Secretary of the State Pompeo, himself a former congressman, went before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week and the interchange highlighted the difficulties Congress is facing around strategy, actual policy, and President Trump’s statements. “The Daily” podcast from the New York Times had excellent coverage.
Listening to it, I kept going back to the parental folk-wisdom of, “Follow what I say not what I’ve done,” and “Actions speak louder than words.”
How do we know which takes priority? The words or the actions? Which matters more?
There is clearly some disarray amongst the rank and file on both sides of the party line as the President moves between traditional folk-wisdom and some new(ish) inversion of it.
Policy and messaging are two different tools, how clear should their intended use be?
Chris Murphy, a Democrat from CT, asked, “how do I know the difference between a presidential statement that is not a policy and a statement that is?”
Murphy made a dangerous point. Is the policy that Congress is carrying out more important than whatever the President is currently saying?
Pompeo gets unnerved by the question and realized he has to clarify (and do it carefully). Pompeo says messaging is policy. It would have been dangerous for him (or at least his job security) to downplay the significance of Trump’s messaging power.
Is the takeaway for Congress that they should just focus on policy, and try their best to ignore what Trump is publicly saying? That’s never really been done before because it grants the President a different type of leeway – not to get stuff done, but possibly opening the country up to the risk that the messages could damage the old order and how international relationships “work” in a way policy will not easily fix.
We never got much of an answer, but this is certainly a discussion that’s not going away anytime soon.
We live in fascinating times.