Mike Pompeo’s book is a serious study of a ‘mean, nasty world.’ If only American politics had this much heft

America’s allies, and all the world’s huddled masses yearning to breathe free, would be horror-stricken to know just how unserious we’ve become as a nation and an electorate.

That’s the careful reader’s sobering takeaway from former Trump Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s new memoir, Never Give an Inch: Fighting for the America I Love.

The former Kansas congressman’s book is no navel-gazing autobiography, as are so many political tomes out there today. It’s more of a West Point class, taught by one of its top graduates, on the state of what Pompeo’s boss called “a mean, nasty world out there.” And what America should do about it.

How utterly refreshing, since our news media are cats chasing the latest shiny object, and we’ve long chosen our national leaders as high schoolers might a student body president – based on popularity and preening rather than pragmatism and policy. Indeed, Hillary Clinton’s likability, or decided lack thereof, actually became a talking point in a 2016 Democratic primary debate.

Really? While it certainly helps politicians not to be covered in quills, did Washington’s, Lincoln’s or FDR’s various charms or churlishness matter to the crushing challenges they faced?

Pompeo sets the tone with an opening quote from President Eisenhower’s first inaugural address: “We must be ready to dare all for our country. For history does not long entrust the care of freedom to the weak or the timid.” No epigraph has more capably foreshadowed the book that follows.

Pompeo proceeds to regale the reader with up-close, first-person looks at the world’s most evil actors, from Kim Jong Un to regimes in Iran, Russia and – the worst of the litter – the Chinese Communist Party (though perhaps not even whimsically opining that while the CCP forms the U.S.’s biggest external threat, “the greatest overall threat to America is actually Randi Weingarten and the teachers’ unions.”).

The scale of the CCP’s “ambition, capacity and intent” for world domination is “breathtaking,” Pompeo writes from first-hand observation. As he told the National Governors Association while in office, the CCP has a list of them all, denoting whether they’re friendly to China. Writes Pompeo – as America wrestles with whether to ban the CCP-connected TikTok social media app – “The CCP is working on every governor, every city councilperson, every state representative, every state senator. … 

“And yes, the CCP has targeted American PTA meetings.”

Pompeo said in one speech that “securing our freedom from the CCP is the mission of our time.”

Despite years of naïve Western democratic dealings with him, China’s leader Xi Jinping is a “dour” devotee of hardline communism, Pompeo warns – adding that the angriest he ever made the CCP was when he suggested there was even a flicker of daylight between it and the Chinese people.

Meanwhile, Pompeo sketches in fine pixels the immense difference in deal-making under presidents Obama and Trump. Under the former, a hostile Iranian regime was granted billions in assets while the much-ballyhooed nuclear deal – neither a treaty, executive agreement nor even a signed document, he notes – did nothing to curb Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, as seized documents have shown.

The Trump administration took a different approach to deal-making than its predecessors, Pompeo argues. “We developed our deal strategy around the central idea of power dynamics: Who has it, and who is prepared to use the power they have? We were willing to lose popularity contests in Beijing and Berlin as long as we were winning great deals for America.”

Not only did America’s adversaries fight that plan of action, but so did the bureaucracy at the State Department and CIA – where Pompeo supposedly held sway – plus even some inside the Trump White House. He characterizes State as “a union-led, passive-aggressive, establishment leak-machine that had resolved from day one of our administration to obstruct the goals of our America First agenda.”

Pompeo encountered “mission drift and hard-left orientation” as illustrated by “massive diversity programs, huge training sessions on work-life balance, and climate change bureaucracies at both outfits …”

And, of course, there was the Russia conspiracy swindle, since proven to be concocted by Trump’s domestic enemies – but which started with an oddly rushed “Russia Intelligence Community Assessment” (ICA) by the Obama Director of National Intelligence just before Trump’s inauguration, alleging Putin actively sought a Trump victory in 2016.

“It was a setup,” Pompeo writes simply, pointing the finger directly at DNI’s James Clapper, FBI’s James Comey and CIA’s John Brennan – but especially Brennan.

“The entire process of the ICA was a political hit job on President Trump, and it was clear much of it was Brennan’s doing.”

In 2020, the intelligence “community” also perpetrated the hoax that Hunter Biden’s scandal-laden laptop was Russian disinformation.

Notably, when Pompeo took over at CIA he tried to get to the bottom of the now-discredited ICA – but his own troops effectively blocked him from doing so.

“It was like chasing a ghost,” he writes. “I could tell early on that it would take near-waterboarding to get them to volunteer a single fact.

“Most of what I learned about the ICA came from those (agents) who had been kept away from its drafting. I discovered that senior analysts who had been working on Russia for nearly their entire careers were made bystanders.”

If obfuscation weren’t bad enough, Pompeo observed a startling aversion to risk-taking in his predecessors. In fact, he writes, Obama National Security Advisor Susan Rice, who acted as a de facto CIA chief, killed so many clandestine operations that they were said to have been “SR’d,” which is short for her initials.

Pompeo recalls an unfortunate introduction to Rice during his time on the congressional committee investigating the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi under Obama. The then-ambassador to the U.N., he writes, “was petulant, snarly, grudging, and completely uninterested in accounting for her role in the massive failure. For this, she was rewarded with a promotion to national security advisor during Obama’s second term, and today she runs the Biden White House’s Domestic Policy Council …”

The result of all this is that Never Give an Inch is an ultra-serious book for a frighteningly unserious country at a most dangerous time.

If only our politics, our discourse, our media and our presidential elections could be as substantive.


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