U.S. influence in the world has been undermined by inconsistencies in America's foreign policy, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said today at the start of confirmation hearings on Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State.
U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said the Syrian chemical attacks this week might have been avoided if former President Obama had taken stronger action when Syrian Leader Bashar al-Assad deployed chemical weapons in 2013. Corker also chided President Trump for seeming to speak or act impulsively in his foreign policy decisions.
"Our country's standing in the world has been on the decline over the past decade or more, and that certainly continues," Corker said as confirmation hearings began for Pompei, the CIA director who is nominated to succeed Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State. "The chasm between what our leaders say and the actions that they take can have a devastating impact."
"I think about where Syria would be today had we done what we said in 2013 when the opposition posed a significant threat to the regime," Corker said. "Assad crossed the red line, used chemical weapons, and we did nothing. The loss of momentum was palpable."
Corker said Pompeo, if confirmed as Secretary of State, needs to help provide a more stable and reliable foreign policy for the White House.
"Throughout the 20th century, our allies viewed the United States as a reliable partner and a source of stability – a friend whose ideals and leadership made our world a better place," Corker said. ""Unfortunately, today, we are not counted on as we once were. Our inconsistencies have created vacuums that are being eagerly filled by those who do not share our values."
Corker said the president "must choose his words carefully" because they "send a signal to both our foes and allies regarding our level of commitment to longstanding alliances, our desire for beneficial trade relationships, and our very belief in the ideals we claim to embody.
"But while, at times, the president may act or speak impulsively, we have seen that good counsel has led the president to evolve – from my perspective to a much better place – on a number of important issues," he said. "I believe the next Secretary of State must continue to provide such counsel, even when it is difficult."
Corker, who himself was considered by Trump in 2016 as a possible Secretary of State, joked last week that he may have been the only friend of Tillerson in Washington. Tillerson, a former Exxon CEO, was fired by Trump last month.
"An effective Secretary of State must be able to prioritize the issues for the president and attempt to drown out the noise and chaos that can so often distract and bog down the leader of the free world from making sound and informed decisions," Corker told Pompeo. "Many strong voices have been terminated or resigned. That's why I think it's fair for our members to ask whether your relationship is rooted in a candid, healthy, give-and-take dynamic, or whether it's based on a deferential willingness to go along to get along."