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GUEST EDITORIAL: Mike Pompeo's reign of error comes to an end

The Kansas City Star Editorial Board
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, shown in May, has not addressed the president’s role in encouraging supporters who stormed the Capitol.

Tomorrow, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s service will mercifully come to an end.

America will be better when he leaves office. Kansas will be much better if he decides to stay away from his adopted home state forever.

The latest episode in Pompeo’s reign of error came last week. The secretary gave a speech at the headquarters of Voice of America, the international news network supported by the federal government.

Pompeo called for VOA to abandon its role as a provider of fact-based journalism to become America’s cheerleader instead. He made no mention of the riot at the U.S. Capitol, an omission that drew the attention of a VOA journalist.

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“Mr. Secretary, do you regret saying there will be a second Trump administration?” asked VOA reporter Patsy Widakuswara as the secretary left the building.

Pompeo didn’t answer, as is his wont. Just a few hours later, though, Widakuswara was reassigned from her post at the White House.

Pompeo’s role in that reassignment isn’t clear, although the connection seems obvious enough. The State Department runs Voice of America.

“At a moment when the world already has watched an assault on our democratic institutions, the Trump administration has chosen to send another message — with an assault on the First Amendment,” said a statement from the White House Correspondents’ Association.

“VOA’s reassignment of Patsy Widakuswara for doing her job, asking questions, is an affront to the very ideals Secretary of State Pompeo discussed in his speech Monday.”

That should worry all of us. It won’t worry Pompeo, who has fought free speech and the free press since he joined the Trump administration four years ago.

His battles with reporters, and reporting, were a theme during his time as secretary of state. He exploded after an interview with NPR. He accused a Nashville reporter of working for the Democratic National Committee, a charge he later leveled at PBS.

Closer to home, Pompeo inaccurately accused Star reporters of having “your math wrong” when they asked him about a foreign aid program. They were right. He later claimed a question from a Star political reporter was “insane.”

This is quite rich coming from a man who whines incessantly about alleged censorship on social media. As we now know, Pompeo may be the most anti-free-press secretary of state in American history.

The secretary’s aberrational behavior doesn’t stop there, of course. He sponsored highly questionable taxpayer-funded dinners at the State Department that appeared to serve little purpose beyond bolstering his political ambitions.

State Department workers were allegedly asked to perform personal errands for Pompeo and his spouse, another stain on his record.

More broadly, he has spent the last few months doing his best to wreck the foreign policy of the incoming Joe Biden administration. This week’s declaration of Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism is the latest example of this sad behavior.

Is the U.S. more respected in the world after Pompeo’s service? Of course not. We’re viewed with a mixture of sorrow, anger and pity. Other nations are stepping into the breach.

Five years ago, Pompeo came to national attention after criticizing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for alleged failures during a terrorist raid in Benghazi, Libya. He called her actions “morally reprehensible.”

Now, days after thousands of Americans ransacked our own national Capitol, leaving at least five dead and hundreds terrorized, Pompeo is silent. It appears his concept of morality does not extend to these shores.

Kansans will do well to remember this sad record if Pompeo comes back and runs for office. No doubt he’ll be asked about it, and he won’t respond well.

— The Kansas City Star Editorial Board (TNS).