Special Trust and Confidence
The other evening I had the indescribable honor of presiding over the commissioning ceremony of friend and soon-to-be former coworker, newly minted Second Lieutenant Brandon Thompson, USMC. It was a privilege to be a part of such an important ceremony. As we faced each other in front of a crowd of fifty or so friends and family members gathered in front of the Bi-centennial Flag Display at Veterans Memorial Park in downtown Wichita, Kansas, I asked Lieutenant Thompson to raise his right hand and repeat after me as he swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic. It was a familiar oath -- one I'd sworn myself half a dozen times and one I'd administered dozens of times over the past 30 years. It was a promise to do the right things for the right reasons and put service over self. For all intents and purposes, it is the same oath that every member of the House and Senate swear or affirm as he or she takes office. It is the same oath that the president takes.
A few minutes before that, a warrant, issued by the president of the United States, offering a commission to Lieutenant Thompson, was read aloud by his colleague, a Lieutenant Kirk. He delivered the following words with conviction:
From: The President of the United States of America
To all who shall see these presents, greeting:
Know Ye, that reposing special trust and confidence in the patriotism, valor, fidelity and abilities of Brandon Keith Thompson, I do appoint him a Second Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps to rank as such from the first day of August, 2011...
The warrant continued to lay out integrity instructions for Lieutenant Thompson -- the expectations of a commissioned officer. These were the same instructions given me three decades ago at Purdue University during my commissioning ceremony. These words have tremendous meaning and staying power. Except for some minor tweaks over the years, these are the same instructions given to every officer who's been commissioned during the past two centuries. I'm guessing that these are the same instructions given to Second Lieutenant Mike Pompeo upon his graduation from West Point several decades ago. "Special trust and confidence" are the hallmark of military officers -- the defining quality -- and have been for as long as any officer can remember.
Ironically, at virtually the same moment that these integrity instructions were being publicly administered to the newest of Marine Officers in downtown Wichita, the recently elected congressman from that district, Representative Mike Pompeo, was unknowingly breaking the special trust and confidence he'd been extended by me, and other fiscally conservative constituents who'd elected him, by voting in favor of "The Debt Deal." For the sake of clarity, the act of voting against my desires, in and of itself, does not represent a breach in trust. The merits of a bill should be always debated by well-intentioned men and women for good faith reasons. The decision to support a bad bill may come down to a compromise between the better of two evils -- I get that. So it wasn't voting for a bill that broke the trust; it's that he voted for this bill.
Candidate Pompeo promised repeatedly, on the campaign trail, to be a fiscal conservative. He promised to cut spending. In essence, he promised me and others who voted for him that he wouldn't vote for an unacceptable compromise such as this bill. It's not personal -- I've never met him. He doesn't seem like a reckless person. He gives the impression that he's working hard and trying to do the right thing. It took less than a year, however, for the candidate who campaigned on his integrity as a former Army officer and United States Military Academy graduate (his campaign website has a photo of him as a cadet in uniform), a candidate who railed against reckless spending in Washington...to cast a vote for a $2.1-trillion increase in the debt limit -- enabling 14% more debt. The vote by Congressman Pompeo was not consistent with the promises of candidate Pompeo. Even as I type this, the pompeoforcongress.com website describes the man who voted to add two trillion dollars to our tab as follows: "Mike Pompeo is a committed economic conservative who believes in smaller, more efficient government that lives within its means just like you and your family do." It also contains these words: "Their appetite for more and more government spending threatens not only our economic future, but also the future of our children and grandchildren."
Just to put a point on this, $2.1 trillion is over two thousand billion. It's over two million million dollars. It would take 20,000 18-wheelers full of $1 bills to move it.
To give Congressman Pompeo the benefit of doubt, I called the Wichita office and asked for an explanation. Although polite and helpful, his staffer quickly lost me when she summed up his rationale up as follows: "These are obligations the nation had already committed to and the congressman felt strongly that we should honor our commitments."
Without debating the merits of the bill, without swapping talking points prepared by professional staffers paid to help "socialize the idea"...one thing is indisputable -- constituents of the Kansas 4th district, along with all other Americans, will soon owe some bank or some country a ton more than they did yesterday. Any way you slice it, yesterday's vote wasn't consistent with the promises made by candidate Pompeo. What's it going to take to get a congressman who understands the simple, timeless truth that you can't spend more than you have?
-Marc Mannella, LtCol USMC (Ret)