“The remarkable thing about Vice President Mike Pence is that he is not remarkable at all.
That’s one of the first things I learned last December when I arrived in Indiana to report on — let’s face it — the next president of the United States.
The man takes up very little space, and undoubtedly this was his great appeal to Donald Trump, one of the great oxygen consumers of our time.
Of course, Pence’s great appeal to many people now is that he is not Donald Trump.
Liberals salivate that Robert Mueller might metaphorically reverse an election they see as stolen by a steak salesman and his Moscow buddies.
Conservatives dream of ridding themselves of a nutbag and installing a man who can pursue tax cuts and a few more Justice Neil Gorsuches
without the fear of a third world war being started because of something Trump heard on Infowars.
Still, maybe we should all stop and ponder an actual Pence presidency.
Will the man who reportedly calls his wife “Mother”, and has no temper to speak of, usher in an era of ennui after Trump’s reign of trauma?
Perhaps, but a Pence nap has its own consequences.
Trump was the bloated Macy’s parade float that no one thought had a chance,
and not a lot of time was spent investigating his generic sidekick holding the ropes.
Pence was elected governor of Indiana in 2012 with less than 50% of the vote.
Many of the politicos I talked to in Indiana described him as ambitious for the sake of ambition,
with no ideological compass other than his evangelical Christianity.
They thought that, unlike the previous governor, Mitch Daniels, Pence was interested in the job
mainly to check off executive experience on his presidential-candidate résumé.
He certainly couldn’t stress his 12 years in Congress —
an earlier congressional bid exploded when he used campaign funds to pay his mortgage —
where he passed exactly zero bills that became law,
but frequently introduced legislation to defund Planned Parenthood.
Pence wrote in 2001 that the link between smoking and cancer was not proved,
but during the 2012 campaign he hid his paleo-conservative views,
talking instead of getting Indiana back to work.
He pivoted after taking charge.
In other words, a typical Republican liar and hypocrite.
In 2015, conservative activists pressured Indiana legislators to introduce the Religious Freedom Restoration Act,
a bill that would make it easier for Indiana business owners to discriminate against gays if it offended their religious beliefs.
Pence stood on the sidelines as the bill was constructed and signed the legislation in private.
He then released a photograph of the signing that was so dumbfounding that
Indiana State Representative Ed DeLaney, a Democrat, was accused of Photoshopping it by his colleagues when he circulated it.
The photo showed Pence, pen in hand, surrounded by nuns and monks and three conservative backers, each with violently anti-gay beliefs.
Immediately, corporations and convention groups threatened to pull business out of Indianapolis, a move that could have cost the state millions.
The controversy metastasized.
Pence turned down an interview on “This Week With George Stephanopoulos.”
But after consulting with his wife, Karen, his closest adviser, he decided to make an appearance.
That was a mistake.
Stephanopoulos asked a simple question:
“So yes or no, if a florist in Indiana refuses to serve a gay couple at their wedding, is that legal now in Indiana?”
The governor railed against the “shameless rhetoric” surrounding the law and said:
“The Religious Freedom Restoration Act has been on the books for more than 20 years.
It does not apply, George, to disputes between individuals unless government action is involved.”
Stephanopoulos pointed out that supporters of the law said it would protect Christian florists from selling flowers for a gay wedding.
“Governor, is that true or not?”
Pence didn’t answer the question.
“Is tolerance a two-way street or not?”
Stephanopoulos gave Pence two chances to say he was not in favor of discrimination against gay people.
He declined and pronounced he would not revise the law.
This did not sit well back home in Indiana.
Legislative leaders met to work their way out of the political disaster and Pence wasn’t invited.
A compromise was reached that pleased no one but was mushy enough that the tourists came back.
Pence signed the bill and slipped out of the statehouse without taking any questions …
After the 2015 attacks in Paris, Pence announced that he was suspending the resettlement of Syrian refugees in Indiana and would cut off aid to groups helping them.
A family that was on its way to the state was shuttled to Connecticut,
where Gov. Dannel Malloy accepted them, eventually winning a Profile in Courage award.
A federal judge ruled that Pence’s policy “clearly constitutes national-origin discrimination.”
Then the 2016 campaign began.
The Religious Freedom Restoration Act had killed Pence’s presidential dreams;
now he was trying to hang on to his day job …
On July 15, Trump threw Pence the life preserver.
The Indiana governor gave Trump cover with the Christian right.
The fact the anti-abortion-eat-with-no-woman-not-my-wife Pence was able to put his evangelical Christian ideals into a blind trust —
to serve as conservative coverage for the once pro-choice, grope-braggart Trump — dumbfounded Hoosiers.
It shattered the illusion that if Pence had no gravitas, he at least had principles.
And Pence proved to have something in common with Trump:
Most observers thought he won the vice-presidential debate with Tim Kaine by sticking to his talking points — no matter their relationship with reality.
PolitiFact determined that over 40% of Pence’s statements were either false or mostly false.
His election to the No. 2 job in November was met in the state Capitol with cartoon-level jaw drops,
and more-profane mutterings that Pence was the luckiest guy in the country.
Pence has done little as vice president to suggest he is rising to the occasion.
As head of the transition committee, he was either
(a) kept in the dark about Michael Flynn’s being investigated for his international ties
or (b) lied about it.
Neither is a comforting thought.
Both are totally typical.
The only certainty of a Pence presidency is a Christian conservative bias for judges who will make Americans long for the relatively sane Justice Gorsuch.”