The withdrawal of the U.S. military from Afghanistan was America’s “greatest self-inflicted wound,” said former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a speech at Hillsdale College on Monday. He accused President Joe Biden of casting aside the Trump administration’s plans for an “orderly and structured withdrawal,” resulting in a humiliation for the United States and tension with American allies.
In wide-ranging comments that involved progressive dominance of Hollywood and the threat of the Chinese Communist Party, Pompeo said America’s founding principles remain intact. He claimed he spent his time as secretary of state working to preserve them. Pompeo referenced Rome’s fall after three centuries of power.
“We’re in our third century now,” Pompeo said, from a podium in Plaster Auditorium. “And it must not signify our descent. The world is depending on us to prevail. We must prescribe faith to a higher power, allegiance to America’s founding documents, and a commitment to American exceptionalism.”
Pompeo praised school choice and Hillsdale’s 1776 curriculum and denounced critical race theory.
“It is neither critical nor a theory,” he said.
Pompeo said he values faith and family as an “evangelical Christian.” He warned against the deification of the federal government.
“The single biggest risk to the United States of America is in our schools and our families,” he said.
“Our government should never promote policies that disrupt this idea.”
A former Republican congressman from Kansas, Pompeo graduated from West Point and served as a tank commander in the Army. He was director of the CIA in the Trump administration before becoming secretary of state. Many pundits regard him as a possible Republican presidential candidate.
During a question period, Pompeo responded to an allegation in Yahoo News by reporter Michael Isikoff that Pompeo as CIA director had considered “killing or kidnapping” WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
“Don’t believe Michael Isikoff,” Pompeo responded. “Don’t believe everything you read on Yahoo News.”
He condemned the administrative state and encouraged civilians to hold government leaders accountable for their actions. Pompeo credited Trump for his defenses of religious liberty and election integrity.
“President Trump was a leader who the American people wanted,” he said. “He gave me a lot of room to go work on religious liberty. We prioritize this in a way that no administration has and it didn’t take 20 minutes for the Biden administration to knock the entire edifice of religious liberty down.”
Though Pompeo did not claim that the 2020 election was stolen, he said it was the responsibility of Americans to make the 2022 election cycle different from 2020.
“We have to make one that’s better than our last one,” he said.
Soma Prisme, a lawyer and pilot who attended the lecture, said she was inspired and encouraged by the speech.
“He reminded me of the integrity of Americans,” she said. “He strikes me as a familiar character because of his background in aerospace and he reminded me of the good, everyday, normal Americans who get things done. You can tell this man has fought a battle or two, and he’s not afraid of the fight, and I think he effectively communicated the message that we can win this.”
Pompeo concluded his talk by saying the Hillsdale supporters in the room were prepared to defend America’s founding principles.
“We are not in decline,” he said.
“It’s an interesting position,” junior Josh Barker, who attended the lecture, said. “While his explicit answer to our dilemmas is, in part, that renewed Christian faith is needed to re-invigorate America and keep us rooted, his entire speech suggests to me that he believes a return to tolerance for all is crucial.”
A group of students met with Pompeo at Broadlawn prior to the lecture. Senior Class President Jacob Hooper said that meeting the former secretary of state was one of his “most fascinating experiences at Hillsdale.”
“He spoke to us about the lessons he learned while serving as secretary of state,” Hooper said. “Specifically, he said, “Personnel is policy,” meaning you need the federal government to be staffed by people who are willing to execute your agenda and not subtly work against you. Pompeo gave us little anecdotes of such difficulties he faced while serving as secretary of state.”
Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn introduced Pompeo to the packed auditorium.
“I’m sorry to say that the current secretary of state is not able to make it,” Arnn said, receiving a roar of laughter from the audience.
“I thought Pompeo was very impressive,” Jerry Brauer, a Hillsdale resident who attended the lecture, said. “I hope he has a further career in politics.”