Published with permission from The Washington Spectator.
For years I’ve been picking Mike Pence when handicapping lean and hungry Republican politicians. Even when he didn’t register in the 2010 CPAC presidential poll, and was ignored by Newt Gingrich as he mentioned the potential presidential candidates who had addressed the conference—Tim Pawlenty (remember Tim Pawlenty?), Mitt Romney, Ron Paul— I was picking Pence. Let’s say I’ve been Penced, smitten, overwhelmed by the then-congressman with the linebacker’s build, the yearbook-handsome good looks, and the ability to own an audience with speeches that (even if overly sincere, jingoistic, and loaded with grace notes about “scripture,” the “Good Book,” and “His will”) are always perfectly delivered and pitch perfect for Republican audiences.
Here’s how I described Pence under the headline “Picking Pence” after he killed with his predictable but riveting speech at that Conservative Political Action Conference in 2010:
“Pence has been quietly running for the Republican presidential (or vice-presidential) nomination for four years.”
Mike Pence is the perfect pick for secular sybarite Donald Trump, who bungles biblical references, changes out wives like polo players change out mounts, and who, to borrow a phrase from “Romans 6:23,” earns his living by “the wages of sin” in glitzy casinos—yet somehow has won the hearts and souls of 80 percent of the evangelical Christian electorate, without whom the Republican Party cannot win a national election. Mike Pence locks up that other 20 percent.
Pence does not speak in public without serving up several lines carefully crafted to seize the attention of the GOP’s evangelical base.
“Our candidate must be willing to stand for the unborn and commit to appointing justices to the Supreme Court who will consign Roe v. Wade to the ash heap of history.” (2008)
“Marriage ordained by God and instituted by law is the glue of the American family and the safest harbor to raise families in, and must be defended against the onslaught of the left.” (2010)
“You’re either for protecting the right of the unborn and the religious liberty of every American, or you aren’t.” (2015)
“By enacting this legislation, we take an important step for the unborn, while still providing an exception for the life of the mother. I sign this legislation with a prayer that God would continue to bless these precious children, mothers, and families.” (2016)
Pence is (and if you don’t already know, you soon will) “a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order.”
His legislative record was less than impressive, his congressional office less than a bill mill. In his first year in the House as a member of the House Agriculture Committee, all 32 of the bills he filed were failed attempts to extend tax breaks on ag chemicals such as 4,4-dimethoxy-2-butanone and ortho-phthalaldehyde. Only a chemist or ag-chemical lobbyist could make sense of what the young congressman from Indiana was trying to legislate.
Nothing Pence proposed ever passed, but among his 90 failed attempts in 12 years his biggest hits were bills to curb internet porn, penalize child pornography, support Israel, and, of course, one of the first bills introduced in Congress to defund Planned Parenthood.
He would finally make his mark as governor of Indiana, where he has promoted and signed anti-abortion bills into law every year since he was elected in 2012.
This year, however, he hit one out of the park, supporting and signing the most extreme anti-abortion measures ever enacted in the United States, the first law enacted that bans abortions based on a diagnosed disability in a fetus.
A federal judge in Indiana issued a preliminary injunction against the bill, which Pence signed in March, the day before it was to take effect.
Never in modern history has there been such an unabashed religious extremist nominated for the vice presidency by a major party, but Pence will be broadly supported by Republicans. He has, in terms of religious belief, balanced the ticket: Trump the eccentric billionaire bribing and pranking his way to success like the protagonist of Terry Southern’sThe Magic Christian, and Pence, a Bible-quoting moralist who would nudge the nation in the direction of theocracy.
If he and Trump fail this time around, you can make book on “Pence 2020.” You read it here first. Could be divinely ordained.
Photo: Indiana Gov. Mike Pence speaks during the Republican Jewish Coalition Spring Leadership Meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada April 25, 2015. REUTERS/David Becker