Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the Biden administration's slow response to a suspected Chinese spy balloon flying over the United States is the latest example of failing to do "the simple things to protect the country."
Pompeo, considered a potential contender for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, appeared on Hugh Hewitt's podcast on Monday and was asked if he had been "amazed at the incompetence" of President Joe Biden's team in dealing with the balloon.
"I am but we've seen this," Pompeo told Hewitt. "This isn't the first demonstration of the inability to do the simple things to protect the country. You call it incompetence — just the absence of a gut instinct that says this is the thing we need to do.
"Afghanistan is probably the quintessential public example, but we could, time and time again, watch as the Biden administration simply failed to do the basics of the things that matter most and deter aggression.
"We now have a war in Europe, and we've got the Chinese on the march. This has not been a good first two years. I hope the president tomorrow night in the State of the Union will candidly acknowledge that he got this one wrong."
The U.S. military shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon off the South Carolina coast Saturday after it traversed sensitive military sites across North America. China, insisting the flyover was an accident involving a civilian aircraft, threatened repercussions.
"I ran the CIA. Every now and again, you'd have an operation that ends with your adversary figuring out what you were doing," Pompeo said. "It's certainly embarrassing for you, and you try to mitigate what was going on and say this isn't important.
"[Chinese President] Xi Jinping is not for a moment going to back away from this. He now has seen how the Biden administration responds to a direct threat to American sovereignty. He sees what's happening at our southern border there. And I am confident that if you're the Taiwanese people, you now wonder, 'If he's not going to stop a balloon from going through the United States, will he really show up to provide us what we need when push comes to shove?'"
Pompeo said the seriousness of the balloon should not be lessened just because China already has satellite photos of the U.S.
"Don't just think imaging. Think all kinds of signals collection, detection work that could likely have been going on," Pompeo told Hewitt. "That array that I saw, and granted, I saw commercial images, that array looked very much like a pretty sophisticated tool.
"And [when I was at the CIA] I would love to have had that over our adversary's sites. Our ability to detect what they were doing, when they were doing it, how they were doing it, how they responded to the fact that we were there, all of those things would have been incredibly important. The Chinese Communist Party now quite likely knows those things about us."
Hewitt asked Pompeo whether, during his time in the Trump administration, he ever had been briefed about a similar incident.
"Never," Pompeo said.
"A balloon traveling at a slow rate over the continental United States the size of a couple of buses is not a minor incursion. That is a serious matter and I am confident every senior leader … political leader in the Trump administration would have known about it if that happened."
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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