The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Why I feel sorry for Mike Pompeo

The latest IG report reveals a former secretary of state bereft of friends.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at the State Department on Aug. 7, 2019. (Susan Walsh/AP)

The hard-working staff here at Spoiler Alerts has not been a fan of former secretary of state Mike Pompeo for quite some time. He was such a bad diplomat that he managed to dislodge Rex Tillerson for the title of Worst Secretary of State Ever. His displays of Tartuffery while in office were legion. He left Foggy Bottom with little to show for his nearly three years of service beyond leaving the State Department in pretty bad shape.

Despite all his bad behavior, however, I confess to feeling a small measure of pity for the man. Mike Pompeo is unloved by so many people. One U.S. ambassador described Pompeo to the New Yorker’s Susan Glasser as “like a heat-seeking missile for Trump’s ass.” Last year his hometown newspaper begged him to stop returning to Kansas during his time as secretary of state because his ambitious politicking was so unseemly. His 2021 efforts to go viral on social media have not worked out as planned. And after the latest inspector general report of Pompeo’s behavior as secretary of state, it is increasingly clear that this man has no real friends.

Politico’s Nahal Toosi broke the story last Friday, reporting that the IG’s report revealed “Pompeo violated federal ethics rules governing the use of taxpayer-funded resources when he and his wife, Susan, asked State Department employees to carry out tasks for their personal benefit more than 100 times.” Those tasks included caring for Pompeo’s pets, arranging for Pompeo’s son to secure a government discount at a West Point hotel, securing Sunday brunch reservations at the Cheesecake Factory, and stuffing, addressing and mailing the Pompeos’ personal Christmas cards.

Though not identified by name in the IG report, the bulk of the infractions involved demands of longtime aide Toni Porter, who had previously worked for Pompeo at CIA and in Congress. The part of the IG report that stands out is Pompeo’s justification for his requests and those of his wife from Porter: “Secretary Pompeo told OIG that he did not believe that such requests were improper; rather, his wife was asking a longtime friend – i.e., the Senior Advisor – to take on ‘a small simple task to help her out.’ He added that it was ‘perfectly fine for friends to help each other.’ ”

And this was the moment when any discerning reader must conclude that Mike Pompeo has no real friends.

For one thing, as the IG notes, these friendly requests came to Porter’s State Department email address and not her personal email. For another, Porter clearly did not think that what she was being asked to do was nonofficial. According to the report, she “told OIG that, for the most part, she believed she was performing the tasks described in this report as a part of her official duties.” This matches what she told congressional investigators last fall.

In other words, the person that Mike Pompeo thought of as his friend thought of herself as Pompeo’s employee. Imagine how bad a diplomat one must be to fail to comprehend that a longtime staffer fulfilled requests out of a sense of duty rather than friendship.

Here is the real tell: based on everything that has been reported, can anyone imagine Mike or Susan Pompeo going to a friend’s house on the weekend to help stuff and address envelopes? Take care of a friend’s pet? Pick someone up from the airport? I have had to read and write about Mike Pompeo for four years now. I have met him once. What comes through loud and clear is that he is someone who views public service primarily as a way to promote himself and live off the taxpayer’s largesse.

A good friend would have advised Pompeo to avoid such ethical swamps. Too bad he is apparently friendless.

Loading...