China and America’s political left are the greatest threats to the nation, said former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Wednesday in Iowa — reigniting speculation he plans a 2024 bid.
The Chinese “want to tell the story about an American decline, and that’s not true. We can’t let it be true,” Pompeo said before taking the stage at an event sponsored by the Bastion Institute, a new political organization that aims to promote ‘strengthening America’s leadership and standing on the international stage.’
Iowa deserves leaders who will fight for conservative values, Pompeo suggested.
“That hard work should be rewarded, that we are a Judeo-Christian nation, that our schools shouldn’t teach that we are racist, that we should prosecute criminals.”
“It’s crazy what’s going on in California,” Pompeo said.
Pompeo was joined by U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst and Terry Brandstad, the former Chinese ambassador and Iowa governor. The three discussed the escalation between Russia and Ukraine, the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, NATO, and foreign policy regarding China and Iran.
They all relayed a unified message: “America first.”
More:Russian President Vladimir Putin announces military operation in Ukraine
In between applause from the audience, each politician took shots at President Joe Biden’s administration, claiming that under his leadership, America has looked weak to foreign leaders.
“I think both the Chinese and the Russians really only respect strength,” Branstad said.
“What happened in Afghanistan was a debacle, and that showed weakness.”
Pompeo: ‘You shouldn’t pretend your enemy is weak’
The panel comes the same week Russia began moving troops into parts of eastern Ukraine and the Biden administration and U.S. allies announced a first wave of sweeping sanctions.
Pompeo has faced criticism for his praise of Putin as a leader. In a Feb. 18 interview with the Center for the National Interest, Pompeo described Putin as “very savvy” and “very shrewd.”
“I consider him an elegantly sophisticated counterpart and one who is not reckless but has always done the math,” Pompeo said in the interview.
At a Wednesday news conference, U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price was asked to respond to Pompeo’s and Trump’s praise of Putin.
“I have no response. In fact I have no words,” he said.
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By Wednesday evening, Pompeo both reiterated and clarified his comments on Putin.
“Vladimir Putin is smart and cunning and capable. He’s also evil and should be crushed,” Pompeo said. “I was taught you need to know your adversary, you need to know your enemy. You shouldn’t pretend your enemy is weak.”
Ernst expressed similar sentiments.
When asked about growing tension between Russia and Ukraine, Ernst said that Biden has failed to show strength in his response to recent escalation.
“We needed to show strength, we needed to show power. That’s what Putin understands,” Ernst said.
Will Mike Pompeo run for president in 2024?
He didn’t say.
“When we turn the corner into 2023, citizens in Iowa will pray and work and hope we make the right decision,” Pompeo said when asked if he has considered running for president.
Pompeo was a U.S. representative for the state of Kansas and the director of the Central Intelligence Agency before becoming secretary of state under President Donald Trump.
Pompeo’s visit also comes as activity begins to percolate around the 2024 presidential primaries.
Iowa Republicans plan to kick off the presidential nominating process with their first-in-the-nation caucuses in 2024. Of the potential presidential candidates making early forays into the state, Pompeo has been among the most visible.
The former secretary of state was a featured speaker at the Family Leadership Summit each of the last two years, and he’s attended public events for various conservative groups in Council Bluffs, Urbandale and Ames over the past year.
In addition to Wednesday’s visit, Pompeo will return in March for a fundraiser hosted by the Republican Party of Iowa.
In January, The New York Post reported that Pompeo has lost 90 pounds, and Axios reported that his political action committee had spent $30,000 on media training. Both have fueled speculation about Pompeo’s 2024 ambitions.
But in a July 2021 interview with the Des Moines Register, Pompeo brushed off a question about whether he planned to run for president.
“We are helping folks run in 2022. That’s as far as we’re looking,” he said. “This fight is going to go on. It will go on past 2022, but what will happen, what my role will be in that, only the Lord knows.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism