Colleagues who know Mike Pompeo well in the House Republican Class of 2010 and fellow Kansans who watched his winning bid for Congress and then his phoenix-like rise under President Trump to head the CIA and now the State Deptartment all tell me the same thing: he's never to be underestimated.
As media pundits pile on the secretary of state for such trifles as being on a phone call with a foreign leader, Pompeo remains the conservative North Star for the Trump cabinet and a stabilizing force for an administration under siege.
In some respects, Pompeo's situation reminds me of Dr. Henry Kissinger's role in the Nixon administration.
President Nixon saw Kissinger as his political and intellectual soulmate and quickly promoted him from national security council advisor to secretary of state.
As events turned on Nixon with Watergate, Kissinger became the unifying force in the administration and a positive voice abroad as the scandal led to the walls falling in on the president.
It is doubtful that fate will happen to President Trump. Still, Pompeo remains the "adult in the room" within the Trump inner circle.
Chris Whipple, author of the much-acclaimed "The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency," tells me he sees a similarity between Pompeo and Kissinger.
Kissinger avoided any link to the Watergate affair that forced Nixon to resign the presidency in August 1974 and went on to serve out President Gerald Ford's term as his secretary of state. Democrats saw Kissinger as important for governance of the nation as they sought to remove Nixon from power.
When Trump fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson by Twitter in the summer of 2018, he quickly turned to Pompeo as a replacement.
"Trump's tweets, abrupt changes of mind, and penchant for creating staff turmoil combine to make this a Sisyphean endeavor," Mattathias Schwartz wrote in a New York Times Magazine article about Pompeo's challenges. "And yet Pompeo has kept on rolling this particular boulder. You can look at almost every place where Trump has made a lasting impact on United States foreign policy and find Pompeo not far away: withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement and the Iran nuclear deal; imposing sanctions against the governments of Iran and Venezuela; offering kind words for autocrats in Turkey, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. Pompeo is the continuing architect over the nuclear arsenal controlled by North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Un."
A good part of Pompeo's success is the good rapport he shares with other people in the president's orbit, in the media, and, importantly, in Congress.
With former rival John Bolton gone, Pompeo has an excellent working relationship with new national security advisor Robert O'Brien. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper is a West Point classmate and CIA Director Gina Haspel was formerly Pompeo's deputy when he headed the CIA.
White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, a former Republican House Member from South Carolina, came to Congress with Pompeo in 2010 and became a confidant and friend.
Vice President Mike Pence is also a friend of Pompeo, who worked closely with the then-Indiana governor in 2016 to prepare him for the televised vice presidential debate with Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va.
Inevitably and increasingly, discussion of Pompeo running for president in 2024 comes up.
The secretary of state has made it clear he doesn't want to run next year for the vacant Senate seat in Kansas and all talk of his seeking the top job is usually brushed off by Pompeo himself.
Friends say his focus now is on serving President Trump rather than planning to become the next one.
"Knowing and respecting President Trump as I do, it's easy to see why Mike has so much staying power in this Administration," said former Rep. Todd Rokita, R-Ind., another House classmate and friend of Pompeo.
"He cares deeply about this country, believing in American Exceptionalism; and as a West Point graduate, he adheres strictly to duty, honor, and loyalty to superiors and the Constitution above everyone and everything else."
As Democrats pick away at the president, they should remember Nixon and Kissinger and the importance of keeping America united before the world. Pompeo is the man who does that for us.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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