Cory Booker disgraced himself questioning Pompeo
Once upon a time, Cory Booker posed as a dedicated reformer running against a corrupt political establishment. An Academy Award-nominated documentary about his first run for political office portrayed him in a heroic light and led to his becoming mayor of Newark, and on to the U.S. Senate, representing the Garden State. But since tasting the waters of Washington, he has fallen about as far as a politician can, from hero to hack.
During Senate confirmation hearings for Mike Pompeo's nomination as secretary of state, Booker made an ass of himself, shamelessly posturing as a social justice warrior scoring points with special-interest constituencies. Two somewhat contradictory lines of question preoccupied him.
First, Booker posed as an advocate of religious liberty, angrily quoting something Pompeo earlier said about the need for Muslims to speak out against jihad terror attacks:
BOOKER: "Thank you, Mr. Pompeo. I do want to say again, I appreciate you coming by and showing me the respect and deference to give me some time yesterday so we could talk in private. I want to pick up on one of the themes we talked at length about and that involves many of your past statements concerning Muslim Americans. I just want to start with some of your language. In a speech you talked about folks who worshiped other gods and called it multiculturalism. You sort of mourned that we live in a country where that happens. Do you have any views that the Muslim faith or people who believe in worshiping 'Other gods,' is that just something negative in our country?"
POMPEO: "No, senator. You can look at my record. You don't have to take my word for it here today. My record is exquisite with respect to treating people of each and every faith with the dignity they deserve, to protect their right to practice their religion or no religion for that matter. I've done that when I ran Thayer Aerospace –"
BOOKER: "And my time is limited, sir, so if I can follow up –"
POMPEO: "But it's important, because I've heard these critiques. And you raised it yesterday. I work closely with Muslim leaders, with Muslim countries. The CIA has saved thousands of Muslim lives during my 15 months. This is at the core of who I am, Senator Booker. I promise I will treat persons of each faith or no faith with the dignity and respect they deserve."
BOOKER: "Your words right now are really encouraging. Words do matter. It's not just actions. In a nation of bigotry, where you see too much bigotry and hatred, we both know words matter. So I do understand your actions, and I will stipulate to the actions you just said. But I really want to get to the bottom of people who are going to be reading your past statements and give you a chance to further explain them. I would like to go back to what we talked about, you and I, about this idea, and I'm quoting you, this special obligation falls on Muslims, in regards to terrorist attacks in our country. You said something very dramatic, and I know you know this. You said that people who are silent are complicit in those terrorist attacks. Do you think that Muslim Americans in this country who serve in our military, who serve in the State Department, their failure to speak up, is that – are they complicit in terrorist attacks?"
POMPEO: "Senator, each and every human, not just Americans, each and every human being has an obligation to push back against this extremist use of violence, from whatever faith."
BOOKER: "But you don't create a special class of people in this country based upon their religion that have a special obligation to condemn terrorist attacks?"
POMPEO: "No, senator. Having said that, and we talked about this yesterday, I'm not sure we ended up agreeing, but perhaps we did. I also do believe this firmly, that for certain places, there are folks who are more credible, who have a more shared experience. And so when it comes to – when it comes to making sure that we don't have a terrorist brewing in places where Ms congregate, it's more than a duty or a requirement. It's an a requirement, it's an opportunity, right, to be treated as – when someone from another faith says it, it can get the characterized —"
BOOKER: "If I can go on, because I have more questions. So, you think that muslims in America who are in positions of leadership have a different category of obligation because of their religion, that's what I'm hearing you saying?"
POMPEO: "It's not an obligation, it's an opportunity, senator."
BOOKER: "Okay, it's interesting, because I would agree with you because silence in the face of injustice – we've seen this in the holocaust, in the civil rights movement, I do agree with you that silence in the face of injustice lends strength to that injustice. I do have a problem, though when you start creating, dicing up American people and saying certain Americans, I don't care if it's Kareem abdul-jabbar or muslims that serve on my staff, that they're in positions of leadership, that suddenly have a special obligation. I do believe, though, all of us, when this comes to violent actions or even violent words, have an obligation. And so, I'm wondering, sir, do you know frank Gaffney?"
POMPEO: "Yes, I do."
BOOKER: "And you've been on his show dozens of times?"
POMPEO: "I was on his show some, yes, senator."
BOOKER: "And he has talked about muslims who abide by the adherence of their faith should be considered to be tried for acts of sedition and prosecuted. I have a lot of his statements. Did you remain silent – and from my notes, at least, you're a friend of his – were you silent in your position of authority in these words that be vialative of the American constitution?"
POMPEO: "Sir, my record on this is unambiguous –"
BOOKER: "If that's your response, you did not say anything to call out his remarks. What about Brigitte Gabriel, do you know her?"
POMPEO: "I do."
BOOKER: "Someone who runs an organization that has been considered a hate group by the anti-defamation league and the southern poverty law center. Were you silent? Did you ever call her out on her remarks that are hateful or bigoted?"
POMPEO: "Senator, I've spoken to a number of groups, and I believe my record with respect to tolerance and the equal treatment of people, I think it –"
BOOKER: "But yes or no, did you ever call her out?"
POMPEO: "Senator, I couldn't tell you. I don't recall each statement I've made over 54 years."
BOOKER: "Okay, well, I believe this special obligation that you talk about for Americans to condemn things or attacking our constitution or ideals would obligate you under your own definition to speak out. When it comes to –"
POMPEO: "Senator, if I might, I have called out. We had a terrible fella in Kansas named Fred Phelps –"
BOOKER: "Sir, I have a minute left."
POMPEO: "And I called him out –"
Yet, in his concluding question to Pompeo, religious liberty went out the door, and Booker seemed to imply a religious test for the role of secretary of state, grilling Pompeo on his religious beliefs on marriage:
BOOKER: "I do want to give you a chance to speak about your comments on gay and lesbians. You said in a speech that morning in America that endorses perversion and calls it an alternative lifestyle – your words – is being gay a perversion?"
POMPEO: "Senator, I – I when I was a politician, I had a very clear view on whether it was appropriate for two same-sex persons to marry. I stand by that"
BOOKER: "So, so you do not believe it's appropriate for two gay people to marry?"
POMPEO: "Senator, I continue to hold that view. It's the same view for the record that –"
BOOKER: "And so, people in the State Department, I've met some in Africa, that are married under your leadership, you do not believe that that should be allowed?"
POMPEO: "Senator, I – I – we have – I believe it's the case we have married gay couples at the CIA. You should know. I treated them with the exact same set of rights, the exact same –" [crosstalk]
BOOKER: "You believe that – you believe that gay sex is a perversion, yes or no?"
POMPEO: "Senator, if I – if I can – if you –" [crosstalk]
BOOKER: "Yes or no, sir. Do you believe gay sex is a perversion? Because that's what you said here in one of your speeches."
POMPEO: "Senator, if I –"
BOOKER: "Yes or no – do you believe gay sex is a perversion?"
POMPEO: "Senator, I – I'm – I'm going to give you the same answer I just gave you previously. My – my respect for every individual, regardless of sexual orientation, is the same."
BOOKER: "So I will conclude by saying –"
POMPEO: "And it will be so if I'm confirmed."
BOOKER: "I will conclude by saying, sir, you're going to be secretary of state of the United States at a time that we have an increase in hate speech and hate actions against Jewish-Americans, Muslim-Americans, Indian-Americans, hate acts are on the increase in our nation. You're going to be representing this country and their values abroad in nations where gay – gay individuals are under untold persecution, untold violence. Your views do matter. You're going to be dealing with Muslim states and on Muslim issues, and I do not necessarily concur that you are put [indecipherable] the values of our nation when you can even – when you believe that there are people in our country that are – are – are perverse and where you think that you create different categories of Americans and their obligations when it comes to condemning violence. So, I'll have another round, but thank you. Thank you."
I have to wonder if Booker would quiz a Muslim nominee for office on the topic of his religious beliefs about marriage. He seems to think you can't ask Muslims about their views on jihad terror, but it's OK to hector believing Christians on their adherence to doctrine.