Pompeo Demonstrates Government Arrogance As He Punishes NPR

Isn’t this the kind of government that Republicans tell us we should fear?

I’m really kind of amazed at the story of Mike Pompeo and the NPR reporter, Mary Louise Kelly. It’s all over the news, so do a search and pick your favorite news outlet. The details don’t really matter that much to me here. What matters to me is that Pompeo is Secretary of State, one of the most powerful positions in the US government, and he’s using that power to punish what should be a free and unfettered press. He used his power to berate and remove from a press pool, a reporter who dared to ask the wrong questions. Who knew which questions were the wrong questions?

By his punitive actions, Pompeo has forgotten that the Framers intended for this country to have a free press to hold the government accountable for their actions. Apparently, Pompeo doesn’t believe in government accountability, and he is exhibiting the kind of government arrogance that limited government Republicans like to warn us about.

NPR hired Mary Louise Kelly to do a job, and that is to ask the questions required to keep our government accountable. They are doing the people’s work, just like FOX News, just like any other news organization. No one deserves to be cursed and chastized in the way that Mike Pompeo did to her. No member of the press should be removed from a press pool just for asking questions intended to hold the government accountable.

Surely, there are conservatives cheering on this move. Surely conservatives, authoritarians though they might be, believe in punishing a liberal media representative for asking innocent questions. But had it been on Obama’s watch, doing the same to someone from FOX News, there would be an enormous outcry and backlash on the part of the conservative press.

The First Amendment reads as follows:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Which part of the Constitution was Mike Pompeo thinking of when he removed Kelly from the press pool for his upcoming trip to Europe and Central Asia? Which part of the Bill of Rights was Pompeo thinking of when he made an agreement with Kelly prior to that fateful interview, that limited the kinds of questions she could ask? Should there be any limits on the kinds of questions a reporter should be able to ask? If Pompeo believes that there should be no such limits, he must be thinking that there should be no limits if a Democrat is in the White House.

Pompeo, in his arrogance, cursed and yelled at Kelly for asking the wrong questions. If he really believed that Kelly did wrong, all he needed to do was say, “no comment” or, “I cannot confirm or deny”. Someone with real power understands this. Pompeo must not believe that he has any real power or he would not have lashed out at Kelly in the way that he did. He would not have removed her from the press pool as a very public form of punishment.

But there is something else missing here. In his unhinged exercise of government power, Pompeo forgets that he works for us, the taxpayers. The taxpayers, regardless of their political affiliation, have a reasonable expectation that Pompeo would be prepared to answer any question posed to him by any member of a free and unfettered press. He works for us, the people who pay the taxes that fund his department, and his job. We delegated power to him, with an expectation that he would exercise that power for the benefit of the people and the people alone. Like Trump, he seems to think that a delegation of the power of the people can be used for personal vendettas.

The fact that Pompeo feels that such behavior is appropriate in any realm speaks to the very real arrogance of this administration. Authoritarian, punitive, vindictive, secretive and paranoid. Pompeo believes his actions against NPR and Kelly are totally justified, or he would not have done them. He would have rescinded his action if he figured out later that he may have acted too harshly. He might have considered that he works for taxpayers before booting Kellly off the press pool list.

Is that how everyone is in this administration? Shoot first and ask questions later? Do they all yell and curse upon the slightest infraction? If Mike Pompeo feels free to yell and curse at a lowly reporter, I have to wonder what it must be like to work in the same office as him, or just outside his door. Who gets it every day when Mike gets a little pissed off? We know that Trump can blow his cool. It looks to me like Trump likes to hire people like him who go through the roof at the slightest offense. Now I’m beginning to wonder if they really can avoid a war with Iran.

Pompeo was so vindictive in his actions against Kelly, that he seems to be acting as if he’s a member of the aristocracy, protecting a monarch. Or maybe he thinks he’s a member of the mob and he’s demonstrating some restraint.

Whatever was on his mind when he decided that Kelly was asking the wrong questions or when he decided to yell at her and curse her, or when he decided to remove Kelly from the press pool, we may never know. But Pompeo just demonstrated to everyone that Republicans don’t really mind it when the government exercises power in a way that they’ve been warning us about for decades.

Despite what they say, Republicans really don’t mind arrogant abuses of power by government. Mike Pompeo is proof positive of Republican attitudes about big government, especially when it suits their interests.

Write on.

Written by

Husband, father, worker, philosopher, and observer. Plumbing the depths of consciousness to find the spring of happiness. Write on.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store