Senate Dems want a confirmation spectacle — but Mike Pompeo knows all the tricks

Senate Dems want a confirmation spectacle — but Mike Pompeo knows all the tricks
© Greg Nash

Democrats lie in wait for Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoTrump: 'I will not let Iran have nuclear weapons' Rocket attack hits Baghdad's Green Zone amid escalating tensions: reports Dems ask former CIA chief John Brennan for Iran briefing: report MORE. His confirmation hearing before the Foreign Relations Committee is expected to be a contentious affair. As nominee to be Secretary of State Pompeo should, in the face of a fair and reasonable legislative body, glide through to his cabinet post as America’s chief diplomat.

But this is Capitol Hill we are talking about, in the era of the Trump presidency no less. With national news cameras rolling, it’s a certainty that there will be much more histrionics and grandstanding than advice and consent. Pompeo is likely to get hit with a beltway ambush.

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Activists of the Democrat-left want this to be a spectacle. Nearly every major feature of Pompeo’s background agitates them. He’s a former Tea Party congressman from a deep red Midwestern state with hawkish proclivities and a close bond with President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: 'I will not let Iran have nuclear weapons' Rocket attack hits Baghdad's Green Zone amid escalating tensions: reports Buttigieg on Trump tweets: 'I don't care' MORE. Pompeo could dazzle the committee with his knowledge and policy depth, and the progressive base of the DNC would still demand condescending questions about his support for “torture” and statements of “Islamophobia.”

Despite the razor-thin margin Republicans hold in the Senate, the overwhelming likelihood is that Mike Pompeo will successfully pass from committee to a majority floor vote. Anything short of this would send shockwaves through D.C. In its entire history, the Senate has rejected only 9 cabinet nominees. A secretary of State has never been denied or even had to withdraw from consideration. In a sane world, Thursday’s committee vote wouldn’t be a close call.

Pompeo isn’t a marginal candidate for the secretary of State job — he is a strong one. His resume is impeccable, including West Point, service in the army, a J.D. from Harvard and, most recently, a successful tenure as Trump’s CIA director. No senator can make a good faith argument that Pompeo isn’t up to the job, or that he lacks the skills to be an effective leader at State.

Compared to his predecessor Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonOvernight Defense: Trump rails against media coverage | Calls reporting on Iran tensions 'highly inaccurate' | GOP senator blocking Trump pick for Turkey ambassador | Defense bill markup next week Trump frustrated with advisers over Iran, wants to speak to leaders in Tehran: report Juan Williams: Trump's scorecard is rife with losses MORE, Mike Pompeo is a better fit, one who is willing to adapt his style and be a coalition builder.  He has taken steps to show the rank and file in Foggy Bottom that he wants to leverage their talents and experience. This even led him to personally contact recently departed career senior State employees who became disenchanted under Tillerson’s tenure in order to invite them back.

As another component of his “charm offensive” Pompeo has also reached out to all living former secretaries of State to ask for their insights into the confirmation process. Among those he called was former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDe Blasio pitches himself as tough New Yorker who can take on 'Don the con' From dive bars to steakhouses: How Iowa caucus staffers blow off steam Warren policy ideas show signs of paying off MORE, whom Pompeo once lambasted at Congressional hearings about the Benghazi debacle, which he described as “morally reprehensible.” This is a guy who does his homework and wants the best advice he can get from whomever he can get it.

The area where Pompeo will get the most pushback from Democrats during the hearing is on policy. Their anti-Pompeo playbook will be highly predictable. From a group that includes Senators Coons, Kaine, and Booker, there will be pointed inquiries on the risks President Trump runs of an in person meeting with North Korea’s dictator, Kim Jong Un. They will push Pompeo to elaborate his thoughts on waterboarding, the way out of the Syria disaster and how to avoid a looming trade war with China.

They will push him on the Iran Deal, hoping if they probe relentlessly they might squeeze out a soundbite that sounds just belligerent or reckless enough to cause a stir. Other senators will try to create the perception of distance between Pompeo and Trump’s approaches to Russia, especially given that the former CIA director has been aggressive in calling out Putin.

The overwhelming likelihood is that these foreign policy inquisitors will fail to rattle Mike Pompeo. Once their interrogations have been repeatedly blunted, most will content themselves with a few minutes of raised voices and sanctimonious talking points, hoping to make the highlight reel at MSNBC. There is a midterm on the horizon, after all, and these self-styled guardians of our Republic have money to raise.

Remember, it was just over a year ago that this same group of senators voted 66-32 in favor of making Mike Pompeo the premiere intelligence officer in the world. The only thing that has changed since then is he now has even more experience and credibility. Barring any Congressional catastrophe, Director Pompeo will soon be Secretary Pompeo.

For the good of the country, the Senate should confirm Mike Pompeo without delay.

Buck Sexton is a political commentator, national security analyst and host of "The Buck Sexton Show.” He is a former CIA officer in the Counterterrorism Center, appears frequently on Fox News Channel and CNN and has been a guest radio show host for Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity. Follow Buck on Twitter @BuckSexton.