One of our favorite stories about the State Department involves one of the wisest secretaries, George Shultz. Supposedly before he sent a new ambassador overseas he would invite the tyro into the secretary’s office. At some point he would sidle over to a large globe and give it a spin. Then he would ask the new ambassador to point to his country. As the globe slowed, the new envoy would point to whatever country he was assigned — France, maybe, or Brazil.
“Oh, no,” Mr. Shultz would say, spinning the globe again. When it stopped he would point to America and proclaim, “THIS is your country.”
We thought of that story as we read of the latest attempt to discredit Secretary of State Pompeo. It seems the Democrats are trying to drum up a scandal over the fact that Mr. Pompeo is spending so many of his — and Mrs. Pompeo’s — evenings hosting dinners to sound out the concerns of his fellow Americans. The Democrats are concerned so few of the guests are foreign dignitaries, as opposed to American business persons and politicians.
NBC reports that the series — begun in 2018 and dubbed the “Madison dinners,” after the fifth secretary of state (and fourth president), James Madison — take place in the State Department’s diplomatic rooms at taxpayers’ expense. They bring together what NBC calls “billionaire CEOs, Supreme Court justices, political heavyweights and ambassadors.” The network seems upset that they wear “evening attire,” rather than bib overalls and galoshes.
What gets us about this is that NBC seems upset that the dinners include so many blasted Americans. The network said its investigation — that’s the word it used — found that only 14% of the 500 persons so far invited to these soirees are “diplomats or foreign officials.” It reckons 20% come from politics or government, while 29% are from the corporate world. A quarter of the corporate types, NBC notes, “hailed from the media or entertainment industries.”
The network found State Department “officials” who claim to have raised concerns that the events were, as NBC paraphrased them, “essentially using federal resources to cultivate a donor and supporter base” for Mr. Pompeo’s “political ambitions.” That would be one of the best things to come out of this, in our opinion. It’s hard, in any event, to recall a weaker attempt at scandal-mongering to fetch up in years.
Just to mark the point, in-reach to America, as well as outreach to the world, is emerging as a feature of Pompeo diplomacy. He spoke of it three months ago at a meeting of the National Governors Association. “I’ve probably traveled inside the country more than many secretaries of state,” he said. “It’s something they usually don’t do as much. I think it’s important that the American people understand what our diplomats are doing around the world and why we’re doing it.”
It strikes us as a smart strategy at a time when we have a trade war going with the Chinese communists, a transnational pandemic, a Mideast plan on offer that stresses rounding up vast private investment to pave the way to peace, and an enormous opportunity to reshape business with Britain in the wake of its departure from the European Union. Could the failure of, say, John Kerry or Hillary Clinton on these fronts be owing to the lack of the kind of in-reach being pursued by Mr. Pompeo? He’s certainly passing Secretary Shultz’s test with flying colors.
Drawing by Elliott Banfield, courtesy of the artist.