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Opinion | How to Sell Your Soul to Donald Trump


There’s no way that Mike Pompeo actually venerates Donald Trump. I doubt he even likes the president much.

Pompeo graduated first in his class at West Point decades ago, a feat that suggests enormous reserves of discipline, a profound respect for tradition and a talent for self-effacement when the circumstances warrant it. Trump possesses none of those qualities.

Pompeo is an evangelical Christian, steeped in the very dictums that Trump has spent a lifetime mocking with both his words and his deeds. And Pompeo has long believed in the importance of American military intervention abroad, the kind of activist role that Trump railed against during his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.

In fact Pompeo, who was then a congressman from Kansas, supported Marco Rubio — and publicly praised him, while disparaging Trump, just before the state’s Republican caucus in March 2016. As Susan Glasser of The New Yorker recalled in an excellent recent profile of Pompeo, he sounded an alarm that Trump would be “an authoritarian president who ignored our Constitution.” He urged Republicans to come to their senses and resist the lure of the surging Trump campaign. “It’s time,” he said, “to turn down the lights on the circus.”

But the lights continued to burn bright, so Pompeo just put on a clown suit, put away his ethics and finagled a big role under the Big Top.

He had plenty of company in that transformation. It’s the wonder of the Trump era and one of the saddest, scariest themes of the impeachment inquiry so far: the teeming crowd of sellouts and suck-ups who eagerly traded principle for position and are in some cases doubling and tripling down on that transaction, to a point where it’s fair to ask if there was ever much principle to begin with.

[Get a more personal take on politics, newsmakers and more with Frank Bruni’s exclusive commentary every week. Sign up for his newsletter.]

I’m looking at you, Lindsey Graham, who somehow decided that Trump was the new John McCain, which is like deeming tripe the new tenderloin. Hell, I’m looking at most of the Republicans in the Senate. I’m not so much looking at Attorney General William Barr, odious as his behavior has been, because it’s clear in retrospect that he never made much of a pretense of rectitude, at least not in the context of Trump. He also wasn’t on record trashing Trump, not the way Pompeo and Graham and so many others who now dutifully echo him and gaze beatifically at him were. They must have broken necks from their moral whiplash. Barr’s neck supports that big head of his just fine.

Pompeo, who first signed on as Trump’s C.I.A. director and then flattered his way to secretary of state, is a paragon of these lackeys-come-lately, and he’s especially vivid proof of how easily and completely the lure of power can overwhelm any call to conscience.

He raised his hand for secretary of state after he’d seen his predecessor, Rex Tillerson, humiliated by Trump and fired by tweet. This was more than a year into Trump’s presidency, by which point the rationalizations of other supposedly serious conservatives who took top administration jobs no longer held water. It was clear that Trump wasn’t just a few artful nudges away from proper presidential bearing. He couldn’t be lifted up because he was too busy cruelly dragging everyone else down.

But Pompeo had a heady shot at a vaunted job that almost surely wasn’t going to come his way any other time. So he lunged for it, then demonstrated with his obsequiousness that doing good and doing right were never high on the agenda.

He wrote an op-ed article that essentially broke with his fellow Republicans to promote Trump’s view that Saudi Arabia’s butchery of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi shouldn’t give anyone pause. What are a few severed body parts among allies?

He recalled the ambassador to Ukraine just to please the president and his babbling Beelzebub, Rudy Giuliani. He listened mutely to that July 25 phone call between Trump and the Ukrainian president, decided to ignore what he heard and then claimed — until a few days ago — that he was utterly in the dark about any pressure on Ukraine to kneecap Joe Biden.

Had he spoken up or pushed back, he would have risked ending up on the outside, among the swelling Trump administration diaspora. He preferred the inside, with its glossier trappings and cushier thrones. He and his wife were diplomatic royalty, jetting around the world. He could bear the ache of a tongue full of tooth marks. Better to be a wretched part of history than no part at all.

The tale sounds familiar because it is. It’s the story of Faust, who sold his soul for renown, then endured the ugliness of that deal. It’s also the story of too many of Trump’s Republican enablers to count. Sure, many of them decided to prop and pretty him up, a man whose unfitness for the Oval Office was never really in doubt, out of tribal loyalty, a force far too potent in American politics today. But some rushed to him because that’s where the riches were, at least metaphorically. That’s where the fame was.

And they weren’t simply burying the hatchet with a politician who hadn’t been their preferred candidate or whose positions differed from theirs only slightly. They were dismantling the chain saw that they’d wielded in the face of a fraud whose conduct, along with some of his proposals, was antithetical to who they claimed to be.

Few people remember anymore, but just years before she became the dark empress of “alternative facts,” Kellyanne Conway was a respected, reasonably mainstream, uncontroversial Republican pollster and strategist. Just months before she joined Team Trump, she correctly labeled him “vulgar,” said that he wasn’t presidential, called him a liar and demanded his tax returns. Then he offered her the lofty job of managing his presidential campaign — and all the television airtime that came with it — and she turned herself into a kowtowing cartoon. She’ll never be seen the same way again. Was the ride really worth it?

And what was Mick Mulvaney thinking when he agreed to be Trump’s third chief of staff, having witnessed the tortures of chiefs Nos. 1 and 2? Before Trump was elected, Mulvaney called him and Hillary Clinton “two of the most flawed human beings running for president in the history of the country,” and lest you think Trump was merely collateral damage in her disparagement, Mulvaney separately called Trump “a terrible human being.” Now he calls him boss. Amazing how revulsion crumbles when relevance is in the equation.

Graham was oddly and briefly honest about this in an interview with The Times’s Mark Leibovich, framing his kinship with Trump, whom he once called “the world’s biggest jackass,” as part of his career-long quest “to try to be relevant.” This quest now involves the insistence that Trump, rather than abusing the presidency to dig up imagined dirt on a political rival, is the victim of some setup.

You can hear Graham’s version as predictably loopy illogic from a senator up for re-election next year in the deep-red state of South Carolina, but it’s more than that. It’s the fee for being able to get the president on the phone, for being invited to play golf with him, for feeling the rush of access, for getting to crow about your perch at the epicenter of the action. He and Pompeo will have insider anecdotes to last the rest of their lives. They’ll need just as long to convince themselves that they didn’t overpay.


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61 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Cappy: Heap-big Pocahontas agree. Now gettum her a beer!

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    2. The best thing that could have happened for America was the election of Donald Trump. If you're a religious person, you might believe it was a miracle of God, as virtually everyone (including those who paid millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation for future favors) knew that Godless Hillary was going to be our President. Thank you Jesus!

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  2. You leftists are demonic. Nothing Trump says or does comes even close to comparing to the evil you people are promoting.

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    1. You are 110% correct SoCal Guy!!! These idiots wouldn't know truth even if it hit them between their beady eyes.

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    2. Franklin Graham is a prime example of how the evangelical Christians wear
      there christian values like a trench coat that can be removed when it's
      inconvenient to their plans! that's how they can justify supporting someone
      like Trump who is Liar and cheat, and Unfit to Lead!

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    3. SHAZAAM! Another liberal with the majikal gift of reading minds and accessing conservative motives. It is NOT Der (evil) Trumpenfueher who would force Queer Theology on the nation; punishing business owners whose religious beliefs regard homosexuality as sin. It is President Trump’s commitment to Constitution protecting conservative judges, who understand that freedom of speech and religion are foundational to ALL other freedom. BTW: God also once used a wicked King, Cyrus of Persia, to facilitate the return of the Israelite children to Jerusalem. ELK (USNA ’68)

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    4. Trump demonic, racist, fascist? Really? I have never seen anything to support these moronic assertions except lies by the Anti-American Democrats and their mouth pieces in the press. Stop it already.
      BTW, Trump didn't ask Ukraine and China to investigate his "political rival Biden" he asked them to investigate his crack head son who Biden used as a cut out for passing the bribe money to a corrupt VP who sold his office. Same way Hillary used her "foundation" to launder her bribes.
      Democrats, ya gotta love 'em.

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    5. And what evil is that? Please explain.

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  3. There's a special place in hell for zealots.

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    Replies
    1. Let's not forget Biden and Obama.

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    2. Bubba and Hilligula have reserved the presidential suite there.

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    3. Demons calling others evil.... whats it say in some book I've read ... good will be considered evil and evil good... well here we are....

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    4. all thanks to Saul Alinsky. He hated God

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  4. Better than selling your soul to politicians that support the killing of millions of the unborn.

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  5. Apparently, the author does not understand the simple reality of the situation at the time these people made these decisions. It was either going to be Hillary and her severely corrupt associates, or the only Repub candidate that had the chutzpah to stand up against them. Of course Trump is imperfect (by the way, we ALL are, another fact lost on most Demonrats), and he is not a professional politician. Hillary IS a professional corruptocrat though, so whats her excuse for all of her scandals, bad decisions, ETC,ETC?

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    Replies
    1. Saying that Trump is "imperfect" is like saying that everyone could stand to lose a few pounds. But he weighs 800 lbs.

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    2. your idiocy equals that of FuBar Ack's

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    3. This writer is most likely like all left wing leaning democrats. The democrat Media Mob is consistent that they all are proponents of left wing policies except them. Obama was a master at doing nothing except excelling the goal to a socialistic American society and giving Billions to the Mullahs of Iran that hate America. He had the audacity to think that a Sharia Iranian society would work along with the U.S. He is from the southside of Chicago as I am and I know his work of organizing and it sure did work for those who believed his bull.

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  6. The constant drum beat by the left to have a coup is the real danger to our Republic. After the failed coup, Democrats have become unhinged from reality. Now that they let their freak out the Democrats now publicly advocate for destructive policies. It's as if they want to punish themselves and the nation.

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    1. Look at how the Democrats are attacking Trump and using the government against him. That's how they plan to treat the people who voted for him. Making up allegations, demanding investigations, and calling objection to that obstruction of justice.

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    2. yah, just keep going with being a Trump zombie and buying "the Truth isn't the Truth"
      and "don't believe what you see and hear for yourself" only Trump and fox news knows
      what's real and what is your truth. it's a very sad thing!

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  7. People generally don't care about an issue until it has a DIRECT EFFECT on them. Trump's antics, some of which are clearly illegal, and most of which are amoral, are seen by most people as nothing of consequence...until there is a DIRECT EFFECT. People lack foresight, most people anyway. And so, it is the job of congress.

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    1. "People lack foresight …" Wow, you are SUCH an intellect! Let's talk about the people I know best; a doctor, 2 nurses, a naval officer, a school principal, 2 business owners, a prison therapist, a small airport operator, a non-profit AA, 2 retired science teachers, and a number of housewives, students, office workers, construction workers, and a couple of military members. IOW, the extended family of an average American. We are 100% FOR TRUMP! (Two were Democrats until 2016 and saw what the Clintons did to the Democrat Party and paying Bernie Sanders 350K to lose to Hillary.) Trump has turned out to be MORE of a man and MORE of a President than we ever dared hope for! He is working a world wide miracle IN SPITE of the POISON DARTS coming from the anti-American Left.

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    2. Secateurs, you have got to be kidding, more of a man and more of a president Ha Ha Ha that made me laugh but not as hard as world wide miracle. he's the truth but you probably won't read it, to be a Republican these days is to know your whole party's platform is and has been a lie and most everyone of your representatives have been and still are deceiving you about things you claim where important to you. family values? wife beaters, adulterers, pedophiles, lying sallow representatives. GOP taking infants and children away from their parents putting them in cages and trafficking them. or how about fiscal conservatism?
      largest tax cuts for the wealthiest people in the world along with total drunken sailor spending, adding trillions to the deficit for more toys of war instead of much needed repairs and improvement of are infrastructure here at home, and before you claim a need for national security this to has been proven to be a just another false concern to republican politicians who now embrace a Russian compromised leader in the White House and show apathy towards espionage and other acts of war right here at home not in some far off land, with some sitting house members like Devin Nunes knowingly or unknowingly doing their work for them. i could go on and on to convince you but if i have to then you must be a true member of today's Republican party and are willing to lie to yourself and believe anything you are told by Fox News and other Machiavellian Agents at work here.

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    3. "and before you claim a need for national security this to has been proven to be a just another false concern to republican politicians who now embrace a Russian compromised leader in the White House "

      When will people like you just stop and think.... How is it possible that Trump is, and was compromised by Putin when EVERY aspect of the Russia Collusion Hoax was a conn job... a put up between agents of the CIA, FBI and other international agents who cooked up the entire story. I mean, what does it take for you stick your head out of your bubble and realize that the very people who have spent their entire careers deceiving you are doing the same thing here (Remember Hillary telling you that she was for strong borders and telling the people who payed for your vote ad that she wanted open borders)?

      The current set up is quite interesting... all you lefties are claiming that Trump is spilling dirt on Biden but it was democrats that though him under the bus to get Trump. Don't be so delirious... get out of your bubble... learn the truth... Seems that a growing number of blacks and indeed Hispanics are coming to realize who the enemy of the Republic is...

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  8. This is kindergarten drivel ...obviously the writer is profoundly envious of his PRESIDENT DONALD J TRUMP

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  9. We have a clown show in the White House and as the clowns depart the White House, they then say that its a clown show... This period will be studied by sober historians for centuries to come and they will say (as they are saying presently) the American public elected a clown as President.

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  10. Replies
    1. I believe it is some relative to the rusty old NYT. Just a guess

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  11. Libspeak: If you are white, and you are a nationalist, then you are a White Nationalist.

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  12. This is like watching a movie with no good guys.

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    Replies
    1. It's why I had trouble with the first Marvel Endgame movie. I couldn't stand it ending with the bad guys winning. That's no escape from reality.

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  13. Lot's of hot air but little substance.

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  14. the NYT is capable of printing some pretty outrageous garbage(btw Im a daily reader) but to say this about Trump who is changing the world, is over the top, especially following 8yrs of the most unqualified resident of 1600 Penn ave ever, a community organizer from the ghetto of Chicago(I live in Chicago) "a man whose unfitness for the Oval Office was never really in doubt", this paper is a complete joke, that writes to the Trump haters that are mentally ill

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    1. For the love of Christ, haven't you Trump supporters seen enough already or do you really hate this country so much that are you going to wait until Trump ruins every part of are Democracy? isn't it bad enough the GOP is now a Criminal enterprise proliferating witness tampering and obstruction, all for the sake of keeping themselves in power! let's not sugar coat it Trumps a Liar and cheat, and Unfit to Lead!

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    2. The evil of sanctuary cities, Gender confusion, letting murders and rapists prey on our children. The evil is the Democrat Party. Satan has his personal candidate in this race as well, Butt-I-Judge the sodomite. Open borders, legal drugs, trans children, abortion & infanticide, yet somehow the GOP are the evil ones?

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    3. WELL said, because it is absolutely true. "Unknown" is the resident TDS suffering lib troll with nothing better to do than try to grate on conservative nerves. All the Dim Dems have is IMPEACH TRUMP. When the truth about their warped agenda becomes known, they LOSE, like the NC run-off where Greg Murphy WON under the banner of the Trump supporting Freedom Caucus. ELK (USNA '68)

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    4. "Unknown: do you really hate this country so much that are you going to wait until Trump ruins every part of are Democracy? "

      Could you flesh this out a little bit... I hear this drone a lot but never any explanation.

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  15. the question is when and which mouse will judge the moment right to hang bell on the cat, e.g., pompeo decides he wants to be president in 2021 instead of 2025, and asks for trump's endorsement in exchange for promise to pardon; impossible? he has flipped once and can do it again; just a question of whether that would be safe and profitable

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  16. The same biased reporters who pushed two-and-a-half years of Russian conspiracy theories are now trying to push a crazy whistleblower scandal. All the time giving cover to the lying Congressman Schiff, you know the one, he claimed for the last two years on every news channel, he had the evidence to impeach Trump. Don’t believe me it is well chronicled.
    So, Wiley Coyote Schiff for brains has got him this time. LoL got my popcorn can’t wait for the evidence to be presented. Nancy Pelosi can’t even get enough of her own party to vote for impeachment

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  17. How to sell your soul...become a Democrat!

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  18. Kind of a rusty opinion piece...hear this junk on Facebook all the time.

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  19. Definitely a special place in hell for the propagandist that penned this article . Is it Frank Bruni of the New York Slimes?

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  20. "sellouts and suck-ups who eagerly traded principle for position" now that's hitting the nail on the head!

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    Replies
    1. Yeah, you are so right... I mean, how in the world can Democrats ignore the entire influence peddling thing that is Hunter Biden... Hunters stepbrother and Joes campaign manager and not want it investigated to the max... I mean who would want a president that will sell his postion for profit.... oh yeah... I forget, you guys were gaga over Clinton as well.

      Biden I think got an honorable mention in Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich. The Biden story has been circulating since 2012 and yet... crickets..

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  21. The putrid stench of tribe runs deep here. VERY deep!!!

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  22. "news story/opinion piece" lol

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  23. Oh... you mean the author wasn't writing about his critique of: Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich

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  24. The guy who wrote this is a flaming @ hole.

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  25. Thanks for a great column. I'm starting to look forward to four more years of Trump so we can watch while he sinks endlessly into complete dementia/insanity. Let's see it on C-Span. No removal allowed, so every one of the clowns that voted for him and the lickspittle supporting him get to live with it and the lesson about what happens when you look the other way while a mental case runs your country.

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  26. Best President ever.
    We stand loud and proud of America and put America First.
    God Bless America and no one else!
    Trump/Pence 2020

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