The nation’s top diplomat

NICK EICHER, HOST: From member-supported WORLD Radio, this is The World and Everything in It for Thursday, March 15th. Good morning, I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Pending what could be a contentious confirmation hearing—CIA Director Mike Pompeo is the president’s choice as the next Secretary of State.

EICHER: Pompeo was a relatively unknown member of the U.S. House. He’d just been reelected to a fourth term in Congress when President Trump picked him for the CIA job. But his nomination to Secretary of State is an even bigger surprise.

WORLD Radio’s Jim Henry now with more on the man who may be America’s new top diplomat

JIM HENRY, REPORTER: Mike Pompeo rode the Tea Party wave from Kansas to Washington in 2010 as a relatively unknown figure.

He served on the House Intelligence Committee and the House Select Committee on Benghazi, but never rose to a leadership position. He was most known for his pointed criticism of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton after the Benghazi investigation—citing what he said was a lack of action.

POMPEO: I find it morally reprehensible and behavior that if it was your son or your daughter or one of your family members or friends who were on the ground that night and you watched the actions in Washington, DC, you’d have every right to be disgusted with the response from the senior American leaders.

One thing Democrats and Republicans seem agree on these days is that the president—and the Secretary of State—need to be on the same page regarding foreign policy.

Unlike outgoing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Pompeo is in line with President Trump on key issues, such as scrapping the Iran nuclear deal, opening talks with North Korea, and moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

Robert Charles, former Assistant Secretary of State under George W. Bush, uses a hockey analogy to describe Pompeo’s close relationship with Trump.

CHARLES: You know when a center and a wing read each other’s minds, you get more goals and I think that’s what we’re talking about here.

Charles says Pompeo’s military and political experience will allow him to hit the ground running at State.

CHARLES: Pompeo is an out of the box thinker and quite honestly, he’s an off the charts smart guy. He was number one out of West Point, he was Harvard Law, Harvard Law Review. He’s also a former captain in the Army, and he’s a very crisp thinker and I think the president is looking for that now.

Mark Meadows serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and chairs the conservative Freedom Caucus. He says Pompeo as CIA director personally delivered the daily intelligence briefing to the president and the two grew to trust each other. 

MEADOWS: Director Pompeo and the president have had this personal relationship since early days, really one of the first nominees to be confirmed and so that relationship was not only powerful but it was an honest and candid exchange that they would have almost on a daily basis. 

Pompeo, an evangelical Christian, reportedly also attended a weekly Bible study at the White House. Anonymous CIA critics told Foreign Policy Magazine that Pompeo was too open about his faith, mentioning it repeatedly in his first address to the agency. A CIA spokesman called the accusation absurd.

While Pompeo’s faith is unlikely to play a major role in his confirmation hearing, his other views are already coming under heavy scrutiny. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat from New York, doesn’t like Pompeo’s position on waterboarding terrorists.

Pompeo told lawmakers at his confirmation hearing for CIA director last year that he is open to reexamining the use of waterboarding to get critical intelligence, but he doesn’t endorse it. 

Republican Rand Paul of Kentucky said that’s not enough. On Wednesday, citing positions on torture and the Iraq War, Paul announced he would oppose Pompeo’s nomination.

That means Pompeo will need all other 50 Republican senators to support him, and possibly some Democrats.

Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said he’s a skeptic.

SCHUMER: Will he be tougher on Russia? Will he encourage the president to be tougher on Russia? So there are a lot of unanswered questions. I’m not taking a position until we hear from him, but there are lots of outstanding questions.

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Jim Henry.

(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File) In the May 11, 2017 file photo, CIA Director Mike Pompeo listens while testifying on Capitol Hill in Washington. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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