare for All' | Trump officials unveil program for free HIV prevention drugs for uninsured Trump's FDA nominee approved by Senate panel MORE (D-Va.), a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, previously voted for Pompeo’s nomination to be director of the CIA. But when it came to becoming secretary of State, he voted “no” in committee.

“This is not about policy difference. I don’t want to vote for people who are anti-diplomatic to be the nation’s chief diplomat,” Kaine said. 

Sen. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinThe Secure Act makes critical reforms to our retirement system — let's pass it this year Lawmakers honor JFK on 56th anniversary of his death Senate Democrats ask Pompeo to recuse himself from Ukraine matters MORE (D-Md.), who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, made the case against Pompeo in even stronger terms in a Washington Post op-ed.

“Pompeo has shown little preference for diplomacy and consistent support for militaristic interventions … I am very concerned about Pompeo’s willingness to stand up to the President and deliver healthy counterpoint … It is also worth asking how Pompeo will represent our diverse country to the world,” Cardin wrote.

To top it off, Cardin wrote this seminal perception on Pompeo. “In my view, Pompeo is not the right person to be Secretary of State for the American people. I have reached that conclusion based on my policy priorities, my belief in the importance of diplomacy and my support for American values — not politics or partisanship, as some have ascribed to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s action.” 

I believe Cardin is being sincere and honest. He is not one to take a cheap shot. In fact, he probably would have liked to vote “yes” for a presidential nominee regardless of party affiliation. This would have been in the tradition of bipartisan, unified support for this most important post.

Three Democratic senators announced in advance their support for Pompeo. Each of them has one thing in common. They are Democratic incumbents who are running for reelection in reliably red states that went overwhelmingly for Trump in 2016. 

The first Democrat to announce support for Pompeo was Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampThe Hill's Morning Report — Biden steadies in third debate as top tier remains the same Trump wins 60 percent approval in rural areas of key states Pence to push new NAFTA deal in visit to Iowa MORE of North Dakota. Trump carried North Dakota by 35 points, a 123,036-vote margin, and the last time she ran for the Senate she won by a scant 3,000 votes.

 Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinStatesmen seek bipartisan solutions to big challenges Both sides have reason to want speedy Trump impeachment trial No one wins with pro-abortion litmus test MORE of West Virginia also came out in favor of Pompeo. Trump won West Virginia by a whopping 42 points and a margin of 300,577 votes.

The third Democratic senator was Joe Donnelly of Indiana. Trump won his state in 2016 by 19 points and the margin was 524,160 votes.

 The full Senate vote was a 57 to 42 split, including Democrats Bill Nelson of Florida, Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Doug Jones of Alabama, and Angus KingAngus KingHillicon Valley: FTC rules Cambridge Analytica engaged in 'deceptive practices' | NATO researchers warn social media failing to remove fake accounts | Sanders calls for breaking up Comcast, Verizon Bipartisan senators call on FERC to protect against Huawei threats Hillicon Valley: House passes anti-robocall bill | Senators inch forward on privacy legislation | Trump escalates fight over tech tax | Illinois families sue TikTok | Senators get classified briefing on ransomware MORE of Maine, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats.

I don’t believe it is unfair to say that “political survival” very well might factor into their calculations.

The question can be rightly asked, if they were running for reelection in other states, would they hold this same position? 

Because they are so vulnerable, are they making it a point to go along with Trump so as not to further alienate those 2016 Trump voters?

Whether or not Heitkamp, Donnelly and Manchin are reelected, their “yes” vote likely will in no way determine the election results.

Independent voters in North Dakota, Indiana and West Virginia are not going to decide to vote for these incumbents based on this single confirmation vote.

Maybe Heitkamp, Donnelly and Manchin truly believe Pompeo is suited for this job. So be it, if that is true. But if they are just playing politics and casting an “insurance vote,” they will see little or no benefit. 

Voters who are neither registered Democrats or Republicans are capable of exercising their independent judgment and voting for the incumbent Democratic senator even if any one of them voted “no” on Pompeo.

In the end, politicians prefer to stay in office and continue their careers. That’s understandable. But along the way, does one sacrifice core principles and beliefs just to survive? 

Mark Plotkin is a contributor to the BBC on American politics. He previously was the political analyst for WAMU-FM, Washington’s NPR affiliate, and for WTOP-FM, Washington’s all-news radio station. He is a winner of the Edward R. Murrow Award for excellence in writing.