With an eye on the year 2024, a Seldom Shy Pompeo develops a more combative demeanor.
Mike Pompeo, who was chastised for his partisanship even as Secretary of State, is now taking aim at the Biden administration and acting like a candidate.
Mike Pompeo, the Trump administration’s secretary of state, showed no respect for the genteel diplomatic procedures of his position, often throwing verbal punches at foreign governments, political rivals, and the mass media.
Mr. Pompeo has not stopped punching even though he has been out of office for more than two months. He is emerging as the most vocal critic of President Biden among former top Trump officials in a series of speeches, interviews, and Twitter messages. And he’s ignoring the tradition of current and former secretaries of state avoiding the appearance of political partisanship, just as he did when in office.
Mr. Pompeo challenged the Biden administration’s resolve against China in back-to-back appearances in Iowa and during an interview in New Hampshire this week. In Iowa, he accused the White House of “willy-nilly and without any thought” repealing the Trump administration’s immigration policy. During his first formal news conference on Thursday, he ridiculed Mr. Biden for referring to notes.
Mr. Pompeo told a small audience at the Westside Conservative Club near Des Moines the next morning, “What’s wonderful about not being the secretary of state anymore is I can say things that I couldn’t say when I was a diplomat.”
Never mind that, even as the country’s top diplomat, he wasn’t known for biting his tongue. Mr. Pompeo, a former Republican congressman from Kansas, seems to be guided not only by independence but also by a desire for high elective office, which has long been apparent to both friends and foes. His appearances in two presidential swing states only serve to affirm his commonly believed interest in running for president in 2024.
“Usually, former presidents and secretaries of state tend not to trash their successors too easily — particularly in foreign policy,” presidential historian Michael Beschloss said. Mr. Pompeo “possibly thinks he is displaying his Trumpiness by attacking the newly elected President Biden’s results,” he said.
Mr. Beschloss said, “This hastiness is not a sign of self-confidence.” “Presidential candidates who believe in their long-term viability are less grabby.”
Mr. Pompeo’s political advisor did not respond to requests for comment or an interview, but sources close to him said that Democratic secretaries of state before him, such as John Kerry and Hillary Clinton, were vocal opponents of President Donald J. Trump.
Mr. Kerry, on the other hand, largely kept his mouth shut throughout the first months of Trump’s presidency, becoming more publicly critical — but less relentlessly so — after Trump declared in June 2017 that the US would withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Trump’s election foe, had long since lost her nonpartisan diplomatic veneer by the time Mr. Trump took office earlier that year.
Mr. Pompeo has noticeably avoided criticizing current Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, with whom he said he had a “productive” meeting in January before Mr. Biden’s inauguration.
He has, however, consistently criticized policies in which Mr. Blinken is a key player.
Mr. Pompeo tweeted last week that the Biden administration’s efforts to reintroduce assistance to Palestinians, which had been halted under President Trump, were “immoral” and would encourage terrorist activity. “The Biden administration’s intentions to do so should anger Americans and Israelis,” Mr. Pompeo wrote.
His comments, however, go beyond foreign policy. Mr. Pompeo also slammed Vice President Biden’s “backward” “open border” policies. On March 19, he simply tweeted the number 1,327, possibly referring to the number of days before the election in 2024.
Mr. Pompeo seems to have a personal vendetta against Mr. Kerry, who is back in government as Vice President Biden’s environment czar. Mr. Pompeo said in Iowa that the nomination “does not bode well for American energy and for affordable energy here at home.”
In a Fox News interview on Feb. 22, Mr. Pompeo ripped into his predecessor over meetings Mr. Kerry had with Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, during the Trump years, which Mr. Pompeo described as a “un-American” attempt to weaken Mr. Trump’s foreign policy.
Mr. Pompeo’s criticism does not seem to have touched a nerve among Biden officials and allies. When asked about the remarks last month, Ned Price, a State Department spokesman, declined to comment directly, but said the Biden and Trump administrations shared the aim of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
In response to a recent news story about Pompeo criticizing Mr. Biden’s policies, Ben Rhodes, a former deputy national security advisor to President Barack Obama, tweeted, “No one cares.”
At two events in Iowa, Mr. Pompeo attracted small crowds but received a warm welcome. On Monday, he was expected to appear on a video fundraiser for a State House candidate in New Hampshire.
Mr. Pompeo, according to Republicans, has a chance of uniting the Trump campaign with the party’s more conservative Reaganite wing, which he represents. He will, however, face a difficult climb.
In Iowa and New Hampshire, polls show him trailing virtually all other Republican candidates for the 2024 presidential election. Even when asked about Mr. Pompeo during a Fox News interview last week, Mr. Trump failed to mention him when naming Republicans that he believes would shape the party’s future.
“It’s going to be a crowded area, and someone like Pompeo will need time to break through, which is why he’s starting so early,” said Alex Conant, a Republican strategist and former aide to Florida Senator Marco Rubio.
Mr. Pompeo is merely continuing a wink-and-nod campaign he started as Secretary of State, when he gave numerous speeches to audiences in swing states, religious conservatives, and the annual Conservative Political Action Conference.
While on a taxpayer-funded diplomatic mission to Jerusalem in August, he became the first sitting secretary of state in modern history to address a political party’s national convention, a forum he used to introduce himself to a domestic audience. Over the course of two years, he also held about two dozen dinners at the State Department to discuss foreign policy with American business leaders and political conservatives whose support would be vital in future campaigns.
Mr. Conant believes Mr. Pompeo felt compelled to play a high-profile, combative position early on in order to gain Republican support.