The mainstream media’s usual hand-wringing about President Trump’s Twitter habit morphed into hyperventilation last week after he shared several “unverified” tweets about terrorism, but the director of the Central Intelligence Agency surprisingly doesn’t have a problem with it.
CIA Director Mike Pompeo said at a national security event in Simi Valley, California, over the weekend that Trump’s tweeting has actually yielded helpful intelligence.
The current CIA director sat down with former CIA director Leon Panetta and Fox News host Brett Baier for an hour of discussion on world events from a security perspective at The Reagan National Defense Forum on Saturday.
Baier brought up Trump’s tweets about the Muslim videos and asked Panetta why he thought “it was like playing with fire.”
“When you tweet something like that out there you don’t know what the consequences are going to be, and the consequences could be lives,” Panetta replied solemnly. Baier turned to Pompeo: “One account on Twitter makes your job harder?” he asked. The CIA director’s answer was almost certainly not what the host expected. “No, I don’t know that that’s the case,” he replied. “I’ve actually seen it help us.”
“I have seen things the president has put on his Twitter account actually have a real-world impact on our capacity to understand what’s going on in other places of the world,” Pompeo said. “That is, our adversaries responded to those tweets in ways that were helpful to us to understand command and control issues, who’s listening to what messages, how those messages are resonating around the world,” he added. Panetta seemed taken aback by Pompeo’s answer.
“As a former chief-of-staff, I cannot imagine what it’d like to serve a president who tweets in the morning,” he said. “The whole purpose of the White House is to develop some discipline.”
Panetta went on to explain what most politicians — especially Democrats — mean by discipline: “In terms of messaging, in terms of policy, in terms of everybody being on the same page,” he said. (It’s been painfully obvious for decades that for Democrats, “messaging” isn’t just the most important thing in politics — it’s the only thing. That’s why they always walk, talk and vote in lockstep.)
Pompeo listened politely while Panetta shared his idea of the perfectly run administration: “When you get up, and everybody knows what the message of the day is going to be, and everybody is coordinated!” he declared.
Panetta’s advice for the president was to come up with different policy objectives each day, and then “tweet the hell out of it” instead of “tweeting by the seat of his pants.”
He also suggested that the White House implement “a check system” for every presidential tweet so that every Trump tweet has to go through a fact-checking approval process.
“We’d be a hell of a lot better off,” Panetta stated haughtily. He added that the president’s erratic Twitter habit “raises a little concern about stability.”
Pompeo, as congenially as he could, went in for the kill.
Noting that the world is a dangerous place with more flash-points than ever, he calmly noted that “those all existed before January 20 of this year. So ‘message discipline’ — as you referred to it — got us to those places.” The CIA director paused to let the slow burn hit those in the audience, who reacted with nervous laughter and a smattering of applause. He added, “What I mean is, we shouldn’t over-attribute the place we find ourselves in the world today to things that may or may not have as much impact as folks like to suggest sometimes.” Panetta flailed wildly in response: “You don’t just roll a grenade in the room, have things blow up, then not have a strategy for how the hell you deal with it!”
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I don’t know about you, but my opinion of Mike Pompeo went up a few notches after watching that.