Conservative Democrats could be about to make a warmonger America’s chief diplomat

MIke Pompeo
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CIA director Mike Pompeo’s nomination as Secretary of State could go down in history as the first top diplomat to be confirmed after failing to get the public support of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. And if he is confirmed, Pompeo will have one or more conservative Democrats to thank for it.

Pompeo needs at least one Democrat to vote for his confirmation, because Republican senator Rand Paul has already come out against him. And unless Republican senator John McCain comes back quickly from medical leave (an unlikely possibility), the Republican Party (GOP) can’t confirm Pompeo without a Democrat crossing the aisle to vote for him.

How conservative Democrats could ease Pompeo’s path to the State Department

Here’s the problem: the GOP has many Democrats from which to choose. Senators Joe Manchin, Heidi Heitkamp, Claire McCaskill and Joe Donnelly – all conservative Democrats and all publicly undecided on Pompeo – face tough reelection bids this year in states Trump won handily.

Independent senator Angus King (Maine), who caucuses with Democrats, hasn’t come out publicly against Pompeo either. Hillary Clinton won his state in 2016 by less than three points, and the state awarded one electoral vote to Trump. Maine is one of only two states that don’t use a winner-takes-all system in the Electoral College.

When President Donald Trump nominated Pompeo to head the CIA, 15 Democrats voted to confirm him. Even with his hawkish military policy and his views favoring torture, Democrats could not hold together to stop his confirmation.

All four of the conservative Democrats that the GOP will likely target now to confirm Pompeo also voted to confirm him as CIA director.

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Pompeo kept the meeting secret, even from the committee looking to approve his nomination. Ranking Democratic member Bob Menendez said this was one reason he won’t support Pompeo.

Despite this opposition from many Democrats, however, where do conservative Democrats stand on the issues central to the Pompeo question?

Pompeo’s hawkishness on Syria wouldn’t likely lead to unified Democratic opposition. Only four Democratic and independent senators have come out with principled opposition to the latest US military action in the country.

Pompeo’s long and troubling history on the torture issue also didn’t seem to sway the 15 Democrats who voted to confirm him to lead the CIA – the agency most associated with using torture.

Pompeo even reached out to Hillary Clinton for help with his confirmation hearings. Clinton said she spoke with Pompeo and urged him to keep on career diplomats, something his predecessor Rex Tillerson failed to do.

A line in the sand

At this point, it’s fair to ask what some Democrats won’t tolerate when it comes to aggressive foreign policy. More than a dozen of them were willing to put a torture apologist and warhawk in charge at the CIA. Now, he appears poised to take over as the nation’s top diplomat.

Could a vote against Pompeo prove to be an election-year problem for Dems facing challenges from the right? Of course. But in the end, Democratic senators will have to ask themselves whether their jobs are more important than peace.

Unfortunately for lovers of peace everywhere, it’s unclear how committed those same senators are to peace in the first place.

Get Involved!

– Pompeo’s confirmation hearing won’t likely be held until the week beginning 23 April. So there is still time to pressure senators to vote not to confirm him as Secretary of State. Anti-war group Code Pink has a petition urging senators to vote no on Pompeo. And Win Without War, a coalition of anti-war organizations, has a helpful chart of where your senator stands on Pompeo, along with information on how to contact them.

Featured image via Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

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