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Monday, March 25, 2019

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

 

Donald Trump and those around him have made a long series of mistakes stemming from his campaign’s contacts with Russians and subsequent inquiries into the matter, which raise the real possibility of his impeachment. But none of those compares to his biggest blunder: choosing Mike Pence as his running mate.

Pence is in a delicate position, which may be why he is seldom seen or heard from these days. On the one hand, his job as vice president obligates him to be a loyal member of the administration. On the other, he needs to maintain good relations with congressional Republicans, many of whom find Trump exasperating.

Pence has to give every sign of appearing to support Trump in advancing his agenda, lest his boss turn on him. That means cheerfully endorsing the nonsense that flows nonstop from Trump’s mouth, including brazen lies.

But Pence can’t go too far. He needs to avoid being completely contaminated by a president who violates every norm of ethics, behaves like a stooge of Vladimir Putin and keeps wading deeper into a scandal that may bring indictments. Pence has to look loyal without making his toadyism too slavish.

Fortunately for him, he’s blessed with great adaptability in advancing his interests. A sanctimonious churchgoer who could pair up with a casino magnate, adulterer and self-declared sexual assailant without alienating followers of Jesus is not to be underestimated.

Still, Pence has a tricky path to negotiate, as vice presidents serving unpopular presidents have often learned. Hubert Humphrey, once a darling of liberals, became their nemesis for refusing to break with President Lyndon Johnson on the Vietnam War and lost the 1968 election to Richard Nixon.

Al Gore defended Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal but criticized his behavior once the impeachment crisis was over. His association with Clinton was both too close and not close enough, and it contributed to his narrow 2000 defeat.

Unlike everyone else in the administration, Pence does not serve at Trump’s pleasure. Trump can demand that he do his bidding, but he can’t fire him. Because Pence has been a GOP soldier for so long, Trump can’t really damage him among the Republican rank and file. All this gives Pence a measure of freedom to protect himself from his boss.

More importantly, the vice president retains the esteem of congressional Republicans, who see him as their best friend in the administration and a reliable voice for conservative principles. Unlike Trump, he understands them, their political needs and the realities of legislating.

He also doesn’t throw them under the bus. Trump infuriated House Republicans who had voted for an unpopular Obamacare replacement bill by calling it “mean,” even after celebrating it with them at the White House. Pence wouldn’t do that. His ability to stay on the good side of both his boss and his party reflects his political savvy and talent for self-preservation.

That’s why he presents such a threat to Trump. Richard Nixon’s best safeguard against impeachment was Vice President Spiro Agnew because congressional Democrats so loathed Agnew. When Agnew resigned after being charged in a bribery investigation, Nixon lost that shield.

He replaced Agnew with Rep. Gerald Ford, whom he saw as another “insurance policy” because, as Nixon biographer Jonathan Aitken wrote, “Ford was regarded by both Nixon and by many of his fellow Congressmen as decent but dumb.” The more unthinkable a vice president is for the top job the more the president can get away with.

But this one is not unthinkable. Most Republicans in Congress would much rather deal with President Pence than with President Trump. He would be better at working with them and less prone to embarrassing them.

Anyone as conservative on abortion, gay rights and almost every other issue as Pence doesn’t qualify as a Democratic dream. But Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer would probably prefer a mentally stable right-wing puritan to an unpredictable, thin-skinned narcissist. It would be less stressful to worry that Pence will attack reproductive freedom than to worry that Trump will nuke North Korea.

Trump may soon wish he had chosen for his running mate someone like Chris Christie or Ted Cruz. If he continues to self-destruct and the investigations produce more damaging revelations, members of Congress in both parties will eventually exhaust their patience, take a long look at Pence and say, “What are we waiting for?”

Steve Chapman blogs at http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/chapman. Follow him on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at https://www.facebook.com/stevechapman13. To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

 

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19 responses to “Mike Pence’s Opportunity”

  1. TZToronto says:

    America finds itself between a rock and a hard place.

  2. FireBaron says:

    Paul Ryan, despite his protestations to the contrary, still harbors a secret hope that something will force Pence to step aside. As the House has the approval authority for a Vice-Presidential nominee, Ryan could play the same game as Teflon Donnie – delay approving a replacement while empaneling an Impeachment Committee. That way, should Teflon Donnie step down or get kicked out, Ryan would find himself as President. So, realistically, the best option would be for Ryan to also be disqualified and allow Orrin Hatch, as President Pro-Tem of the Senate and third in succession, to assume the dignity of the office.

    • Interesting scenario. But Orrin Hatch strikes me as a slight upgrade from Ford, and having too much of a uniquely unpleasant stain on his reputation and an odd stodgy outlook.

      • Kellymyoung says:

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    • plc97477 says:

      We could just drag the proceedings until Jan. of 2019 when there is a good chance the speaker of the house will be a Dem.

  3. Pence just isn’t ready for prime-time. He may be savvy, but that’s exactly what is wrong with this system of governance. Most politicians have simply become an appendage to an amorphous monster that eats, sleeps, and drinks politics just for the sake of politics and maintaining comfortable lifestyles.

    The quote about Pence that to me illustrates how unfit Pence is, aside from a few other aspects, is this:” A sanctimonious churchgoer who could pair up with a casino magnate, adulterer and self-declared sexual assailant without alienating followers of Jesus is not to be underestimated.”

    Which I think illustrates the willingness of Pence—and others like him— to use religion as a convenient tool to further his personal ambitions to be influential and to remain in power. Opportunism and duplicity are the operative words, and what better helmsman to keep these in place than Donald.

    The partisanship and corruption that is welded into the fiber of America’s philosophy of governance are impossible to negotiate and tame for the benefit of all.

    • Paul Bass says:

      Aaron, face it, you just prefer your “churchgoers” to actually have some morality!

      Despite all that you have seen the GOP evil-genitals produce, you still think the religious should be answerable to a higher power. Actually, I also, am this naive, but I feel, JC himself wouldn’t recognize these self-called “christians”!

      • Erinjarmstrong says:

        Google is paying 97$ per hour! Work for few hours and have longer with friends & family! !pa306:
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    • Beethoven says:

      I noted that phrase you quoted myself. The author of the article made the serious mistake of believing that self-proclaimed “Christians” are followers of Jesus, when in reality they are almost always the exact opposite.

  4. idamag says:

    Pence is waiting to become president.

    • Dapper Dan says:

      I’m sure he’ll immediately reverse the ban that Trump just implemented on transgenders serving in the military. This coming from the man dodging service in the Vietnam war saying he had a heel spur. Yeah right and which foot exactly was it on again ?

      • Paul Bass says:

        It’s really just “kick the transgender kid” to avoid all the attention on Russia. Pathetic diversion.

        • Dapper Dan says:

          Agreed. It seems like the media is the juggler and when they’ve mastered all the balls being thrown at them he has to throw in another ball to create a diversion. Between his whining about his AG Jeff Sessions, the Russia investigation by Mueller, keeping the Healtcare debate for repeal going and now threatening a shutdown of the government in September if he doesn’t get funding for his no way in Hell Wall I’ve lost count of everything going on

        • idamag says:

          Notice, when the republican party decides to attack someone, it is never organized crime or any entity that might fight back.

      • dpaano says:

        The one that he keeps putting in his mouth!

    • rvn_sgt6768 says:

      You are spot on girl.

  5. ivory69690@yahoo.com says:

    Pence has to look loyal without making his toadyism too slavish.// Pence should when THE DONNY DUMP CLOWN SHOW gets impeached turn to DUMPSTER DON and say SEE YA CLOWN AND WHEN THE DUMPSTER DON ASKD PENCE TO PARDON HIM FOR ALL HIS BULLSHIfTING HE HAS DONE PENCE SHOULD LOK THE CLOWN IN THE EYES AND TURN ON HIM LIKE HE HAS TURNON EVERY ONE ELSE AND TELL HIM DUMPSTER DONNY I CANT PARDON YOU YOUR A NUT JOB but I will send you rubbers when your in jail . and BTW DUMPSTER DON its great to see you GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO . Pence you wouldn’t have to worry about the DUMPSTER CLOWN any more dump the DUMPSTER the same way he would dump you as he has so many others . don’t think twice about it VP !!

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