Mike Pompeo’s planned speech to the Republican National Convention has drawn sharp criticism for breaking decades of presidency for incumbent state secretaries to prevent open partisan political activity
WASHINGTON – Mike Pompeo’s planned speech to the Republican National Convention this week has sparked fierce criticism for breaking decades of presidency for sitting secretaries of state and preventing open partisan political activity.
Despite the State Department’s assurances that Pompeo will speak out in his personal capacity and the ban on federal employees not attending public political events on duty, Democrats and others have lamented. They accuse the country’s top diplomat of misconduct that his predecessors had anathema.
Four teams of lawyers, including the State Department’s legal counsel, have reviewed the speech that will be recorded in Jerusalem and broadcast in prime time at the Republican convention on Tuesday to ensure it does not cross ethical rules, according to a person near Pompeo who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
That person and the State Department said no taxpayer money will be used in the production of the video, which will be filmed on the first stop of Pompeo’s current multinational trip to the Middle East that otherwise clearly dominated by official government enterprise.
“I look forward to sharing with you how my family is safer and more secure because of President Trump,” Pompeo tweeted after the RNC announced his appearance. The State Department quickly followed up with comments that distanced the agency from the planned comments.
“Secretary Pompeo will address the convention in his personal capacity,” the department said. “No State Department funds are being used. Staff are not involved in the preparation of the comments as in the arrangements for the appearance of Secretary Pompeo. The state will not bear any costs in combination with this appearance. ”
The person close to Pompeo said the brief address would focus on Trump’s achievements in making Americans and the world safer and promoting his ‘America First’ foreign policy. The speech will not interfere with Pompeo’s own activities as Secretary of State, according to the person who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. Pompeo is likely to adopt Trump’s Mideast policies and the recent agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates to normalize relations.
Critics say, however, that this does not matter and that Pompeo violates the spirit, if not the letter, of the law known as the Hatch Act, by using governmental means to travel locally and endanger a long-standing tradition. which is domestic politics ends up on the edge of the water when it comes to diplomacy. At the same time, they complain that Pompeo, by using Jerusalem as a local, further politicizes the US-Israel relationship with a pitch for the re-election of President Donald Trump.
“It is unusual and very unethical for a sitting secretary of state to address a political convention while on official foreign travel,” said Halie Soifer, head of the Jewish Democratic Council of America. “In addition to violating the Hatch Act, Secretary Pompeo’s plans to speak at the Republican National Convention of Jerusalem underlined the president’s continued attempt to politicize the US-Israel relationship.”
Trump has proudly claimed the mantle of being America’s most pro-Israel president ever, pointing to his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state, to move the U.S. embassy to the holy city of Tel Aviv, Recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights and sideline the Palestinians as evidence. Such actions have won him high praise from conservative Israelis and American Jews, but also an appeal to evangelical Christians in the United States whose support Trump counts in November.
While former Secretary of State has obviously supported the policies of the presidents they have served, they have refrained from making public political distinctions, sometimes too much to avoid the conventions of their parties. That decision by Pompeo to take time out of his official schedule in Israel to record the speech has raised eyebrows.
Former state secretaries have inadvertently escaped partisan rhetoric, and some have made a conscious point of being abroad and unavailable during the nominating events of their presidencies.
Like two of his predecessors, John Kerry and Hillary Clinton, who both failed to nominate the Democratic Party for president, Pompeo was a member of Congress before joining the executive branch. But both Clinton and Kerry dismissed the Democratic National Convention while serving as America’s top diplomat.
When President Barack Obama was officially nominated for a second term during the party convention in 2012, Clinton was half a world away, traveling to the Cook Islands, Indonesia, China, East Timor, Brunei and Far East Russia. When Clinton was nominated in 2016, Kerry was traveling in Europe and Southeast Asia.
It’s not just Democrats. When Republicans nominated John McCain in 2008, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was traveling to Portugal, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco.