March 13, 2018

How Mike Pompeo Could Save the State Department

By Phillip Carter

Former congressman and CIA Director Mike Pompeo has a bio that sparkles even in Washington: top of his class at West Point, five years of Army service, Harvard Law, success in business, and now politics. In Donald Trump’s Washington, Pompeo has added perhaps the most important laurel of all: trusted lieutenant to the president. By providing the president regular deskside briefings, “killer graphics,” and alignment on policy, Pompeo has cultivated Trump as his patron, and now Trump has rewarded him with an appointment to serve as secretary of state.

However, Pompeo’s ascension to State will test his abilities and strain his relationship with the president much more than his tenure at CIA did. To succeed at State, Pompeo must accomplish three tasks that will, at times, compete with each other. A successful secretary of state needs to be perceived as part of the president’s inner circle so he is credibly seen as America’s chief diplomat. Pompeo must also repair relationships with America’s closest allies and alliances, who have largely watched the events of the past 15 months with horror. And to be effective, Pompeo must lead a State Department neglectfully managed by Rex Tillerson and denigrated by Trump. However, the first goal will often be in tension with the second and third; to succeed where Tillerson failed, Pompeo must be more than Trump’s man at State, and do more than simply echo his boss to the world.

Read the full article in Slate.