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WaPo Defends Obama in Report on Pompeo Speech Trashing Him

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo returned [1] to the spot where, in 2009, President Obama sided with Iran against Israel and scolded Arab leaders for human rights violations to announce the U.S. “has reasserted its traditional role as a force for good in this region” and say that “We’ve learned from our mistakes.”

The speech was a “scathing rebuke” of the Obama administration “that centered on exerting maximum pressure on Iran and doubling down on the United States’ alliances with Sunni autocrats and Israel,” according to  John Hudson and Sudarsan Raghavan of the Washington Post in “Pompeo uses Obama as foil in sweeping Middle East speech,” [1]

Pompeo was speaking out against the “landmark deal” with Iran and how Obama, in his speech, had “extended an olive branch to Iran and called for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

It quoted Pompeo saying [1], “Remember: It was here, here in this very city, another American stood before you. He told you that radical Islamist terrorism does not stem from ideology. He told you 9/11 led my country to abandon its ideals, particularly in the Middle East.”

Hudson and Raghavan responded [1]: “It is unclear what Pompeo meant by abandonment of ‘ideals,’ but Obama’s speech did take a stand against the use of ‘torture’ to interrogate terrorism suspects, as well as detentions at the U.S. prison facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In terms of calling out radical Islamists, Obama’s address referred to the problem of ‘violent extremism’ – a term that has been criticized by Republicans as an attempt to be ‘politically correct.’”

The story then quoted some Obama administration officials saying [1] Pompeo’s speech amounted to taking “potshots at an effort to identify common ground between the Arab world and the West” and showed “a lack of strategic vision for America’s role in the region and its abdication of America’s values.”

Which values? The answer comes in the next sentence [1]: “Pompeo offered unconditional praise to Israel and credited countries such as Saudi Arabia and Bahrain for pushing back against Iranian aggression.”

It follows with a potshot at Pompeo. “While Obama’s 2009 address cautioned that the United States did not have the answers to all of the Middle East’s ‘complex’ problems, Pompeo castigated that approach as insufficiently prideful.” [1]

It then quoted him as saying, “The good news is this: The age of self-inflicted American shame is over, and so are the policies that produced so much needless suffering.”

The New York Times linked [2] Pompeo’s speech to President Trump’s remarks that Chinese trade officials negotiated in better faith than Democrat congressional leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer in “Trump and Pompeo Embrace Autocrats and Disparage Opponents at Home” by Mark Landler.

In what Landler called “a caustic, point-by-point repudiation of Mr. Obama’s message,” [2] he said Pompeo “paid tribute to Egypt’s repressive president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, for his courage in supporting Mr. Trump’s alternative approach.”

Landler later wrote [2]: “Mr. Trump’s affinity for strongmen is well established, as is his contempt for his predecessor and his habit of gleefully ridiculing opponents, regardless of their party affiliation. But rarely has the Trump administration offered such a striking displaying of embracing autocrats as friends and painting those at home with whom it disagrees as enemies.”

The Times noted [2] that it was “hardly surprising” Pompeo would attack U.S. Middle East policy under Obama given his record of going after Hillary Clinton over Benghazi but that it rankled some “who subscribe to the adage that partisan politics should stop ‘at the water’s edge.’”

It then quoted Bill Kristol, whose magazine Weekly Standard collapsed in part thanks to its anti-Trump views [3], saying, “There’s something a little cheap about going to Cairo. If he doesn’t approve of Obama’s Cairo speech, the way you do that is not to give another Cairo speech.”

It closes with a quote from former deputy secretary of state William Burns, who said [2]: “The irony is that trashing his predecessor or congressional opponents on the global stage is seen by those same strongmen as evidence of his weakness and manipulability.”