200 TWEETS: Pompeo’s Plays Expose His Motives

January 16, 2021

Outgoing U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is lately running plays…200 tweets worth. But what are they? And what’s behind them?

Inspired by Jeffrey Lewis‘ dissection in Foreign Policy of the Secretary’s handiwork, Kings College grad Katherine Nichols took a look at the Secretary’s game through the lens of the Playmaker Taxonomy. Below is a summary of her analysis and, above, our video call to net it out.



Mike Pompeo’s tenure as Secretary of State is coming to a close and he has more than a few words to say about it. In the last week, he’s tweeted more than 200 times.

In this Foreign Policy article, Jeffrey Lewis sees the Secretary’s tweets as brags about attitude more than acts of diplomacy. Using the framework of the Taxonomy of Influence Strategies (below) it’s easy to see that Pompeo is using social media to put a positive spin on his term and to plant seeds for a presidential run.

To do it requires good messaging, but it’s the plays behind the prose that expose the motive. Pompeo’s overarching influence play is the Recast – the reinterpretation of information – made possible through his audacious use of the Label where for example he pushes the hashtag #swagger and the Filter where he edits out his canceled trip to Europe. Similarly, he boasts of crippling sanctions on Iran with #MaximumPressureWorks and avoids any grading of his failed 12 objectives in the region. With this frame set, Pompeo resorts to tough talk. He puts America’s enemies “on notice” with Baits that dare opponents to debate him and Preempts that hijack their narratives.

Plays like these are the chits of rhetorical gamblers. They bet the odds that rivals have neither a strategy nor the skill to counter their flurries. They are buyers of the buzz-builds-brands school of marketing so catchy hashtags and hyperbolic claims are always in evidence. And they play across the strategy spectrum – from Condition to Control to Confront — to ensure their bluff is masked.

Still, Pompeo’s plays will be countered, and soon. By way of the influence strategy called Contrast the incoming SOS, Antony Blinken, has already appointed a slate of well-respected State Department, each of whom are sure to run a few plays of their own.

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