“There’s no way to sugar-coat this – he’s a hawk’s hawk and he’s not sympathetic to our progressive agenda.”
That’s how one senior member of the Liberal government reacted to the news that Rex Tillerson had been ousted as U.S. Secretary of State and replaced by CIA director, Michael Pompeo.
Donald Trump’s tweet that he had replaced his top diplomat didn’t so much spread around world capitals, as detonate.
Mike Pompeo, Director of the CIA, will become our new Secretary of State. He will do a fantastic job! Thank you to Rex Tillerson for his service! Gina Haspel will become the new Director of the CIA, and the first woman so chosen. Congratulations to all!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 13, 2018
In Ottawa, the Trudeau government took some comfort from the fact that North America is regarded as a domestic file by the Trump Administration, and that the Pompeo appointment was more about re-aligning policy on North Korea, Iran and China.
“Tillerson had no influence on NAFTA and I doubt (Pompeo) will either,” said one official.
But that optimistic view is not held universally in the upper reaches of the Trudeau government.
Tillerson’s departure will be blow for Chrystia Freeland, the Global Affairs Minister, who had built a strong relationship with the former Exxon executive.
There is also a sense that the NAFTA discussions have, after eight rounds, moved out of the hands of the professional negotiators and will be decided by the president’s inner team – of which Pompeo is now decidedly a member.
The optimists in the Canadian government point to a Cato Institute study that rated Pompeo a perfect free-trader in Congress, during his time as a member of the House of Representatives from Kansas. He voted nine times out of nine to oppose trade barriers and four times out of four to oppose trade subsidies.
But on social issues too, Pompeo is a classic, right of centre hard-core Republican – a former Gulf War veteran and Harvard Law School graduate who will enable Trump’s more impulsive instincts.
Pompeo’s track record in Congress is enough to alarm anyone of a sensitive, liberal disposition.
He decried Muslim leaders who fail to condemn terrorism as “potentially complicit”; said that waterboarding is not torture; worked to undermine the nuclear deal with Iran and instead suggested sending in the bombers; called for the death sentence for whistleblower, Edward Snowden; opposed regulating greenhouse gas emissions; said abortion should only be allowed to save the lives of mothers; opposed same-sex marriage, and is a life-time member of the National Rifle Association.
On virtually every issue, he is diametrically opposed to the Canadian government.
Regardless of any ideological objections, there can be few doubts in Ottawa that he will back the president’s position on steel and aluminum tariffs aimed at, in Trump’s words, “countries that treat us the worst on trade and on military”.
Trump has already linked Canada’s exemption to a satisfactory conclusion of NAFTA negotiations – and that seems to require a remedy to what he calls the “highly restrictive” treatment of America’s …read more