URBANDALE, Iowa – Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo received a standing ovation before speaking to a crowded room at the Westside Conservative Club meeting at the Iowa Machine Shed Restaurant.
There was a lot of interest in Pompeo, who many believe is considering a run for President in 2024. His presence in Iowa three years before the first in the nation caucus fuels speculation, which he addressed.
“I see a lot of cameras in the back that there’s going to be some big announcement,” he joked. “But my announcement today is really about you.”
“I know that the work that people do all across rural parts of America, and places like we are here today, matters an awful lot to the very things that matter to me and to my faith and to my family. And I wanted to make sure you all know that we’re going to win,” Pompeo said.
“There is not a doubt in my mind that our ideas are right, our values are correct, our understanding of our founding, as the most remarkable thing that has happened ever to a government formation. Our founders had it right this is a nation that is most unique and special in the history of civilization, and that if we stay at it, we will prevail,” he added.
Pompeo defended former President Donald Trump’s southern border policy. A policy that the Biden Administration criticized but has implemented the same detention practices as its predecessor with a growing crisis at the border.
“We worked diligently to set up a system that our southern border that worked. What do I mean by that it worked? It protected American sovereignty increased the probability that we knew if there were guns or drugs or cartels or human trafficking coming across our border. It was humane. It convinced people in desperate situations, sometimes in places like Guatemala, or El Salvador, Honduras, not to make the trek. And then finally, if someone had a legitimate asylum claim, we resolved; we did it while they weren’t here. We did it while they weren’t inside our country in a way that was unlawful,” he said.
Pompeo joked that he passed up former Chicago Bulls star Dennis Rodman as the American who has spent the most time with North Korean leader Kim Jung Un.
He said it was remarkable that his first meeting with Un in Pyongyang did not leak to the press.
“In many respects, we opened up a conversation, we convinced him to stop long-range missile testing, and there’s been no nuclear test. The president met with him in Singapore in June of that year. I also had the enormous privilege on my second, or perhaps it was third trip to North Korea, to bring back three Americans that were being held there,” Pompeo recalled. “And then we have the remains of our fallen soldiers who had been who had been killed in Korea during the war. We had the remains of many of the soldiers returned to the United States of America was one of the great achievements of the things that I was able to do.”
He also noted that Trump’s policy toward the Middle East differed from his predecessors, working toward peace without focusing on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“We took a fundamentally different approach. We wanted life to be better for everyone, including the Palestinians, but we weren’t gonna let the terrorist regime that’s running the West Bank today, the Palestinian Authority, get in the way of increasing peace in the region,” Pompeo noted.
The policy led to the Trump administration putting pressure on Iran.
“No pallets of cash, no resources, no silly deal that doesn’t protect the United States from the most fundamental threat (of) terror, the most anti-semitic nation on the face of the earth,” Pompeo said.
The Trump Administration then moved the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, recognizing the Jewish nation’s claim of that city as its capital.
The Administration then worked on and brokered peace deals, called the Abraham Accords between Israel and several Arab countries in the region.
“We got countries that forever had denied Israel’s right to exist, and we got them to agree, no, it’s better to be their friend, their ally, their partner, their diplomatic counterpart, their security team member,” Pompeo said.
In closing out his remarks before taking questions, he pointed out that the nation’s greatest threat is “getting it wrong at home.”
“The biggest risk to our Republic is from the failure of our institutions to effectively deliver good outcomes for the American people, a failure of our democracy to get our schools wrong and the way they are. Some of the things that we’re teaching in our schools today are crazy on steroids,” Pompeo said.
He then focused on China.
“The Chinese Communist Party wants to undermine exactly what it is we’re doing here today. And too many, frankly, in the Democratic Party don’t understand that in a way that will deliver the things that we need to do for the United States of America,” Pompeo said.
“The Chinese Communist Party wants to undermine the way we think about the world. They’ll use every tool that they have,” he added, mentioning their espionage and Confucious Institutes.
Pompeo said the previous approach to China won’t work and called the world’s most populous country the “challenge of our times.”
“The Chinese Communist Party has designs on global hegemony. And they want to take apart our Republic, and we can’t let it happen. Republicans and Democrats alike for 47 years allowed engagement said if we just buy some more stuff from them, or sell some more things to them, then they’ll stop bothering us. That’s fundamentally not true. It won’t work. It didn’t work. And we can’t allow them to continue to undermine what it is that we cherish and value so much,” he said.
He later pointed out one of the Trump Administration’s most significant tactical gains was banning Huawei equipment from the United States and convincing 60 nations and 120 telephone companies to do the same. Chinese intelligence had used the company’s equipment for data collection in the past.
Pompeo, a former congressman from Kansas, remarked that his visit to Iowa was about 2022 to help Republicans win back control of Congress. He met with U.S. Rep Don Bacon, R-Neb., on Thursday and with U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson, R-Iowa, on Friday afternoon. He noted that he planned to visit several states in that effort.
He asked later about voter fraud and election security.
Pompeo pointed out his concern with many adopted policies during the pandemic and said he believed Republican states were addressing some of those issues. He noted that H.R. 1, the “For the People Act,” would undermine what states were doing to ensure their elections are secure.
Responding to a question, he said that conservatives need to set an example for civility. “And if it’s not reciprocated, if they don’t return that, so be it. That doesn’t require you ever stop defending the principles and values that you believe in and doing it with all the energy and all the vigor that you can muster. The fact that I try every day to get up and be a warrior, with joy in my heart, doesn’t mean that I don’t have a dagger in my mouth. We have to when we think these ideas matter.”
Pompeo then criticized The 1619 Project.
“Our founders nailed it. When I hear them talk about The 1619 Project, that somehow our founding was so fundamentally flawed that we can’t be a great nation, and that somehow other countries, which is more relativistic, not so sure America really has this rightful special place among nations. We’re right. They’re wrong about that. And we should, we should just be clear, we should smile when we say that. And we should reach out a hand and make the case and make the arguments to them about why we’re right,” he said.
Pompeo was asked about media bias. He said that conservatives should acknowledge that it exists but never use it as an excuse for losing.
He also said conservatives should support alternatives, not just conservative outlets, but also outlets doing independent, fact-based journalism.
“We should support those folks who are committed to fairness, transparency, and an equal presentation of the facts,” Pompeo said.
Pompeo also stated that he was concerned about censorship, not just social media censorship, but censorship happening in the workplace.
“The voices that are being shut down in workplaces across America is deeply troubling. And it’s coming from the workforce and then from big company leadership all across America. I don’t want just my ideas. I don’t want just our ideas. And we want to be able to speak their mind in a way that is respectful and decent and tries to make an argument about the right way for America to move forward. We’ve got to figure out a way to confront it, but it starts with each of us,” he argued.
A retired Lutheran Missouri Synod pastor followed-up the question about censorship and asked Pompeo about The Equality Act and its threat to religious freedom.
“This challenge from the Equality Act is real, and as representative of what we were just talking about, they’re very much part and parcel of the same concept,” he said. “The capacity to assemble as we are here this morning, the capacity to speak our minds, as I’ve done this day, the ability of us to practice our faith really are at the center of who we are. The Equality Act is nothing of the kind.”
Pompeo said the left doesn’t just seek equal opportunities. “In the end, the progressive movement seeks equality of outcomes,” he stated.
Iowa conservatives are interested in what Pompeo brings.
“We need some good vision and some leadership, and I think he’s offering some very good choices now,” Kim Schmett, the Westside Conservative Club’s co-leader, told The Iowa Torch. “I think he has a very good vision for our country.”
State Senator Jim Carlin, R-Sioux City, appreciated his message.
“I think his message is ‘be engaged.’ Be engaged; conversations at the dinner table and at work matter. They helped to define the culture and were relevant even though we’re not on the center stage of D.C. politics; we’re relevant at home here in Iowa,” he shared with The Iowa Torch.
Carlin said it is hard not to like Pompeo.
“His persona is impressive, the way he deliberates and answers questions. And he doesn’t take himself too seriously. But his convictions certainly look very real and very needed in this day,” he said.
Samona Yentes, a Clive resident, told The Iowa Torch that Pompeo is someone she’s considered a presidential candidate for some time.
“He’s smart, wise, credible, articulate, bold, capable. His track record indicates he is trustworthy. He’s been my #1 next-in-line draft pick for nearly four years,” she said.