Monday, July 17, 2023

the last book I ever read (The Divider: Trump in the White House, 2017-2021, excerpt thirteen)

from The Divider: Trump in the White House, 2017-2021 by Peter Baker and Susan Glasser:

The ascendance of Pompeo at just the moment of Ryan’s reckoning made perfect sense in a political world reordered by Trump. Republicans were now defined by their choices about whether and how to accommodate their leader and his strongman style; most of them did so, but few with more skill and ardor than Pompeo. On paper, Ryan and Pompeo had not started out all that differently in 2016. Both were hawkish Republicans who claimed to love Ayn Rand and loathe a lot of what Trump stood for. But where Trump had proved to be the death of Ryan’s political ambition, he was the catalyst for Pompeo’s—another figure who, like John Bolton, the polarizing new national security adviser, likely never would have been chosen for high office by any president other than Trump.

A husky, evangelical Christian from Wichita, Kansas, with a hair-trigger temper who had started out life as an establishment conservative from Southern California, Pompeo was little known in Washington or anywhere else before Trump came to power. In his first venture in politics, barely a decade earlier, he finished third in a three-way race for chair of the Kansas Republican Party. A Harvard Law School graduate, he had practiced for less than two years at a blue-chip law firm in Washington before abruptly leaving for his late mother’s home state of Kansas. His national security experience, aside from a couple terms on the House Intelligence Committee, consisted of serving as an Army captain in the waning days of the Cold War. The “small business” experience he bragged about as a politician turned out to have been a struggling venture, Thayer Aerospace, that sucked up nearly $100 million in investments, including from the conservative Wichita-based Koch brothers, before Pompeo was forced out as chief executive. The Kochs financed his political career too, making him the single largest recipient of their congressional giving in the 2010, 2012, 2014, and 2016 election cycles. In his six years in Congress, he had never chaired so much as a subcommittee or passed any significant legislation. The major cause with which he was associated was castigating Hillary Clinton for not doing enough to prevent the Benghazi attack. Clinton’s alleged cover-up, he averred at one point on NBC’s Meet the Press, was even “worse, in some ways, than Watergate.”

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