Smart Ideas: Pompeo’s First Week Better Than Tillerson’s 15 Months

President Trump shows a chart highlighting arms sales to Saudi Arabia during a meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Oval Office on March 20.
AP Photo/Evan Vucci
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May 3, 2018, 8 p.m.

Weapons deals hurt U.S. national security

Rachel Stohl, writing for Just Security

The Trump administration’s recently released Conventional Arms Transfer (CAT) Policy and Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Policy both emphasize the positive impact that weapons sales can have on the U.S. economy, and state that the government will “advocate strongly on behalf of United States companies.” In reality, the U.S. is “already the unrivaled number one arms exporter in the world,” making over $41 billion “in government negotiated arms deals” last year. Loosening export regulations to reap short-term economic benefits sends the wrong message to buyers and manufacturers: that “if a transfer is in the economic interest of the United States, potential risks can easily be overlooked.” Regulations exist to ensure that “weapons are where they are supposed to be, in the hands of those that are supposed to have them, and used in accordance with the terms of transfer.” Loosening those regulations risks undermining “long-standing U.S. principles, values, foreign policy objectives and security interests.”

Pompeo makes an impressive debut at State

Thomas Hill, writing for the Brookings Institution

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo did more to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the State Department in his first two days on the job than Rex Tillerson did “in the previous 15 months.” On Friday, Pompeo met with his NATO counterparts in Brussels, then traveled to the Middle East to meet with leaders from Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Jordan. The department also saw a “spate of confirmations,” filling vacancies left over from the Tillerson era. It’s encouraging to see Pompeo jump into “the deep end of the pool” given the litany of issues he faces: the Iranian nuclear deal, tensions with North Korea, the ongoing conflict in Syria, and much more. Hopefully this moment is not the height of the Pompeo tenure, “but rather a prelude of things to come.”

Early polls may overstate Phil Bredesen’s chances

Stuart Rothenberg, writing for Inside Elections

Although early polls show Democratic candidate Phil Bredesen has a slight lead over Republican hopeful Rep. Marsha Blackburn in Tennessee’s Senate race, there’s reason to be skeptical. Bredesen was a good governor, but “there is a huge difference between running in a state or local contest and running in a federal race.” Bredesen’s track record as governor is less of an asset in the Senate race, because federal elections “are much more about ‘hot-button’ issues that divide the parties and the country.” As soon as he begins campaigning in earnest, “Republican operatives will unload on the former governor,” portraying him as a Democratic stooge and a lackey to party leaders in Washington. No doubt, Bredesen is a strong candidate: “serious, a little folksy, sincere and clear-spoken.” The question is whether he can get reach enough Tennesseans to overcome “an avalanche of GOP attacks.”

Former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen AP Photo/Erik Schelzig
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