Imagining President Mike Pence

Written by Jesser Horowitz

(Jesser Horowitz is a Vassar senior, and regular columnist for the Miscellany News)

 

 

The Economist has a recurring series titled “The World If”, presenting hypothetical scenarios for the future that, by exploring, allows us to examine the present. I have decided to make my own go at the genre, I hope with some success. I view this piece as being a realistic, nuanced political argument in favor of seeking impeachment, an argument that hinges on theorizing the fallout from a Pence presidency. I hope to do so while recognizing the concerns and issues. I believe that this is the best way discuss the political ramifications of impeachment: a straightforward argument on this topic would not be as moving one that hinged on what a Trump-less future could hold.

“It’s time to bring back confidence in our country, in our leadership, in our families, in our God. It’s time to bring back the traditional values that built and shaped our nation; and I mean traditional values, good, hard old-fashioned American values, not the values of the Eastern elites or Hollywood socialists. I’m talking about respecting your family, respecting the Lord, honoring your parents and your partner. We need to renew our faith in our nation, to make it great, the way it once was.”

President Mike Pence looks considerably older than he did just a year and a half ago, when he took over for his disgraced former boss. He hasn’t worn the presidency well: his face is considerably more wrinkled, he’s going bald, he looks tired at cabinet meetings and public events. His brief administration has been one publicity nightmare after another, one attack after the next.

Last Sunday’s speech at the University of Tampa was supposed to be his turnaround. His last public event before the Republican National Convention, Pence was gearing to make this his Donald Trump moment, utilizing the ex-President’s language and off-the-cuff antics. He’s borrowing more and more from his old boss, who the right has increasingly hailed as a martyr for conservatism. According to officials close to him, Pence’s team had hoped that sympathy for the President would catapult him to victory this November. This, of course, has proven wrong so far.

Even though Pence has the nomination guaranteed, far-right challenger Steve King of Iowa still campaigns throughout the nation. There’s rumors that he’ll leave to form his own party, which were all-but-confirmed after King met last week with right-wing donors. Mr. Trump, now residing at Mar-a-Lago, has largely stayed out of this bizarre Republican primary season, perhaps distracted by his high-profile divorce or his continuing legal battle with the state of New York. His daughter, Ivanka Trump, with Jared Kushner, her husband, has taken over running most of the family business, while his son, Donald Jr., preps for a Senate race in his new home of Virginia. Most agree, however, that the Trump klan’s five minutes of fame is essentially over. His movement has been taken up by others: Steve Bannon, Steve King, Alex Jones, and the lot.

While the Trump family  may no longer be in the news, its presence, or absence, is still felt in Washington. It looms large over the city. For many, very little has changed since when Donald Trump, before an audience of millions of people, called it quits. While there may no longer be regular twitter updates from our President, lashing out at the Congress, the American people, and various celebrities, the state of discourse has hardly improved. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the freshman Democratic representative that gained national attention two years ago for her long-shot primary victory against House Democratic Caucus chair Joe Crowley, rose three days ago to call for the impeachment of “Mike Pence, and every Republican currently serving” for “failing to protect the people of the United States.” Just a week ago, Rand Paul, once the darling of the conservative-libertarian movement, who now has been reduced to a stooge of the populist right, suggested on the Senate floor that “some of my colleagues here…who betray American liberty with their big government proposals, may just deserve to be…tried for treason, as enemies of the people”.

On the ground, the situation is not much better. While the Democrats are not nearly as engaged as they were under Trump, the far-left is just as angry. The progressive influence in the party is growing: while Bernie Sanders was not able to outdo his 2016 performance, his movement has spread, and has become the dominant ideology of the mainstream left. Last week, Joe Biden, Vice President under Obama, and the current Democratic nominee for president, announced that Elizabeth Warren, the progressive left hero, would serve as his running mate, probably to offset concerns that Biden would be too mainstream to excite people. So far, it’s worked: while many independents have baulked at her inclusion on the ticket, the decision has energized the base.

Pence could use that energy. When he took office, some conservative pundits speculated that he would be the most popular president in history: beloved by the right for his conservative values, tolerated by the left for not being Donald Trump. Obviously,  that didn’t happen. Instead, The Democrats despise Pence for his administration’s crackdown on LGBT protections, abortion rights, and undocumented immigrants. The right’s reaction has varied: evangelicals express enthusiasm for their new leader, but the rest aren’t so certain.

While Mike Pence has earned the enthusiastic praise of Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Ben Carson, and other hard-right conservatives, the populist, pro-Trump base that has increasingly dominated the Republican Party refuses to embrace him. Many have still not forgiven him for the anonymous New York Times editorial that many are convinced he wrote, despite his frequent and fervent denials. During his campaign announcement, Representative King repeatedly referred to him as “the bastard who stabbed our President in the back”. Steve Bannon, although he ultimately endorsed Pence in the primaries, publicly speculated whether Pence orchestrated his predecessor’s fall, or collaborated with Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Alex Jones suggested, perhaps unseriously, that Trump supporters should “go after” Pence and “show him that the people won’t back down”, a threat that has landed Mr. Jones in federal court. Even though over 60% of Republicans still tolerate the President, and even 49% of Democrats, according to a recent Washington Post poll, admit that he’s a better President than Donald Trump, Pence has seen no enthusiasm, no groundswell of support, and has no chance at victory. Polls show him consistently down by over 15%, and if King, or someone like him, mounts a third party run, his chances at re-election goes down the tubes.

So as Mike Pence, the former darling of the religious right, takes the stage at Tampa, one must wonder what is going through his head. Does he realize that this is pointless exercise? Does he understand that, no matter what he does, no matter what he says, no matter whose ass he kisses, he will still lose come November? The tragedy of President Mike Pence is that a man who has spent the entirety of his life seeking one office has finally obtained it, only to discover he can do nothing with it.

 

A Week In Quotes (8/29 – 9/5)

“The America of John McCain does not need to be made great again, because America was always great,” – Meghan McCain

In a world where the leading Republican slogan is “Make America Great Again” and where the governor of New York said that “America was never great,” Megan McCain presents a view of the United States that should resonate with anyone that truly believes in American values. The U.S. has had its dark moments: slavery, internment camps, and a never-ending war. But the U.S., despite its size and the differences of opinion between its inhabitants, has only ever had one civil war, and while the amount of protection has waxed and waned over time, the U.S. has steadfastly stuck by its principles of individual liberty, even for the most reviled in society.

 

“Two long running, Obama era, investigations of two very popular Republican Congressmen were brought to a well publicized charge, just ahead of the Mid-Terms, by the Jeff Sessions Justice Department. Two easy wins now in doubt because there is not enough time. Good job Jeff……” – Donald Trump

The point of the Justice Department, not to put too fine a point on it, is to seek justice. Justice sometimes requires that those we consider friends or allies be punished for their conduct, even if it costs us political clout or harms our relationships. The power of the state, and incarceration especially, or not tools to be used for partisan gain, nor for rewarding “your side”. The fact that the President seems unaware of the proper scope and goal of the Justice Department should be concerning for even the most pro-Trump among us.

 

“This is an attack on the country” – Tucker Carlson

To be entirely clear, Mr. Carlson was referring to an advertisement campaign by a company that makes shoes. Carlson being “triggered” aside, Nike’s Colin Kaepernick ad campaign has only served to expose the sheer hilarity that is today’s political polarization. While those on the right burn, crush, and otherwise destroy shoes worth upwards of thousands of dollars to “own the libs”, those on the left have taken to buying shoes which were made in conditions which they would consider deplorable and would probably outlaw if given the chance. The advertisement campaign also appears to be working, as Nike’s stock has surged in the interim.

 

“The dilemma — which [President Trump] does not fully grasp — is that many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.” – Anonymous Op-Ed writer

The job of officials below the chief executive is to follow the commands of the chief executive. If they were to disagree with those commands, then they should follow in the footsteps of Elliot Richardson and resign. It is not the role of nameless, unelected bureaucrats to dictate policy and undermine the President. If they truly believe the President is incapable of fulfilling his duties, then they should enact the legislatively approved constitutional remedy, the 25th amendment. We have systems in place to deal with the type of situation they believe they are in, but those systems are not skulking around the White House trying to hide documents and distract the President.

A Week in Quotes (8/22 – 8/29)

I lived and died a proud American. We are citizens of the world’s greatest republic, a nation of ideals, not blood and soil. We are blessed and are a blessing to humanity when we uphold and advance those ideals at home and in the world.” – John McCain

John McCain, war hero and statesman, has died at 81 from brain cancer. McCain spent 5 ½ years as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War, and when offered the chance to be released early due to his father’s status as an Admiral, he refused and instead allowed other soldiers to be released ahead of him. He served 6 terms as a U.S. Senator, helping to pass legislation like the McCain-Feingold Act which was the subject of several Supreme Court cases including McConnell v. FEC and Citizens United v. FEC. McCain has been laid in state, and the White House flag was eventually lowered to half-mast. Requiescat in pace.

 

I’m glad to take ownership of the mistake. Now I’m taking the heat, and it’s justified,” – Lanny Davis

In July, CNN released a story which says that, “[Michael] Cohen claims Trump knew in advance of 2016 Trump Tower meeting”. The source for that story was Lanny Davis, who has now backtracked on whether Cohen has any knowledge of Russian-collusion. CNN has refused to remove or update the story, even though the source has recanted and lied about being the source altogether. The entire situation is a perfect example of poor advocate vs poor advocate, and chronic liar vs chronic liar, all tied together by shoddy journalistic practices.

 

[Pope] Francis is abdicating the mandate which Christ gave to Peter to confirm the brethren. Indeed, by his action he has divided them, led them into error, and encouraged the wolves to continue to tear apart the sheep of Christ’s flock.” – Carlo Maria Viganò

The current Pope, Pope Francis, has now been accused of being complicit in the Catholic Church’s long-running international sexual-abuse scandal. Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò in an eleven page statement said that Pope Francis knew of the abuses that fellow Archbishop Theodore McCarrick had committed, and has known since 2013. This comes very shortly after a Pennsylvania grand jury report found over 300 priests in Pennsylvania alone sexually-abused a reported 1,000 victims. Pope Francis has refused to step-down, despite being urged to do so by Archbishop Viganò.

 

96% of results on “Trump News” are from National Left-Wing Media, very dangerous. Google & others are suppressing voices of Conservatives and hiding information and news that is good. They are controlling what we can & cannot see. This is a very serious situation-will be addressed!” – Donald Trump

Alphabet, the mother-company of Google, is a private corporation with First Amendment rights pursuant to New York Times v. Sullivan and Citizens United v. SEC. As such, it has editorial discretion in what results it chooses to provide to its users. If Google were to limit the exposure of conservative voices, it is fully within its legal rights to due so. That being said, by using algorithms to decide what results appear, Google has chosen not to purposefully interfere in what results its users received. While algorithms can be biased, and Google might have a liberal bias due to the demographics of its members, it is doubtful that it is actively suppressing conservative speech.

 

Public officials would have a readymade playbook for abusing their regulatory power to harm disfavored advocacy groups without triggering judicial scrutiny. And it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, for any advocacy group to operate effectively without routine access to basic banking and insurance services.” – American Civil Liberties Union

The ACLU has filed a brief in support of the NRA against New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo. Cuomo had previously threatened banks to not provide services to the NRA and other gun-associated groups. The ACLU itself had an internal debate about whether to back groups like the NRA, and in fact the NY Civil Liberties Union refused to the join the brief. While Governor Cuomo attempts to level a personal vendetta with tax-payer dollars, the ACLU has returned to its roots of defending speech with which it disagrees.

 


John McCain’s farewell statement

More info on Lanny Davis’ Russian-collusion story

Archbishop Viganò’s 11 page testimony

President Trump’s official statement

The ACLU’s brief for the NRA