On Monday evening, The New York Times published a profile on former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, noting that Pompeo has boldly attacked President Joe Biden’s foreign policy. The Times’ Twitter account shared the story with a message that led many people to question whether or not America’s newspaper of record had forgotten that Hillary Clinton existed.
“Mike Pompeo is emerging as the most outspoken critic of President Biden among former top Trump officials, ignoring, much as he did in office, the custom that current and former secretaries of state avoid the appearance of political partisanship,” the Times tweeted.
This led Townhall news editor and Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich to laugh out loud. “LOL they forgot who Hillary Clinton is,” she tweeted.
LOL they forgot who Hillary Clinton is https://t.co/NMVELTbwVg
— Katie Pavlich (@KatiePavlich) March 30, 2021
Andrew Follett, a senior analyst at the Club for Growth, responded, “Were you snoozing for the last 4 years?” He shared three headlines in which former Secretaries of State — Madeleine Albright, Hillary Clinton, and John Kerry — loudly condemned President Donald Trump.
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Matt Whitlock also responded with exasperation. “What former Secretaries of State have avoided political partisanship?! Hillary Clinton? John Kerry? Colin Powell who has endorsed every Dem for 20 years? Albright called Trump a fascist. Only recent Secretary of State to respect this ‘custom’ is Condi Rice,” he tweeted.
Ian Miles Chong simply responded, “Hillary Clinton exists.”
Before Trump won in 2016, Clinton warned about any questions to the legitimacy of the 2016 election, but after he won, she started questioning the election’s legitimacy. “Our democratic institutions and traditions are under siege,” Clinton wrote of Trump’s presidency.
To be fair, the New York Times article did mention Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, acknowledging that these former secretaries of state did condemn Trump. However, the Times suggested that their bald criticism was different because they waited a few months to do it:
Mr. Pompeo’s political strategist did not respond to messages seeking comment or an interview, but people close to Mr. Pompeo said Democratic secretaries of state before him, including John Kerry and Hillary Clinton, were openly critical of President Donald J. Trump.
But Mr. Kerry largely held his tongue for the first months of the Trump presidency, growing more openly critical — if less relentlessly so — after Mr. Trump announced in June 2017 that the United States would pull out of the Paris climate agreement. By the time Mr. Trump took office earlier that year, Mrs. Clinton, his election opponent, had long shed any nonpartisan diplomatic veneer.
Yet the Times left out another key piece of context. Pompeo rushed to defend Trump’s foreign policy record precisely because Biden — following the legacy media and much of the foreign policy establishment — condemned Trump’s foreign policy as an aberration. Biden proudly declared, “America is back!” because Trump — and Pompeo — were out of office.
“‘Back.’ Does he mean back to when ISIS controlled a caliphate in Syria that was the size of Britain? I hope not. President Trump and our team took that down,” Pompeo said in January. “When he says ‘back,’ when ‘America is back,’ does he mean back to letting China walk all over us, destroying millions of jobs in places like Kansas and South Carolina. … I hope that’s not what he means by back. He talked about allies, when he said go ‘back,’ does he mean back to dissing allies and friends like Israel and treating the terrorists in Iran like friends by giving them $150 billion in pallets of cash?”
“I don’t think the American people can afford to go back to eight more years of Barack Obama’s foreign policy,” the former secretary of State said. “I hope they’ll move forward with a foreign policy look much more like our America-first foreign policy.”
Pompeo has rushed to condemn the Biden administration, but Biden has set precedents of his own. The current president rushed to erase his predecessor’s legacy, as if he were striking the former president’s name from the history books. Biden embraced the Palestinians, undermining Trump’s historic Middle East peace deals. In an ultimate sign of pettiness, Biden dropped the key border deals the Trump administration made with Latin American countries — before he came back to them begging for help amid the border crisis. All the while, Biden rushed to take credit for Trump’s accomplishments against the COVID-19 pandemic, especially the vaccine.
Hillary Clinton did wait a few months to condemn Trump, and so did John Kerry. But Biden did not wait a moment to tarnish and erase his predecessor’s legacy. Pompeo defended his work as secretary of state — important work that Biden rushed to erase.
The New York Times did not forget about Hillary Clinton, but the tweet certainly left that impression.
Tragically, the ideal of statesmanship — of the politician who serves the people and then refuses to criticize his successor in the name of the public good — has fallen on hard times. Both the Right and the Left share some blame for this, because the true culprit is partisanship itself — and the increasing demonization of political opponents.
That said, Trump and Biden represent two entirely different worldviews, and it stands to reason that the shift from one to the other will involve a great deal of churn. Pompeo is fighting that churn — and defending his legacy in the face of a hostile press and a hostile president.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.