Former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has election advice for Republicans in visit to Ames

Phillip Sitter
Ames Tribune

Former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had some election strategy advice Friday morning for a group of Republicans in Ames: Engage on the local level and play nice, but stand one's ground.

Pompeo said political efforts should not be about being angry, "but not about giving an inch," either.

He spoke at an event organized by the Republican Women of Central Iowa at Jethro's BBQ in Ames.

In addition to leading the U.S. Department of State for almost three years under former President Donald Trump, Pompeo served as the director of the CIA for the first year of the Trump administration.

Now, Pompeo is leading the Champion American Values political action committee to help conservative candidates in U.S. House and Senate races, as well as in state legislatures, with the goal of having majorities in those bodies.

Pompeo reiterated Friday many conservative and Republican claims, fears and political agenda items. He described America's fundamental values as under attack from alleged leftist political agendas, including in education, social media and from the administration of President Joe Biden. He praised the leadership of Trump and dismissed the seriousness of the threat of climate change. 

Former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets Kay Rice, left, and Laura Carlson, right, the vice president and president of Republican Women of Central Iowa, on Friday, July 16 at an event at Jethro's BBQ in Ames.

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Pompeo said in response to a question from the audience about how to counter the language of the Black Lives Matter movement: "We have to be gracious. We have to smile." But he said Republicans also need to be fearless in sharing their ideas and not changing their message.

In response to another question about what actions to take under the Biden administration, Pompeo advised people to make their voices heard — to be poll-watchers, to be at school board meetings, to support candidates for local law enforcement and city councils and run for offices themselves, even things such as homeowner's associations.

"We all do politics," he said.

That message resonated with Julia Anderson of Ames, a member of Republican Women of Central Iowa who heard Pompeo speak.

"Don't sit home and grumble at your television," Anderson advised people who avoid political activity.

"Get your butt off the couch and go out there and be polite, smile and put your ideas out there."

She added: "Too many people are sitting at home, discontent and not talking to each other, not being in community with other people. (Pompeo) likes diversity and he thinks we need more of it, and we need to get off our couches and get to these different things that are happening that affect our lives."

Anderson also said that the next set of elected officials should combat censorship and "They need to restore confidence in our elections. We need to make sure there's things in place that everyone can be confident that their vote was counted. And that's really important, because if people don't feel like their vote's' being counted, they won't even bother to vote, or they'll just be very, very discontent."

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How can people's faith in institutions be restored, whatever happens in politics?

It was clear from the questions for Pompeo that there's deep mistrust of many American institutions, including schools, elections, federal law enforcement, the military and the presidency.

Whatever the outcomes of elections in 2022 and 2024, Pompeo told the Tribune that for people to have their faith in institutions restored, "Two things have to happen. One, you have to hold accountable the leaders who are responsible for making sure that that very confidence exists, and that means transparency in the systems and processes. And then, when there are violations of these core ideas, when people break the law, you have to hold them accountable."

He said, "People were rioting in the streets in the cities, and the people who were rioting weren't held accountable. That takes down people's confidence in institutions."

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Pompeo then said, "And when you see election activity take place that is questionable, and nobody is willing to even dig in and ask the hard questions — it becomes politically incorrect to even ask questions about it — then people lose faith in those institutions."

Despite numerous attempts by Trump and his allies to investigate or overturn the results of the November 2020 election, there's been no evidence found of widespread voter fraud that affected the outcome of the election — a conclusion reached by Trump's own Attorney General William Barr.

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With the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, how can Afghans who aided our forces be protected?

The story of a former Afghan interpreter, Zalmay Niazy — who aided the U.S. Army but is facing deportation from Iowa after his political asylum claim was denied — has gotten renewed attention in recent weeks, after years of advocacy by Niazy's community members and local media in Iowa Falls, and then coverage by the Des Moines Register.

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The Tribune asked Pompeo whether there was a plan when he led the CIA and State Department to get Afghans who aided U.S. forces out of Afghanistan — if that's what those Afghans wanted — and what options the Biden administration has now for doing that.

Pompeo said, "It requires organization and planning. We were well underway in executing that to make sure that we could get those who deserved to be here — who had taken risks and would be at risk if we didn't get them back — to get them back home. I hope that this administration will get that right. They've said that they're going to. I'm praying that they will."

He added generally that asylum to the United States is not the only the option available to help Afghans.

"There's lots of ways that you can address it, lots of ways to think about making sure those people get — not all of them will want to come to the United States — so we should make sure that they get to a place, and our goal is to make sure they're safe," he said.

What does Pompeo think about his own political future?

The Tribune asked Pompeo if he plans to run for office in 2024 or at some point in the future.

He said, "We're working on 2022. We'll see where the Lord puts us after that. I can assure you that I'm not going to leave the fight. The things that I've been working on all these years, the things that I worked on for four years in the Trump administration, are things that are important to me and to my family, and I'm going to continue to work to make sure that the opportunities that I had here in America are available to everyone."

Pompeo added: "I don't know if that will be running for office again, but we're going to win in 2022, and then we'll take a look at what's after that."

Phillip Sitter covers education for the Ames Tribune, including Iowa State University and PreK-12 schools in Ames and elsewhere in Story County. Phillip can be reached via email at psitter@gannett.com. He is on Twitter @pslifeisabeauty.