At the 2021 Conservative Political Action Conference, we sit down with former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to discuss the communist China threat, conservative values, and why he believes all conservatives should be “pipehitters.”
Sec. Mike Pompeo: Thank you. It’s great to be back with you, had a great time when I was with you last.
Mr. Jekielek: Absolutely. We talked a lot about China. I thought we could have talked for another hour, something like that. Today I was listening to your speech. You didn’t talk that much about China. You were talking about America, mostly about America First. Then you brought up a curious talking point about pipe hitters. This is interesting because I actually had to look it up. I’m Canadian, maybe this is common knowledge to Americans in general, although I’m working on becoming an American. But tell me about the role of pipe hitters over the next four years as you’re describing it.
Sec. Pompeo: I told the audience today that I needed each of them to be a pipe hitter, wherever they work. It’s a phrase that I think I first picked up from a CIA officer who I served alongside when I was the director. I’d ask him about someone and I’d say, “Tell me about Mike or Al or Pete.” And they’d say, “Sir, he’s a pipe hitter.”
What did they mean? They meant the person got stuff done, that person was determined. They weren’t going to let anything get in their way. They were going to do it right; they were going to achieve the outcome that was before them. I wanted everybody at CPAC to know that I hope we’ll all go be pipe hitters. I talked about VFWs and PTAs and all these various American institutions where we all have to go get it done.
This will be a testing four years, this administration that doesn’t understand America First in the same way that we understand America First. We all need to be everywhere, getting it done, making it happen, grinding along the way. The idea of someone being a pipe hitter, working hard to peacefully execute on behalf of the United States of America, that’s something I think is at the center of the conservative movement’s success.
Mr. Jekielek: Fascinating. Talking about four years, what are you thinking about your role in four years?
Sec. Pompeo: Oh, goodness, Jan, I don’t know what I’ll be doing four years from now. I do know what I’ll be doing four weeks or four months from now. I’ve worked hard since as long as I can remember to be part of the conservative movement—these central ideas about who Americans are, our value set—whether I was running a small business in Kansas or as a young soldier, or then in my time in Congress, or in the administration. Every place I’ve gone, I’ve tried to do my part to give a little bit back to America that’s been so amazing to me and my family.
So I’m not going to go away. I know that some people are happy about that. Some people, including the Chinese Communist Party, are probably not quite as happy. But I continue to stay at it to do my part, to continue to make sure that the American dream stays alive.
Mr. Jekielek: Let’s talk a little bit about China, since you didn’t talk about it as much during your speech today. As you probably know, I spoke with Miles Yu on this show, your advisor. I understand a lot of what happened around China, he was looking at and he was participating. We talked about what aspects of the Trump and your administration’s China policy are likely to stick. Things that can’t change.
Sec. Pompeo: Look, they’re going to flip some of them. They’re going to do some of them differently. Jan, remember for 40 plus years, Democrat or Republican, there was this idea of engaging with China and things will get better. We saw that the Chinese Communist Party took advantage of that and trashed American jobs and destroyed so much of what we care about so deeply here in the United States. But pieces will remain.
Most importantly, I think we delivered to the world a fact set that is irrefutable. And whether that fact set is Huawei’s efforts to get inside of our telecommunications infrastructure, whether that’s a fact set about the failed promises to the people of Hong Kong, or the denial of religious freedom for Christians and people all across China, whether it’s the risk to Taiwan, if the United States doesn’t continue to support Taiwan’s defense in the way that our administration did, or whether it’s the declaration of genocide that I made, I think people can see those facts all across the world. Countries will make different decisions, but no one is going to deny that the Chinese Communist Party has hegemonic intent, wants to undermine democracies and the rule of law all across the world, and that we have a responsibility to confront it.
Mr. Jekielek: So given everything you’ve said, and I do think that there is a preponderance of evidence of the nature that you describe right now, there is still a huge, huge push to basically work hand in hand with the Chinese Communist Party, whether it’s on Wall Street, whether it’s with hedge funds, or whether it’s the pharmaceutical industry, you name it. In Europe, they want to do a trade deal despite what we know is genocide.
Sec. Pompeo: Yes, the European trade deal was very disappointing to see them move forward with that. I hope it was just a first glancing blow and ultimately they’ll get it right. Look, there’s a tremendous temptation just to say, “Gosh, I wish it wasn’t so. I wish Xi Jinping wasn’t someone who intended to ensure American decline. I wish that the Chinese Communist Party Politburo leadership weren’t so intent on hegemonic gains.”But it’s not the case.
The only way that becomes the case is if the United States and the world push back against them. So there will be no doubt that there will be disengagement—decoupling, some have called it—that will almost certainly have to take place. We started that on technology issues. We wanted to make sure to preserve and protect American technology and, frankly, Western technology all across the world. We began to make real progress on that. I hope that this administration, I hope, frankly, that the American people will continue this project
Mr. Jekielek: To finish up, what are you going to be doing in the next little while to continue this project, which is obviously important?
Sec. Pompeo: In the shortest run, two projects. One, I’m going to do some writing. I want to make sure everybody understands the things we did and the things that I saw and the accomplishments that we achieved and what they suggest for American foreign policy going forward.
Then second, I’m going to go out and work on behalf of conservative candidates all across America, trying to make sure that Nancy Pelosi isn’t the Speaker of the House in 2022. I think that alone can help preserve and defend and secure American freedoms for an awfully long time.
Mr. Jekielek: Secretary Pompeo, great to have you on again.
Sec. Pompeo: It was wonderful to be with you, so long.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.