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The New York Times

With one eye on 2024, a rarely shy Pompeo becomes more combative

WASHINGTON – As Secretary of State under the Trump administration, Mike Pompeo had little respect for the distinguished diplomatic protocols of his work, regularly throwing verbal punches at foreign governments, political opponents and the mainstream media . Absent from his duties for more than two months, Pompeo has continued to strike. In a series of speeches, interviews and Twitter posts, he emerges as the most outspoken critic of President Joe Biden among former senior Trump officials. And he ignores, just as he did in power, the custom that current and former Secretaries of State avoid the appearance of political partisanship. In back-to-back appearances in Iowa and in an interview in New Hampshire last week, Pompeo questioned the Biden administration’s resolve on China. In Iowa, he accused the White House of reversing the Trump administration’s immigration policy “willy-nilly and without any thought.” He ridiculed Biden for referring to notes during his first official press conference on Thursday. Sign up for The Morning newsletter from The New York Times “What’s great about not being Secretary of State anymore is that I can say things that when I was a diplomat I couldn’t say,” a Pompeo declared the next morning to a small crowd. at the Westside Conservative Club near Des Moines. Never mind, he was hardly known for biting his tongue, even as the best diplomat in the country. It seems clear that Pompeo, a former Republican congressman from Kansas, is driven not only by freedom, but also by a will to high elective office that has long been evident to friends and foes alike. His appearances in two presidential battlefield states only seem to confirm his widely assumed interest in a 2024 presidential campaign. “Usually, former presidents and secretaries of state try not to quickly trash their successors – especially in the field. foreign policy, ”said Michael Beschloss, a presidential historian. He said Pompeo “probably believes he is showing his tricks by lambasting the performance of newly installed President Biden.” “This rush is not a sign of self-confidence,” Beschloss said. “Aspirants for the presidency who are confident in their ability to stay in place are not that attractive.” Pompeo’s political strategist did not respond to messages requesting comment or an interview, but people close to Pompeo said Democratic secretaries of state before him, including John Kerry and Hillary Clinton, openly criticized President Donald Trump . But Kerry largely held his tongue during the first few months of the Trump presidency, becoming more openly critical – albeit less relentless – after Trump announced in June 2017 that the United States would withdraw from the Paris climate accord. . By the time Trump took office earlier that year, Clinton, his election opponent, had long abandoned any non-partisan diplomatic veneer. In particular, Pompeo avoided directly criticizing Antony Blinken, the current secretary of state, with whom he said he had a “productive” meeting in January before Biden’s inauguration. But he has since repeatedly denounced policies in which Blinken plays a key role. Last week, Pompeo tweeted that the Biden administration’s plans to restart aid to Palestinians canceled under Trump were “immoral” and would support terrorist activity. “Americans and Israelis should be outraged by the Biden administration’s plans in this direction,” Pompeo wrote. But his comment goes beyond foreign policy. Pompeo also condemned Biden’s “backward” “open border” policies. And on March 19, he simply tweeted the number 1327 – an apparent reference to the number of days until the 2024 election. Pompeo appears to have a heightened sense of animosity towards Kerry, who is back in government as Biden’s climate czar. This appointment, in part, “does not bode well for American energy and for affordable energy here at home,” Pompeo said in Iowa. And in a Feb. 22 appearance on Fox News, Pompeo referred to his predecessor during meetings Kerry had during the Trump years with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, whom Pompeo called an effort ” non-American ”to undermine Trump’s foreign policy. There are few signs that Pompeo’s critics have struck a chord among Biden officials and their allies. When asked about the comments last month, State Department spokesman Ned Price declined to respond directly, but said the Biden and Trump administrations shared the goal of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. “Nobody cares,” tweeted Ben Rhodes, former deputy national security adviser to President Barack Obama in response to a recent report on Pompeo’s criticism of Biden’s policies. Pompeo drew modest crowds but a warm welcome at two events in Iowa. He was scheduled to speak to Republicans in New Hampshire on Monday in a video fundraiser for a candidate for the state House of Representatives. Republicans say Pompeo has a chance to unite the Trump movement with the more traditional Reaganite wing of the party, in which it has its roots. But it will have a steep climb. Some polls show him far behind nearly every other 2024 Republican candidate in Iowa and New Hampshire. Even Trump, interviewed in a Fox News interview last week, neglected to mention Pompeo when nominating Republicans he hopes will shape the future of the party. “It’s going to be a very crowded field, and someone like Pompeo needs time to break through, which is why he’s starting so early,” said Alex Conant, Republican strategist and former aide to Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. For some, Pompeo is simply continuing a wink campaign he launched as Secretary of State, when he delivered several speeches to the public of Swing States, to evangelical conservatives and to the Annual Conference of conservative political action. He was the first sitting secretary of state in modern history to address a party’s national convention, a platform he used to introduce himself to a national audience during a visit taxpayer-funded diplomatic mission to Jerusalem in August. He also hosted about two dozen State Department dinners over two years for foreign policy discussions with American business leaders and political conservatives whose support would be crucial in future campaigns. Conant said Pompeo most likely believed he needed to play a leading and combative role to make a breakthrough among Republican voters. “Pompeo is always looking to establish its brand,” Conant said. “He’s not that well-known in his own right, and the way to get attention is to be partisan and show the Republican base that you’re ready to take the fight against the Democrats. Pompeo presented his recent political policies as an aid to Republican midterm candidates in Congress. “If we are successful in 2022, 2024 will resolve on its own,” Pompeo said in Iowa. In a hurry, Pompeo did not deny that he was considering a presidential campaign. “I’m always up for a good fight,” Pompeo told Fox News host Sean Hannity in a March 3 interview when asked if he would show up. “I have been part of the conservative movement for a very long time now. I aim to continue. “” I’ll take this as a fort maybe, “Hannity replied.” Perfect, “Pompeo said. In another Fox News appearance last month, Pompeo complained that former officials of ‘Both Obama and Kerry had sought to stay active, at least when it comes to world affairs. “They lost an election, and they should have just gotten out of the limelight,” Pompeo said. This article originally appeared in the New York Times. © 2021 The New York Times Company

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