Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo received almost no pushback from anchor Chris Wallace for gaslighting viewers about Donald Trump’s obsequiousness toward Vladimir Putin and Russia. Updated.
Wallace can be a good anchor and a good newsman but nobody should ever forget that he works for Fox News and serves their agenda, either as fig leaf or, in this case, something else.
Today, Wallace interviewed Secretary of State Antony Blinken about President Biden’s G-7 summit, his upcoming NATO summit and upcoming meeting with Putin. In a typical Fox News maneuver, Blinken’s interview was followed by “reaction” from Pompeo. Pompeo is hardly a dispassionate conservative analyst. He’s a paid contributor who is clearly using his gig as a launchpad for his 2024 presidential ambitions.
Pompeo sounded more like a man who wants to run as a Mini-me Trump than someone with his own views. He began by claiming that Biden is taking the country back to the Obama days where America was liked but “weak.” Pompeo added, “What's important is not that they like America but that they respect us, that we deliver good outcomes for the American people.”
FACT CHECK: In December, 2019, video caught world leaders laughing at Trump. Wallace didn’t mention it.
Pompeo went on to complain that “the Green New Deal is the top of the agenda.” The Green New Deal is only a proposal in the U.S., much less international policy, but assuming that Pompeo was just speaking broadly and disparagingly (the right-wing uses it as shorthand for supporting socialism), his complaint suggested that Americans don’t care much, or shouldn’t care much about climate change: “I worry that we have – we’ve raised an issue that is not the thing that will make lives better for the American people most quickly and most dramatically,” Pompeo said.
FACT CHECK: A December survey found that a majority of registered voters of both parties support initiatives to fight climate change. Biden’s popular American Jobs Plan would create lots of good-paying jobs for Americans and provide climate action at the same time. Wallace didn’t mention that, either.
Then Wallace handed Pompeo an opening to criticize Biden as too soft on Russia.
WALLACE: You have been critical of Biden as being too soft on Russia. You criticized the fact that he renewed the START 5 nuclear arms treaty, you criticized the fact that he also lifted the sanctions that allow completion of the Nord Stream gas pipeline between Russia and Germany. When these two men sit down on Tuesday -- on Wednesday, rather, are you worried about what's going to happen?
POMPEO: Well, I heard Secretary Blinken say the right words, right? That we want to find the places we can work alongside the Russians. We tried to do that too. But there was no administration that was tougher on Russia. We worked diligently to support Ukraine with defensive weapon systems. We built up the United States military.
Chris, we left NATO $400 billion stronger than we took over. We built out that relationship between the United States and NATO in a way that really put pressure on Vladimir Putin.
What I will look for is the actions. It won't be about what is said, it won't be about whether the tone is right. It will be about the actions that the United States government is prepared to take, to preserve and defend American interests and stop Russian malign activity around the world.
You'll recall, when you hear President Biden talk about taking us back, back is the Russians taking Crimea on the watch of President Obama, a fifth of Ukraine. That's not a back that the United States can afford to allow to happen. We need to move forward and we need to continue to defend the United States against the threats that Vladimir Putin may pose, whether it's cyber or kinetic or any of the other information efforts that Vladimir Putin will try to foist upon America if President Biden is weak.
FACT CHECK: Trump publicly disparaged Ukraine and suspended military aid to the country just before his infamous "do me a favor, though" call with its president. During that call, Trump complained that Ukraine was not doing enough to help out the U.S.
FACT CHECK: Trump disgraced the U.S. by siding with Russia over the U.S. intelligence community in his 2018 meeting with Putin in Helsinki. He just sided with Putin over the U.S. again in a statement last week. Trump called the Helsinki meeting “great and productive,” told Biden to give Putin Trump’s “warmest regards” and sneered that Biden shouldn’t “fall asleep during the meeting.” As Forbes noted, Trump claimed in the recent statement he “won much” from that meeting, but what the two discussed in their closed-door meeting is still a mystery.
In 2018, PolitiFact rated Trump’s claim that he was tougher on Russia than Obama “mostly false.”
Wallace offered a weak-sauce challenge to Pompeo’s “tough on Russia” claim later in the interview:
WALLACE: But, Mr. Secretary, let's look back at the Trump record of -- under President Trump, the administration didn't stop Russia from completing -- and they continued during the Trump administration to build the Nord Stream pipeline. By the end of the administration, it was 90 percent completed. And President Trump never condemned Russia for the poisoning of Alexey Navalny or his arrest. And both of those happened on his watch.
POMPEO: Well, Chris, you said it yourself, they didn't complete the pipeline. We had imposed real sanctions on the ships that were doing the construction, the insurers that were underwriting. We made clear that that pipeline was not going to be completed. It would not have been completed had we had four more years, I'm very, very confident of that.
And with respect to human rights, I -- we take a backseat to no one. I heard Secretary Blinken talk about the work they're doing to try and convince the Europeans to stand alongside us on human rights violations in China and the work that they've done defending human rights against Russian abuses. We were tough there too, Chris. I'm proud of the work we did there. It was good work. It was serious work and it made a difference.
Wallace did not ask about Trump’s willingness to accept Russia’s help during the 2016 election nor his continued denial of the country’s interference.
But this is how Fox/GOP gaslighting works. They take a weakness, pretend it’s a strength, accuse the Democrat(s) of being weak on that same subject, then repeat, repeat and repeat and, eventually, the party faithful believe it’s true.
You can watch Pompeo pretend Trump is not a Putin sycophant below, from the June 13, 2021 Fox News Sunday.
6/14/21 update: I meant to write that I suspect Wallace let Pompeo skate on Russia because he wanted to confront Pompeo on China, which he did nicely. I suppose a host has to pick and choose his battles like the rest of us. But Pompeo's quote about Russia was so outrageous, I was almost as outraged that Wallace didn't challenge it more forcefully.
However, I regret not giving Wallace the credit where it was due. I recommend Aaron Blake's terrific analysis in The Washington Post of how Wallace "spotlights the gaping hole in the Trump team’s lab leak victory campaign." I'd argue that Blake blows an even bigger hole.
Pompeo has no credibility. The Pence White House was the laughingstock of the world, as seen more times than anyone could count over the infamy of its four years. In addition to the US being seen as an unreliable former partner by our allies (Angela Merkel and other Europeans took the lead), Pence White House denizens were notable for having retreated in every major area, and for making openly racist comments about the people emigrating to our shores.
The purported “Abraham Accords” that Pompeo hoped would get accolades for Pence’s childish spokesman turns out to have been a major weapons sale deal, including 23 billion dollars worth of F-35s.
Pompeo himself will go down in history as a despicable extremist in Congress and a grifter as a member of Pence’s unfortunate cabinet. (There are over 100 instances of Pompeo demanding that State Dept employees perform personal errands for himself or his wife. And that’s the employees that he and Tillerson and Pence hadn’t driven from government service.)
Let’s not forget that Pompeo is the one who smugly proclaimed that there would be “a smooth transition to a second Trump Administration” after it was already clear that President Biden had been elected and that the Pence White House had been fired.