Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Midnight Meme Of The Day!


-by Noah

Look at this happy couple! Brothers from another mother? Maybe, but my first guess is that these two a-holes met at Disco Night at the insane asylum. I mean, how else do you explain the mega-weird hair on both guys, the funny clothes on the one on the left and the bizarro clown make-up on the one on the right? What the hell is with the orange stuff and the white around the eyes. Case closed. Disco Night.

I've said in a couple of previous posts that these two wackjobs are very much alike. Señor Trumpanzee is certainly our very own Kim Jong-un. They both demand that their citizens stand for their respective national anthems. The both suffer from massive insecurity and sit around and demand that their staffs praise them 24 hours a day. They both inherited fortunes from their fathers. They've both mastered gibberish as their first language. They're both proven cheaters at golf. They have so much in common, but, most scary to the rest of us, is their mutual disturbing fascination with the size and power of their missiles (Actual size may vary). But, really, using models of missiles for dildos? I wonder if they glow in the dark. Nah, only that orange make-up does.

They say that true love can transform your outlook on the world. It that's so, may the happy couple find true love together. It could save us all.

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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Would You Vote For Someone Who Claims She's Been On An Extraterrestrial Spaceship? What If She Was Also A Republican Connected To Mike Pence?


The other day, a friend of mine was on vacation in Colorado. He stocked up on so much marijuana that he decided it was too risky to fly back to the East Coast, so he took a train instead. I'd be a lot younger if he was half my age but he asked me if I had ever done acid. "Dude," I said, "my nickname used to be 'Tripmaster.' Why?" He wanted to take some LSD on the long train ride home. "Would that be your first time?" As I suspected, it would have been. He's already somewhat psychotic and I talked him out of it. I in fact, had stopped taking acid on New Year's Eve, 1969-- or, more precisely on New Year's Day, after a massive New Years Eve trip. I have fond memories of my years as an acid-head... but not on a train. It was always a very spiritual and very powerful experience for me and one that has to be eased into with someone you totally trust so when you inevitably lose your mind, you don't freak out completely.

Anyway, soon after my last-ever acid trip, I left America and started my nearly 7 year sojourn abroad. One of my first stops was in Catalonia, in a small hippie hang-out on the beach south of Barcelona. Full moon-- everyone was partying... on drugs. But I was very interested in not using drugs at all. So I left the cave and decided to walk back to someone's parents' villa where we were staying while the parents were in Paris. It was far and it was through a woods and the only light was the full moon. I heard something mechanical sort of accompanying me. Franco was still the dictator and my mind went right to paranoia about fascism.

But, as it turns out, it wasn't fascism. It was... aliens, from another (unidentified) planet. I was scared. They asked me-- telepathically-- if I'd like to come for a ride on their space ship. By this time I was on the verandah of the villa, petrified, and quickly zipped up my sleeping bag with me in it. The aliens told me to cool it and they weren't going to hurt me and if I didn't want to go with them, I didn't have to. "Great," I telepathied back, "I don't. Buenos noches." I never told anyone about that. Who would believe me? Not even me!

A few years later I was living in Amsterdam and my girlfriend's actual boyfriend was returning from 6 months in America and she and I were saying goodbye (forever) on a beach north of town. It was very late at night and no one was there but us. Until a little tiny spec of light in the sky started rapidly coming down towards us until it was as big as a barn over our heads. It was my old friends from Catalonia (or wherever they were from) and they set up a 3-way telepathic communication link. No words were spoken. But they invited us for a ride, a long one, forever. "Uhhh... no thanks," we both telepathed. "Goede nacht, heren," I said as they went back up into speck of light mode.

Many years later-- and now many years from ever having used acid or pot or anything that makes one high-- I was living on the 6th floor of an apartment building on 25th Street in San Francisco, sort of just outside the Mission but not really in Noe Valley, when they were back. I was terrified. "Same deal," they assured me. "No force. Come with us though. There's nothing going on for you here and you'll love this." I should have asked them to define "this," but I was too panic-stricken. They said it was my last chance and if I didn't come this time I'd never hear from them again. I was willing to take that risk and went back to sleep.

I never heard from them again. And, for medical reasons, I use pot every night now. But no Martians. I don't talk about it much. No one would believe it anyway and it's not like I have any proof or can even be sure myself that any of that ever happened (but it did). There were no self-phones with cameras back then. I do have a photo of the other guy's girlfriend I was seeing but I can't even remember her name.

But you know what? A YouGov poll a couple years ago found that 56% of Germans, 54% of Americans and 52% of Brits believes that intelligent alien life exists. Only about one in 5 Americans say there is no extraterrestrials. And 30% believe that aliens have already contacted us but the government has covered it up. Nearly a quarter of respondents believe that aliens have contacted or visited Earth long before the development of human civilization. So... not so crazy? Well... people I know think it's crazy when you talk about it. Probably the ones who don't are... you know... Trump fans on opioids who read newspaper tabloids.

OK, have you heard about Bettina Rodriguez Aguilera yet? She's a former Doral city council member and she's a Republican running for Congress in Miami-- FL-27, the district that has turned bright blue enough for Ileana Ros-Lehtinen to have decided to retire from representing it. There were a lot of headlines yesterday, locally and nationally about her own ride on a spaceship. Seems like a crazy thing for a politician to talk about, no? All of the media coverage makes fun of her and paints her as, well, mildly insane.
Three blond, big-bodied beings-- two females, one male-- visited her when she was 7 years old and have communicated telepathically with her several times in her life, she says. (Sen. Bill Nelson served as payload officer aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia in 1986. All seven people aboard were from Earth. As far as is known.)
Maybe Bettina wouldn't have brought it up in the early states of a congressional campaign-- but in 2009 she did a TV interview about it. And that's following her around like a hungry dog she once fed.
She described “going up” inside the spaceship-- though whether it went into space or just hovered around town was left unclear.

“I went in. There were some round seats that were there, and some quartz rocks that controlled the ship-- not like airplanes,” Rodriguez Aguilera said.

In two separate videos posted to YouTube years ago, one by local Spanish-language station America TeVe and another by a political critic with the user name DoralGirl26, Rodriguez Aguilera spoke on television in detail about her extraterrestrial experiences. She said the alien beings reminded her of the famous statue in Rio de Janeiro, Christ the Redeemer, with arms outstretched.

Among the things she said she found out from the aliens:

 There are 30,000 skulls-- “different from humans”-- in a cave in the Mediterranean island of Malta.
 The world’s “energy center” is in Africa.
 The Coral Castle, a limestone tourist attraction South Miami-Dade, is actually an ancient Egyptian pyramid.
 “God is a universal energy.”

She also said that the aliens had mentioned Isis, though she didn’t clarify if they meant the terrorist organization or the ancient Egyptian goddess.

Yesterday she told the Washington Post that the article, quoted above, from the Miami Herald, "is clearly an attack piece. I’m a person who owns up to who I am. And this is just an experience that I had. It has nothing to do with who I am and what I have shown in the past 40 years and what a positive role model I’ve been to the community."

Rick Yabor, a Miami lawyer and political commentator, told The Post that Rodriguez Aguilera isn’t likely to win-- especially in light of revelations about her previous claims.

“Why Bettina jumped in that race, I don’t know… Her views are not very mainstream,” Yabor said, referring to Rodriguez Aguilera’s stories about aliens. “There’s going to be people that believe her, and there’s going to be people that think she’s wacky.”

And anyway, Yabor said, the district leaned Democratic in last year’s election.

There are at least a dozen candidates vying to replace Ros-Lehtinen, the majority of them Democrats.

Two of Rodriguez Aguilera’s Republican primary opponents, Bruno Barreiro and Raquel Regalado, are better known in Miami-Dade County than she is, Yabor said.

Barreiro has been a county commissioner for nearly 20 years. Regalado is the daughter of Miami Mayor Tomás Pedro Regalado and is a former school board member in the county.

And they have raised significantly more money than Rodriguez Aguilera.

Barreiro has raised about $218,100, according to federal campaign records. Regalado is a distant second, with $15,050. Rodriguez Aguilera has raised less than $5,000.

Rodriguez Aguilera said she has not raised much because she postponed her fundraising after Hurricane Irma hit to help Florida residents. She said she’s raised a total of $10,000, including “in-kind services” from the community.

Rodriguez Aguilera was a member of the Doral City Council from 2012 to 2014. The city’s mayor nominated her to replace the vice mayor in 2013. She also said she helped boost Doral’s economic and population growth during her time as the city’s economic development coordinator, a position she held for four years.

Rodriguez Aguilera’s daughter, Bettina Inclán Agen, is a former director of Hispanic outreach for the Republican National Committee. Agen is married to Jarrod Agen, Vice President Pence’s deputy chief of staff and communications director.
Miami's other big political news yesterday, at least in regard to FL-27, was that a former professional yo-yo player, Ken Russell, jumped into the race too. He a Democrat, the 8th in the race so far. 73% of the district is Hispanic and I have a feeling Russell isn't.

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The Are No Good Outcomes For Arizona In The 2018 Senate Election


Jeff Flake is a conservative. In fact, his career-long record in the House and Senate isn't just conservative; it's very, very conservative. He comes across as a likable enough guy for a politician; but he votes wrong on every important issue. There are Arizona Democrats-- and especially independents-- who admire him for bring one of the only Republicans with the intestinal fortitude to take on Trump and call him out on his bullshit-- he even wrote a book savaging Trump-- but just look at that voting record. No one who cares about healthcare or women's equality or economic justice or anything that makes someone a progressive can vote for the guy, no matter how anti-Trump he's being. And is being anti-Trump enough so that a great many Arizona Republicans have written him off. He's going to probably lose his primary, especially if its a head-to-head match-up with a Trumpist crackpot like Kelli Ward, who is announcing her official campaign today (with Bannon and Ingraham in tow). The co-founder of a revenge porn website, IsAnybodyDown, GOP lunatic Craig Brittain, doesn't count, but he's running too.

The latest polling in Arizona (last week) shows Ward beating him 58-42%-- and that's Flakes's best number in over a year! He's been endorsed by cronies who owe him-- like Marco Rubio, Joni Ernst, Mitt Romney and George W. Bush-- but Ward is a Mercer/Bannon candidate who's been endorsed by Señor Trumpanzee and the whole neo-fascist menagerie: Gorka, Hannity, Ingraham, Levin. Are Arizonans ready for Palin's bus chugging around their state? Flake is so cooked!

Yesterday the NY Times' Sheryl Gay Stolberg described Flake as "the most endangered Senate Republican, with an approval rating in one recent poll of just 18 percent among Arizonans" and who has been savaged by Trump "as 'toxic' and 'a flake.'" He's being pressured from the right and the only good news he's had in months is that an always dependably clueless Chuck Schumer has handpicked a Democratic opponent, the most right-wing Democrat in the House, Kyrsten Sinema, who is not just ultra-conservative but also horrifyingly corrupt and completely inauthentic-- exactly what voters don't want. It's conceivable that even Kelli Ward could beat Sinema!
[Flake's] fate is an object lesson for other Republicans who might consider voicing dire thoughts about the president’s fitness: Cross Mr. Trump, and your political career could well be over.

Mr. Flake, who is known more for his decency than his independent streak, said he had no regrets.

In an interview here, he ticked off some of his earliest criticisms of the president-- from the days when Mr. Trump peddled the false theory that President Barack Obama was born in Kenya, to the time Mr. Trump referred to Mexican immigrants as “rapists,” to his call for a complete ban on travel to the United States by Muslims-- before looking up and stopping himself.

“In which of those instances,” the senator asked, “should I not have spoken out? At what point should you not stand up and say, ‘This is not right; this is not conservative; this is not where Republicans ought to be?’”

Mr. Flake said he had known from the start that taking on Mr. Trump might do him political harm. Even before he declared the president’s brand of populism a corruption of conservative values, he anticipated a tough primary challenge, given his policy differences with Mr. Trump on issues like immigration, trade and Cuba.

“The truth is, if my only goal were to be elected, re-elected to mark time in the Senate, there are much easier paths,” he said.

Mr. Flake is not the Senate’s only vulnerable Republican; Senator Dean Heller of Nevada is also facing a tough re-election race. And Republicans will now have to field a candidate to succeed Mr. Corker, who announced late last month that he was not running next year.

Last weekend, Mr. Corker said his concerns about Mr. Trump were shared by nearly every Senate Republican, even if few have spoken out. Mr. Flake, by contrast, has put pen to paper with his criticism; his new book, Conscience of a Conservative, published in August, is a blistering indictment of the Republican Party and of a president who, despite record-low overall approval ratings, has retained the support of about 80 percent of his party.

Mr. Flake’s main primary challenger at the moment, Kelli Ward, made clear in an interview that she intended to paint Mr. Flake as “an obstructionist to the America First agenda that Donald Trump touted on the campaign trail, and that the American people want to see enacted.”

Andy Surabian, senior adviser to the Great America Alliance, a Trump-aligned group whose political action committee has been supportive of Ms. Ward, said Mr. Flake’s troubles were “entirely self-inflicted.”

“If Flake wants to know why he’s vulnerable, all he needs to do is look in the mirror,” said Mr. Surabian, who had a stint in the White House as deputy to Stephen K. Bannon, Mr. Trump’s former chief strategist. He added: “No one told him to go out and be the face of the anti-Trump resistance in the Republican Party. No one told him to go out and write a book that was basically an anti-Trump screed. The reason the race is in play is because of Jeff Flake’s actions.”

Mr. Flake said he felt compelled to write the book because Republicans had lost their way with the rise of Mr. Trump. His assessment of the president is biting.

“We pretended the emperor wasn’t naked,” Mr. Flake wrote. “Even worse: We checked our critical faculties at the door and pretended that the emperor was making sense.”

While Mr. Corker had likened the White House to an “adult day care center” and said Mr. Trump was treating his office like a reality show, Mr. Flake said in the interview that he might not have used those words. But he clearly agrees with his Tennessee colleague.

“A conservative is conservative in demeanor and comportment-- not just policy,” he said. “And the way you conduct foreign policy as a conservative is that you are steady and measured and predictable. And that’s not what we have now.”

Such comments have not gone over well at home, said Mayor Jim Lane of Scottsdale. The mayor, who calls himself a conservative Republican, said he was not currently backing Mr. Flake, whom he views as exacerbating divisions within the party and undermining the president’s agenda.

“It’s difficult, particularly when there’s a lot of people who feel very, very strongly about the president’s agenda and party’s agenda,” Mr. Lane said, adding, “Any time we sense that is not a priority, for any of our delegation, that becomes a bit of a problem.”

Mr. Flake favors immigration and free trade-- stances that put him at philosophical odds not only with the president, but also with many Arizonans. In 2013, he was part of the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” group of senators who put forth an immigration overhaul that would have offered immigrants in the country illegally a path to citizenship. It passed the Senate with 68 votes but died in the House. He also worked closely with Mr. Obama to open relations with Cuba.

...[D]espite Mr. Flake’s criticisms of Mr. Trump, he almost always votes with the president. (An analysis by FiveThirtyEight, the political blog, found that Mr. Flake had voted with Mr. Trump 91.5 percent of the time.)

“He wrote a book about the conscience of a libertarian, yet he’s voted along the lines of the things he has criticized,” Dr. Riley said. “So my only conclusion is he doesn’t have a conscience.”

...In his early years in Congress, he developed a reputation as a budget hawk who challenged party leaders to get rid of so-called earmarks, in which federal money is steered to lawmakers’ pet projects. But in the Senate, which he joined in 2013, Mr. Flake has not carved out much of a reputation, other than for being a nice guy.

“He’s going to have to define who he is, what his record is and what he’s accomplished,” said David Winston, a Republican strategist in Washington. “This is really going to be a vote about him and his incumbency.”

As to who he is, Mr. Flake puts it this way: “I’m a conservative in, I think, the traditional sense of the word: a Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan conservative that believes in limited government, economic freedom, free trade, pro-immigration. That’s the kind of conservative I am, and that’s my record.”

But is that the kind of conservative who is welcome in the Republican Party in the Trump era? Mr. Flake smiled wanly.

“That,” the senator said, “is the question.”

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Florida Republican David Jolly: "Is the Republic Safer If Democrats Take Over The House In 2018?"


One of the worst of the 2016 Democratic freshmen-- worst in terms of his GOP-aligned voting record-- is Charlie Crist, former Republican, former governor of Florida, current terrible congressman from St Petersburg. He won last year by beating incumbent David Jolly 184,693 (51,9%) to 171,149 (48.1%). Each raised and spent around $2,000,000 on their campaigns, although the DCCC and their aligned House Majority PAC dumped another $2.5 million into the race, while there was no counter-balance from the NRCC for Jolly. Meanwhile, Crist immediately joined the Blue Dogs and New Dems, the Republican wing of the Democratic Party, and quickly earned an overall "F" from ProgressivePunch for his decidedly right-of-center voting record. Charlie Crist now has the worst vote score of any Democratic freshman-- 43.10-- and the only Democrats with worse scores-- in order of bad to worse-- are Collin Peterson (Blue Dog-MN), Henry Cuellar (Blue Dog-TX) and Kyrsten Sinema (Blue Dog-AZ), 3 Democrats who Ryan can always depend on to support the Republican agenda in nearly everything. I don't think Jolly is seriously considering a rematch in FL-13. Crist, who spends virtually all his time sucking up to corporate donors and lobbyists, has already raised $1,625,562.44 for 2018.

Meanwhile, Jolly has become a regular MSNBC contributor. Last night be was on Lawrence O'Donnell's show, the highlight of which was when he admitted that the country would be better off if the Democrats were to win back the House in 2018. "The Republican Party," he said, "never really recovered and found their footing from the emergence of the Tea Party, from the emergence of the likes of Sarah Palin, that has now manifested in the likes of Steve Bannon and Donald Trump. What is different now is that we have a president who’s known to be unstable. We have a president who’s known to be risky when it comes to matters of national security... I’ll be honest with you: Personally, as a Republican, in the past few weeks I’ve wondered, 'Is the Republic safer if Democrats take over the House in 2018?'" It wouldn't surprise me if Jolly winds up in Kenosha at some point during 2018, campaigning for Randy Bryce!

Nor is Jolly the only one with thoughts like that. Early this morning, CNN released a poll by SSR. When asked, "If the elections for Congress were being held today, which party's candidate would you vote for in your Congressional district," 54% of registered voters say Democrats and just 38% say Republicans. 98% of Democrats favor Democrats while only 88% of Republicans say they prefer a Republican. More Independents also say they will vote for a Democrat.

It looks to me that at this point the only thing that could hold back the Democratic wave is the venal and well-practiced incompetence of the DCCC, an organization that embodies the concept of habitual failure. And they're up to their losing tricks again-- picking conservative GOP-lite candidates in race after race across the country, flying in the race of the progressive energy that has swept the nation. Yesterday, I spoke with Dr. Matt Heinz, a progressive running against centrist Republican Martha McSally in Arizona's ultimate swing district, AZ-02 (Tucson). After Pelosi and DCCC chairman Ben Ray Lujan decided ultra conservative New Dem Ann Kirkpatrick (from northern Arizona) should be the candidate against McSally, many in the Tucson area are left wondering if the Democratic Party is worth supporting at all. Heinz: "Only Southern Arizonans can choose who represents them, and Ann Kirkpatrick's record against DACA kids, against clean energy, and in favor of the NRA, assault weapons and high-capacity magazines will prove problematic. Too much hangs in the balance in this election."

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The World's Worst Negotiator


During the campaign last year, Trump continually bragged that he's the world's greatest negotiator, which was a joke to anyone who knew him or anyone who ever sat across the table from him. Trump was basically a laughing stock or a punch line among top level New York City businessmen. And now the clown is President Clown.

You probably remember the column Joe Nocera wrote for The Times, under "Sports Business," early last year about how Trump had a horrible reputation not as a consummate negotiator but as a bully and a crook. His deals have always tended to turn to shit, just like his legislative agenda has. Nocera's column was about a Trump-owned golf resort in Jupiter, Florida-- Trump National Jupiter. The members of the club say Trump "stiffed them out of their refundable deposits, many of which were in the range of $200,000. Some of the members had to swallow the loss (in return for some paltry benefits) because they had bought time shares or homes that were part of the resort development. Others negotiated settlements. Still others sued."
Although the home sales and time shares made money for Ritz-Carlton, the resort did not. According to a former member named Bernie Carballo, who’s in the golf course business himself and who saw the resort’s books, by 2011 the resort was generating some $13 million in revenue, and had an annual loss of around $1.2 million. It also had a huge liability: nearly $30 million in those refundable deposits. So in 2012, Marriott Vacations Worldwide decided to sell.

The buyer was Trump Golf. The company is probably the largest piece of the Trump portfolio-- though with Trump, one never really knows about such things-- with 17 golf resorts, including the National Doral in Miami and Turnberry in Scotland.

Trump Golf confines itself to resorts and golf courses, and eschews time shares. So his business model has no use for refundable deposits. On the contrary, a Trump Golf member usually pays a nonrefundable deposit-- one considerably less than $200,000-- plus annual dues.

The sale to Trump was completed on Dec. 4, 2012. Trump Golf paid $5 million-- and agreed, as part of the sale, to assume the $30 million in debt resulting from the members’ refundable deposits. (Marriott Vacations Worldwide held on to the time shares.) In fact, he had no intention of honoring that agreement.

Three days after the sale was completed, Trump held a meeting at his new resort. He told the assembled members that he was eager to make Trump National Jupiter “one of the finest clubs anywhere in the world!” as he put it in a Dec. 17 letter that reiterated what he had said in the meeting. But its membership rules were “antiquated,” preventing the resort from becoming “ultra-luxurious” and “ultra-prestigious.”

He told the members that if they wanted to remain in the resort, they would have to give up their refundable deposit; in return, he would freeze their dues for three years (saving them, at most, $20,000), and give them the right to play at other Trump golf courses (for a fee, of course). Members who stayed but didn’t accept that deal would be denied those benefits and see an immediate dues increase of $4,000. Stuck with the homes and time shares they had bought, many of the home-owning members accepted the deal.

But there was also one other category of members: those on the resignation list. By the time Trump took over the Jupiter resort, the resignation list had grown to an astonishing 150 members. That was more than half the club.

During the time the Ritz ran the resort, people who put themselves on the resignation list still had access to the resort and the golf course, and they still paid dues. And why wouldn’t they? Until new members joined, allowing them to recoup their deposit, they were still members of the resort. They hadn’t resigned, but simply announced their desire to resign.

Trump, however, wanted nothing to do with them. He immediately barred them from the club, and said he would no longer accept their dues. (According to a brief filed by the plaintiffs in the class-action suit, Trump later complained that the people on the resignation list were in arrears on their dues.) As he bluntly put it in his Dec. 17 letter, “If you choose to remain on the resignation list-- you’re out.”

According to one attendee, the members listened in stunned silence.

(Nearly everyone who spoke to me for this column requested anonymity. Some did so because they had nondisclosure agreements with the Trump organization, while others said they were fearful of Trump’s reaction if they criticized him publicly.)

What was taking place in Jupiter was an essential part of Trump’s modus operandi. In every deal, he has to win and you have to lose. He is notorious for refusing to pay full price to contractors and vendors after they’ve completed work for him. And he basically dares the people he has stiffed to sue him, knowing that his deep pockets and bevy of lawyers give him a big advantage over those who feel wronged by him.

...Many members reacted by suing Trump Golf. Given that the cost of a full-blown lawsuit was obviously going be higher than a $200,000 deposit, many of those on the resignation list sought to settle. The typical settlement was for 50 cents on the dollar, meaning that Trump was pocketing $100,000 of their deposit. Carballo says that the last time he checked, the debt had dropped below $18 million.

...There is one other thing about Trump National Jupiter that is worth pointing out. As I’ve noted, when the Ritz-Carlton ran the resort, it lost $1.2 million on $13 million in revenue. Last year, under Trump’s management, revenue dropped to $12.4 million, according to the financial disclosure forms he submitted last year as part of his presidential candidacy. It also has fewer members thanks to his counterproductive decision to bar all the people on the resignation list.

Which leads to a pretty obvious question: How much is Trump National Jupiter losing today?
Writing yesterday for the Washington Post, Daniel Drezner, referred back to a column of his a week before in which he made the point that "Ordinary toddlers eventually tire out after throwing a tantrum [but that] Trump is not really a toddler, but an overindulged plutocrat who has never had to cope with political failure. With each negative shock or story he faces, his behavior worsens, and that just leads to a new cycle of negative press and disaffected GOP officials. The political effects of this is to weaken his historically weak presidency, making it harder for him to do anything that would counteract this trend. This doom loop means that his behavior is only going to get worse."

Yesterday Drezner reminded his readers that Señor Trumpanzee's "behavior has gotten worse. By the end of the week, Trump had gone after Obamacare, the Clean Power Plan, UNESCO, and the Iranian nuclear deal."
The Trump administration’s style is gleefully aggressive enough to alienate countries that want closer ties with the United States. The data are already starting to come in on how loyal allies are reacting to Trump’s disruptive style, and that data is not encouraging. Politico’s Adam Beshudi chronicles how the Trump administration has successfully annoyed Japan:
Japanese officials are expressing growing frustration with the Trump administration’s economic policies, vowing to continue striking trade deals with other countries that undercut U.S. agricultural exports rather than seek a new trade agreement with the United States.

The frustration comes both from President Donald Trump’s harsh rhetoric on trade and from his pullout from the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Japan still hopes can provide a bulwark against China’s growing influence in the Asia-Pacific region...

In interviews with Politico, more than half a dozen senior Japanese officials said they were uneasy with a so-called bilateral-- two-nation-- deal to replace the TPP, arguing that the goal of the multinational agreement was to create a wide international playing field. They said they are dismayed by Trump’s seeming inability to understand the importance of a multinational pact to establish U.S. leadership in the region and set the trade rules for nations on both sides of the Pacific Ocean as a counterweight to China’s rising influence.
...Instead of leading, Trump’s “my way or the highway” approach has been a detour from the multilateral road the United States has traveled since World War II. And as Trump has left behind, or threatened to, the premier international agreements of this century, from the Paris climate accord to global trade alliances and now the Iran nuclear deal, he has not had many willing followers...

Even those who have proclaimed him as a leader have sometimes not felt bound by his demands.

Josh Marshall pointed to a post by Bill McBride at the real estate economics blog Calculated Risk, The Art of Negotiation. He spoke to a few Trump supporters who claim Trump "has extensive negotiating experience. They are wrong."
In general, there are two types of negotiations. There is the “win-lose” type (or Distributive negotiation) where one party receives more and the other party receives less. This is the common approach when buying a car or real estate, or haggling at a street market.

The other type of negotiation is “win-win” (or Integrative negotiation). This type is used when negotiating between a company and a worker’s union, with long term suppliers, negotiating agreements between international allies-- and even with adversaries.

The tactics for the two types of negotiations are very different. In the first type (win-lose), bluffing, threats (like threatening to walk away), even lying are commonly used.  (Sound familiar?)

The approach to an integrative negotiation includes building trust, understanding the other party’s concerns, and knowing the details of the agreement-- with the goal to reach a mutually beneficial agreement.

It is important to understand when each approach is appropriate. A used car buyer could use the Integrative negotiation approach, but they probably wouldn’t get a very good deal.

A company could use the “win-lose” tactics with a worker’s union, but they would probably face an extended strike followed by a long period of ill-will.

This brings me to Mr. Trump. He has experience in “win-lose” negotiations (buying and selling real estate), but apparently little or no experience in Integrative negotiations.

Mr. Trump keeps using the tactics of “win-lose” in negotiating with Congress, allies and adversaries. Not only has this been ineffective (members of Congress have repeatedly called his bluffs), but it is damaging to long term relationships. Mr. Trump’s use of “win-lose” techniques with North Korea have made him look weak and ineffective (a “dotard”), and have increased the risks of a major misunderstanding and possibly a war.

So, what can Mr. Trump do to be effective? First, he needs to realize he lacks the negotiating experience that is required for these types of negotiations. He needs to stop with the empty threats, bluffs, and lying. And he either needs to learn the integrative negotiation approach (and become a student of the details), or hire people with relevant negotiating experience (and remove himself from the process). All of this seems unlikely, and I expect Mr. Trump to continue using inappropriate tactics-- that betray his lack of negotiating experience.

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Gillespie And Trump Are Both Embarrassed Of Each Other! Who Could Blame Them?


Trump's approval ratings might get better-- but that's unlikely. They just keep sinking... and they are, as Jonathan Bernstein explained for Bloomberg readers, really, really bad already. Señor Trumpanzee is, in short, being judged to be the worst president in modern history. He's "back in last place in approval ratings at this number of days after being sworn in of any president in the polling era. And his 'net' approval (subtracting disapproval) has been the worst among those 13 presidents every day of his presidency, and it's never been particularly close. Currently he's within a single percentage point of same-day Gerald Ford in approval, but at -18.3, his net approval is 9 percentage points worse than Ford's, and every other president was in positive territory at this point. All of that with the more-or-less peace and something very close to prosperity-- the two things that generally drive whether U.S. citizens like their presidents or not."

As you probably know, on November 7 Virginians will be electing a new governor and their entire House of Delegates. Democrat Ralph Northam is about as conservative as you can be and still be a Democrat and Republican Ed Gillespie doesn't stand for anything at all other than personal ambition. It's a pretty putrid race. There are plenty of House seats being decided that are far more important to progressives (as long as Gillespie is defeated). Every single poll since early June shows Northam ahead, with the exception of one outlier last month predicting a tie. The most recent poll, last week, by Emerson College has Northam leading 49-44%.

So why doesn't Trump get his fat, sagging ass down to Virginia to campaign for Gillespie (who he did endorse in a weird tweet a couple weeks ago)?I t's a reasonable-- if inelegantly phrased-- question-- and Jonathan Martin explored it yesterday for the NY Times. Gillespie and Trump are dancing around each other warily. Remember, Virginia was the only state that joined the Confederacy that Trump, the improbable Confederate candidate, lost last year.

Gillespie wants the Trump supporters to turn out for him of course-- Trump lost to Hillary last year 49.73% to 44.41% (virtually identical to the gubernatorial polling numbers last week)-- but there were still 1,769,443 Virginians willing to debase themselves and their country by voting for Trump. But Gillespie doesn't want the negatives around Trump to influence independent voters in their gubernatorial decision.

And meanwhile Trump is a little gun-shy too. He's embarrassed that his candidate, Senator Luther Strange, who he backed so strongly, lost so badly. And, like Strange, Gillespie is a swamp-dwelling part of the Republican Party establishment. He founded one of DC's sleaziest lobbying firms, Quinn Gillespie & Associates, whose marquee client was Enron. He was also chair of the RNC, which is a pretty swampy position in the minds of many hardcore Trump voters. But, more than anything, Trump doesn't want to deal with the stench of another ego-damaging electoral defeat.

Martin wrote that Trumpanzee "has so overwhelmed a campaign waged by a pair of bland candidates lacking signature proposals that, much the same way he does across the Potomac, he has made himself and his incendiary style of politics the central issue." For Gillespie there is also the little matter of how Trump's mental health would impact him, especially if there's a rally like the insane one Trump did for Luther Strange a few days before the Alabama election.
“There is so much focus on the activity and the machinations in Washington,” said George Allen, the former Republican governor and senator who ran statewide four times. “With President Trump, whatever he tweets becomes the news till whatever he tweets next.”

With the president rampaging through news cycles seemingly every day, the biggest question looming before Mr. Gillespie is whether it is worth the risk of trying to harness Mr. Trump’s total-eclipse-of-the-sun attention-getting skills to rouse conservative voters.

His campaign and the Republican Governor’s Association signaled to the White House at a meeting this spring that they preferred the reliable hand of Vice President Mike Pence, who campaigned with Mr. Gillespie on Saturday, over Mr. Trump in a state where the president is loathed in the vote-rich population centers but well-liked in many rural areas.

But trailing in every public poll, Mr. Gillespie is now engaged in a robust debate with his advisers about whether he should ask the president to stump with him, according to multiple Republican officials familiar with the conversations.

Those in favor of bringing Mr. Trump in for a rally argue that Mr. Gillespie will be linked to Mr. Trump regardless and, in a state where turnout plummets in nonpresidential years, that the president can jolt his supporters who may have been indifferent about the race or uneasy with an establishment-aligned candidate such as Mr. Gillespie, a former George W. Bush adviser and Republican National Committee chairman.

But the camp urging Mr. Gillespie to keep his distance from Mr. Trump counters that it would be malpractice to embrace a polarizing president who failed to win even 30 percent of the vote in Fairfax County, the most populous jurisdiction in the state and once a suburban battleground.

As they consider their options, Gillespie supporters have an object lesson: Mr. Trump’s ill-fated rally for Senator Luther Strange in Alabama, where he could not resist veering off-message. At that rally, Mr. Trump started his feud with the N.F.L. while offering a backhanded endorsement of Mr. Strange’s rival, Roy Moore.

“Having watched what a great job he did for Luther Strange, I’m not sure I’d want that,” said Ken Cuccinelli, a former state attorney general, suggesting that the president could bring up the bloodshed in Charlottesville with little warning. “Trump rallies are about Trump.”

Then there is the president’s calculation: Would he even want to risk attaching himself to a potential loser so soon after the Alabama race, in which he felt burned, according to White House officials. West Wing advisers say Mr. Trump is willing to record automated calls for Mr. Gillespie but is not clamoring to fire up Air Force One for the trip to Roanoke.

Mr. Trump has tweeted twice about the Virginia race, including on Saturday night, when he wrote that “Democrats in the Southwest part of Virginia have been abandoned by their Party,” as Mr. Pence was on the way to the region.

Yet whether Mr. Trump sets foot here or not, his success at motivating voters with culturally and racially tinged appeals has worn off on Mr. Gillespie. Once one of the loudest voices in his party for an inclusive message, Mr. Gillespie is now assailing Mr. Northam over the Democrat’s opposition to a state measure that would have banned “sanctuary cities” and targeting him for supporting the removal of the state’s many Confederate statues.

The Republican chafes at questions over whether he is adopting a Trumpian message and forgoing his own advice in 2006 that Republicans should resist the “siren song” of anti-immigration rhetoric, insisting he is running as “who I am and what I believe in.”

“The great thing about a governor’s race in Virginia is the people who vote in it are focused on roads and schools and jobs and the opioid and heroin epidemic,” Mr. Gillespie said.

But his advertising reflects what he thinks will actually move the electorate: He is spending the bulk of his money on commercials focused on the statues, which make no mention of his view that the South was “on the wrong side of history,” and illegal immigrants. One of his immigration ads features amply tattooed Salvadoran prisoners meant to be members of the menacing gang MS-13, a target of the president’s.

Asked if he still supported a pathway to legal status for illegal immigrants, which he once vocally championed, Mr. Gillespie unenthusiastically confirmed that he did, deflating his answer by noting that “the debate is 10 years old from my perspective.” (He did more readily note that he supported “accommodating those who were brought here as children illegally,” the so-called Dreamers.)
This week, Northam is enthusiastically campaigning with Obama, who won Virginia both times he ran (53-46% against McCain and 51-47% against Romney). In the end, Trumpanzee will probably be too embarrassed to stay away and will, in all likelihood, waddle down to Roanoke, which is pretty safe territory for him. He lost Roanoke City (56.1% to 38.5%) But he won Roanoke County 61.5% to 33.5%. If Trump does one of his crazy rallies they can bus rubes in from Franklin, Botetourt, Bedford, Craig, Henry, Floyd, and Giles counties, all blood red and filled with Trumpist crackpots addicted to Fox News, Hate Talk Radio and opioids. That way Trump can claim even though Gillespie lost the state, at least he won the backward area Trump campaigned in. Just watch.

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Midnight Meme Of The Day!


-by Noah

Surely, this meme expresses an idea whose time has come. Think of it, since Republicans long to always "put women in their place" and tell them exactly what they can and can't do with their lives, their health and even their bodies, suppose every American woman tried to take advantage of our nation's lax gun laws and armed themselves, ideally to the teeth. What would all those angry, fearful white men do? They just might start second guessing their 2nd amendment arguments. They'd be beside themselves, trembling with fear. Might even the NRA kooks start gasping? Hmmm, probably not, as long as the money keeps coming.

Imagine a world... where every women does just like the guys in open-carry states, and never leaves home without the trusty semi-automatic. Imagine a world... where the local diner, Walmart, or, say, pro-choice demonstration, is chock full of women openly armed to the max like modern day Amazon or Viking warriors. They could even tell the guys, "Hey, if you can carry around a penis substitute, I certainly can!" Or, how about, "You talk about penis envy, I've got your penis envy right here, bozo." Suppose the next "Million Women March" was held in a state where Open Carry is permitted. Can you see an emergency session of that state's legislature?

As the ever-escalating ease of obtaining legal guns, legal or otherwise, grows, I can see this idea of women arming themselves to protect their rights, reproductive and otherwise, really taking hold in America. I can see those models on HSN and QVC modeling with guns of all sorts. Lady Luger's anyone? Coupons in the weekly shopping mailer? I see a future of grocery store cross promotions. Buy two jars of Hellman's Mayo or Hamburger Helper and get a 9mm pistol, half off! Public demand can do this. Women do have power! So, why don't they start calling for more guns?

To be fair, and I'm always fair, the blame for a lack of gun control doesn't solely rest at the feet of one party in this country, even if one party is solidly made up of nihilistic true believers who don't seem to mind bullets flying all over the place. A way too large percentage of republicans will even tell you, with a straight face no less, that tragedies like Newtown didn't really happen, are hoaxes, or even "false flag" events.

Many Democrats often go along with the NRA on the issue of gun control, too, even if only out of cowardice and alleged "political expediency." Still, I think there's no harm in putting the idea of, say, making it even easier for every American woman of voting age to obtain a registered firearm or two, or three, or four, or more, many more, without background checks, of course. What harm could there be in that?

Republicans would have a dilemma. They would have to choose between being the fearful little rodents that they really are inside; worried about every woman in the country packing heat, or, reversing course and calling for what they would suddenly call "common sense" gun regulation. Gone would be the excuses that no gun control is needed because an assailant can kill you with a knife just as well as with a gun. You know damn what will pop into the minds of cretins like Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Donald Trump, or "Ted" Cruz if you suggest giving every woman a machete instead of a gun.

Wanna take this one step further and really terrorize your crazy Republican uncle? How about suggesting that, if things keep going the way they are, every African-American male of voting age, registered or not, will soon have a gun, registered or not.

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Monday, October 16, 2017

Overnight-- With Mike Pence


"To Pence, Trump is just a stepping stone to theocracy"

Jane Mayer has a piece in the new New Yorker, The Danger of President Pence, that needs to be factored into everyone's impeachment calculus. "The worse the President looks," she wrote, "the more desirable his understudy seems. The more Trump is mired in scandal, the more likely Pence’s elevation to the Oval Office becomes, unless he ends up legally entangled as well." But who is Pence? Many Americans don't know much about him-- even if DWT readers know too much about him.

Before we get into Mayer's look-see, let's remember, for context, that before there was Pence, Trump offered the VP slot to Kasich with the promise that he, VP Kasich, would be in charge of domestic policy and foreign policy. When asked by a Kasich negotiator what Señor Trumpanzee would be in charge of, he was told, "making America great again," presumably meaning he would be ranting and raving, playing golf and promoting Trump family businesses. Is there any reason to suppose he didn't offer Pence the same deal? From her piece, though, we learn that the uber-ambitious Pence is, according to his brother "completely unmotivated by money."
During the tumultuous 2016 Presidential campaign, relatively little attention was paid to how Pence was chosen, or to his political record. And, with all the infighting in the new Administration, few have focussed on Pence’s power within the White House. Newt Gingrich told me recently that the three people with the most policy influence in the Administration are Trump, Chief of Staff John Kelly, and Pence. Gingrich went on, “Others have some influence, such as Jared Kushner and Gary Cohn. But look at the schedule. Pence has lunches with the President. He’s in the national-security briefings.” Moreover, and crucially, Pence is the only official in the White House who can’t be fired.

...[T]hey are almost comically mismatched. “You end up with an odd pair of throwbacks from fifties casting,” the former White House strategist Stephen Bannon joked, comparing them to Dean Martin, the bad boy of the Rat Pack, and “the dad on Leave It to Beaver.”

Trump and Pence are misaligned politically, too. Trump campaigned as an unorthodox outsider, but Pence is a doctrinaire ideologue. Kellyanne Conway, the White House counsellor, who became a pollster for Pence in 2009, describes him as “a full-spectrum conservative” on social, moral, economic, and defense issues. Pence leans so far to the right that he has occasionally echoed A.C.L.U. arguments against government overreach; he has, for instance, supported a federal shield law that would protect journalists from having to identify whistle-blowers. According to Bannon, Pence is “the outreach guy, the connective tissue” between the Trump Administration and the most conservative wing of the Republican establishment. “Trump’s got the populist nationalists,” Bannon said. “But Pence is the base. Without Pence, you don’t win.”

Pence has taken care to appear extraordinarily loyal to Trump, so much so that Joel K. Goldstein, a historian and an expert on Vice-Presidents who teaches law at St. Louis University, refers to him as the “Sycophant-in-Chief.” But Pence has the political experience, the connections, the discipline, and the ideological mooring that Trump lacks. He also has a close relationship with the conservative billionaire donors who have captured the Republican Party’s agenda in recent years.

During the 2016 campaign, Trump characterized the Republican Party’s big spenders as “highly sophisticated killers” whose donations allowed them to control politicians. When he declared his candidacy, he claimed that, because of his real-estate fortune, he did not need support from “rich donors,” and he denounced super pacs, their depositories of unlimited campaign contributions, as “corrupt.” Pence’s political career, though, has been sponsored at almost every turn by the donors whom Trump has assailed. Pence is the inside man of the conservative money machine.

On Election Night, the dissonance between Trump’s populist supporters and Pence’s billionaire sponsors was quietly evident. When Trump gave his acceptance speech, in the ballroom of the Hilton Hotel in midtown Manhattan, he vowed to serve “the forgotten men and women of our country,” and promised to “rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, and hospitals.” Upstairs, in a room reserved for Party élites, several of the richest and most conservative donors, all of whom support drastic reductions in government spending, were celebrating. Doug Deason, a Texas businessman and a political donor, recalled to me, “It was amazing. In the V.I.P. reception area, there was an even more V.I.P. room, and I counted at least eight or nine billionaires.”

Deason’s father, Darwin, founded a data-processing company, Affiliated Computer Services, and in 2010 he sold it to Xerox for $6.4 billion. A.C.S. was notorious for outsourcing U.S. office work to cheaper foreign-labor markets. Trump campaigned against outsourcing, but the Deasons became Trump backers nonetheless, donating a million dollars to his campaign. Doug Deason was enlisted, in part, by Pence, whom he had known and supported for years. “Mike and I are pretty good friends,” Deason said, adding, “He’s really the contact to the big donors.” Since the election, Deason has attended two dinners for wealthy backers at the Vice-Presidential residence.

Among the billionaires who gathered in the room at the Hilton, Deason recalled, were the financier Wilbur Ross, whom Trump later appointed his Secretary of Commerce; the corporate investor Carl Icahn, who became a top adviser to Trump but resigned eight months later, when allegations of financial impropriety were published by the New Yorker; Harold Hamm, the founder and chairman of Continental Resources, an Oklahoma-based oil-and-gas company that has made billions of dollars through fracking; and David Koch, the richest resident of New York City.

Koch’s presence was especially unexpected. He and his brother Charles are libertarians who object to most government spending, including investments in infrastructure. They co-own virtually all of Koch Industries, the second-largest private company in the United States, and have long tapped their combined fortune-- currently ninety billion dollars-- to finance candidates, think tanks, pressure groups, and political operatives who support an anti-tax and anti-regulatory agenda, which dovetails with their financial interests.

During the campaign, Trump said that Republican rivals who attended secretive donor summits sponsored by the Kochs were “puppets.” The Kochs, along with several hundred allied donors, had amassed nearly nine hundred million dollars to spend on the Presidential election, but declined to support Trump’s candidacy. At one point, Charles Koch described the choice between Trump and Hillary Clinton as one between “cancer or heart attack.”

Marc Short, the head of legislative affairs in the Trump White House, credits Pence for the Kochs’ rapprochement with Trump. “The Kochs were very excited about the Vice-Presidential pick,” Short told me. “There are areas where they differ from the Administration, but now there are many areas they’re partnering with us on.” Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island, who has accused the Kochs of buying undue influence, particularly on environmental policy-- Koch Industries has a long history of pollution-- is less enthusiastic about their alliance with Pence. “If Pence were to become President for any reason, the government would be run by the Koch brothers-- period. He’s been their tool for years,” he said. Bannon is equally alarmed at the prospect of a Pence Presidency. He told me, “I’m concerned he’d be a President that the Kochs would own.”

This summer, I visited Pence’s home town of Columbus, Indiana. Harry McCawley, a retired editor at the Republic, the local newspaper, told me, “Mike Pence wanted to be President practically since he popped out of the womb.” Pence exudes a low-key humility, but, McCawley told me, “he’s very ambitious, even calculating, about the steps he’ll take toward that goal.”

...McCawley, the newspaper editor, told me that, while Pence was growing up, Columbus, “like many Indiana communities, still had vestiges of the Ku Klux Klan.” The group had ruled the state’s government in the twenties, and then gone underground. In Columbus, landlords refused to rent or sell homes to African-Americans until [major engine manufacturer] Cummins’s owners demanded that they do so. Gregory Pence insisted that the town “was not racist,” but contended that there had been anti-Catholic prejudice. Protestant kids had thrown stones at him, he recalled. “We were discriminated against,” Pence’s mother added.

...In 1979, during Pence’s junior year in college, Jerry Falwell founded the Moral Majority, to mobilize Christian voters as a political force. Pence voted for Jimmy Carter in 1980, but he soon joined the march of many Christians toward the Republican Party. The Moral Majority’s co-founder, Paul Weyrich, a Midwestern Catholic, established numerous institutions of the conservative movement, including the Heritage Foundation and the Republican Study Committee, a caucus of far-right congressional members, which Pence eventually led. Weyrich condemned homosexuality, feminism, abortion, and government-imposed racial integration, and he partnered with some controversial figures, including Laszlo Pasztor, a former member of a pro-Nazi party in Hungary. When Weyrich died, in 2008, Pence praised him as a “friend and mentor” and a “founding father of the modern conservative movement,” from whom he had “benefitted immeasurably.”

...Pence also began observing what’s known as the Billy Graham rule, meaning that he never dined alone with another woman, or attended an event in mixed company where alcohol was served unless his wife was present. Critics have argued that this approach reduces women to sexual temptresses and precludes men from working with women on an equal basis. A Trump campaign official said that he found the Pences’ dynamic “a little creepy.” But Kellyanne Conway defended him vigorously, telling me, “I’ve been a female top adviser of his for years, and never felt excluded or dismissed.” She went on, “Most wives would appreciate a loyal husband who puts them first. People are trying to bloody and muddy him, but talk about narrow-minded-- to judge his marriage!”

...Even as Pence argued for less government interference in business, he pushed for policies that intruded on people’s private lives. In the early nineties, he joined the board of the Indiana Family Institute, a far-right group that supported the criminalization of abortion and campaigned against equal rights for homosexuals. And, while Pence ran the Indiana Policy Review Foundation, it published an essay arguing that unmarried women should be denied access to birth control. “What these people are really after is contraceptives,” Vi Simpson, the former Democratic minority leader of the Indiana State Senate, told me. In 2012, after serving twenty-eight years in the legislature, she ran for lieutenant governor on a ticket with the gubernatorial candidate John R. Gregg, who lost the election to Pence. Simpson believes that Pence wants to reverse women’s economic and political advances. “He’s on a mission,” she said.

Pence’s true gift was not as a thinker but as a talker. In 1992, he became a host on conservative talk radio, which had been booming since the F.C.C., in 1987, repealed the Fairness Doctrine and stopped requiring broadcasters to provide all sides of controversial issues. At a time when bombastic, angry voices proliferated, Pence was different. Like Reagan, who had become his political hero, he could present even extreme positions in genial, nonthreatening terms. “I’m a conservative, but I’m not mad about it,” he liked to say. He welcomed guests of all political stripes, and called himself “Rush Limbaugh on decaf.”

“His radio career gave him great statewide name recognition,” Jeff Smulyan, the C.E.O. of Emmis Communications, on whose radio stations Pence’s program aired, said. “He’s likable, and a great self-promoter.” Smulyan, a Democrat, added, “I’m not sure how he’d fare in a detailed policy debate, but Mike knows what Mike believes.” In 1994, Pence was on eighteen Emmis stations, five days a week. By then, he’d lost weight and had three children; he’d also amassed a Rolodex full of conservative connections and established a national network of wealthy funders. In 2000, when a Republican congressman in northern Indiana vacated his seat, Pence ran as the Party favorite, on a platform that included a promise to oppose “any effort to recognize homosexuals as a discrete and insular minority entitled to the protection of anti-discrimination laws.” He won, by a twelve-point margin.

Once Pence got to Washington, Conway said, his background “in the think-tank-slash-media axis really equipped him to defend and explain an argument in a full-throated way.” Pence was in demand on the conservative speaking circuit, and frequently appeared on Sunday talk shows. “He was invited to Heritage, gun owners’ groups, property-rights groups, pro-life groups, and pro-Israel groups,” Conway recalled. “People started to see an authentic, affable conservative who was not in a bad mood about it.” Michael Leppert, a Democratic lobbyist in Indiana, saw Pence differently. “His politics were always way outside the mainstream,” Leppert said. “He just does it with a smile on his face instead of a snarl.”

Pence served twelve years in Congress, but never authored a single successful bill. His sights, according to Leppert, were always “on the national ticket.” He gained attention by challenging his own party’s leaders, both in Congress and in the George W. Bush Administration, from the right. He broke with the vast majority of his Republican peers by opposing Bush’s expansion of Medicaid coverage for prescription drugs, along with the No Child Left Behind initiative and the Troubled Asset Relief Program, the government’s emergency bailout of banks. Conway calls him “a rebel with a cause.” In 2004, the House’s most conservative members elected him to head their caucus, the Republican Study Committee. Pence joked that the group was so alien to the Party’s mainstream that running it was like leading a “Star Trek” convention. “He was as far right as you could go without falling off the earth,” Mike Lofgren, a former Republican congressional staff member, who has become a Trump critic, told me. “But he never really put a foot wrong politically. Beneath the Bible-thumping earnestness was a calculating and ambitious pol.”

In 2006, Pence boldly challenged the House Minority Leader at the time, John Boehner, a more centrist Republican from Ohio, for his post. Pence got wiped out, but in 2008 Boehner—perhaps trying to contain Pence’s ambition—asked him to serve as the Republican Conference chair, the Party’s third-highest-ranking post in the House. The chair presides over weekly meetings in which Republican House members discuss policy and legislative goals. Pence used the platform to set the Party’s message on a rightward course, raise money, and raise his profile.

After Barack Obama was elected President, Pence became an early voice of the Tea Party movement, which opposed taxes and government spending with an angry edge. Pence’s tone grew more militant, too. In 2011, he made the evening news by threatening to shut down the federal government unless it defunded Planned Parenthood. Some Hoosiers were unnerved to see footage of Pence standing amid rowdy protesters at a Tea Party rally and yelling, “Shut it down!” His radicalism, however, only boosted his national profile. Pence became best known for fiercely opposing abortion. He backed “personhood” legislation that would ban it under all circumstances, including rape and incest, unless a woman’s life was at stake. He sponsored an unsuccessful amendment to the Affordable Care Act that would have made it legal for government-funded hospitals to turn away a dying woman who needed an abortion. (Later, as governor of Indiana, he signed a bill barring women from aborting a physically abnormal fetus; the bill also required fetal burial or cremation, including after a miscarriage. A federal judge recently found the law unconstitutional.)

Pence’s close relationship with dozens of conservative groups, including Americans for Prosperity, the Kochs’ top political organization, was crucial to his rise. A key link to these groups was provided by Marc Short, the current White House official, who in 2008 became Pence’s chief of staff at the Republican Conference. Short had grown up in moneyed conservative circles in Virginia, where his father had helped finance the growth of the Republican Party, and he had run a group for conservative students, Young America’s Foundation, and spent several years as a Republican Senate aide before joining Pence’s staff. His wife, as it happened, worked for the Charles Koch Foundation, and he admired the brothers’ anti-government ideology. A former White House colleague described Short to me as “a pod person” who “really delivered Pence to the Kochs.”

...Pence, who had called global warming “a myth” created by environmentalists in their “latest Chicken Little attempt to raise taxes,” took up the Kochs’ cause. He not only signed their pledge but urged others to do so as well. He gave speeches denouncing the cap-and-trade bill—which passed the House but got held up in the Senate—as a “declaration of war on the Midwest.” His language echoed that of the Koch groups. Americans for Prosperity called the bill “the largest excise tax in history,” and Pence called it “the largest tax increase in American history.” (Neither statement was true.) He used a map created by the Heritage Foundation, which the Kochs supported, to make his case, and he urged House Republicans to hold “energy summits” opposing the legislation in their districts, sending them home over the summer recess with kits to bolster their presentations.

...Pence's tenure as governor nearly destroyed his political career. He had promised Oesterle and other members of the state’s Republican business establishment that he would continue in the path of his predecessor, Mitch Daniels, a well-liked fiscal conservative who had called for a “truce” on divisive social issues. “Pence was very accommodating,” Oesterle said. But after he was elected he began taking controversial far-right stands that, critics believed, were geared more toward building his national profile than toward serving Indiana voters.

At first, Pence highlighted fiscal conservatism. In 2013, he proposed cutting the state income tax. An internal report by Americans for Prosperity described the proposal as an example of the Kochs’ “model states” program “in action.” Indiana Republicans, who had majorities in both legislative chambers, initially balked at the tax cut, deeming it irresponsible. But Americans for Prosperity acted as a force multiplier for Pence, much as it is now promising to do for Trump’s proposed federal tax cuts. The group mounted an expensive campaign that included fifty rallies, two six-figure television-ad blitzes, and phone-bank calls and door-to-door advocacy in fifty-three of Indiana’s ninety-two counties. Eventually, the legislature went along with what Pence often describes as “the largest income-tax cut in the state’s history,” even though Indiana already had one of the lowest income taxes in the country, and had cut it only once before. Trump has recently described Pence’s record as a template for the White House’s tax plan, saying, “Indiana is a tremendous example of the prosperity that is unleashed when we cut taxes.” But, in the view of Andrew Downs, the Indiana political scientist, “the tax cuts were fairly meaningless.” Residents earning fifty thousand dollars a year received a tax cut of about $3.50 per month. Pence claimed that the cut stimulated the economy, but John Zody, the chairman of the state’s Democratic Party, told me, “Our per-capita income is thirty-eighth in the nation, and not climbing.” The state recently had to increase its gas tax by ten cents per gallon, to repair its crumbling infrastructure.

In a few surprising instances, Pence veered from conservative orthodoxy. In 2014, he broke with many other Republican governors and agreed to expand Medicaid in Indiana. He declared that his proposal was “the kind of health-care reform that puts working Hoosiers in the driver’s seat.” He was no fan of Obamacare: when it passed, he likened the blow to 9/11. Nevertheless, Pence negotiated with the Obama Administration and established waivers that made the expansion acceptable to him. Among other things, all Indiana residents were required to demonstrate “personal responsibility” by paying something toward the cost of their medical services. Critics argued that such measures were needlessly punitive toward poor residents. Americans for Prosperity, which objects to any form of government health care, gently reproached Pence for “meeting Washington’s demands.” But the Medicaid-expansion plan was, and remains, popular in the state.

After this apostasy, Pence tilted back toward the right. At the last minute, he killed an application for an eighty-million-dollar federal grant to start a statewide preschool program. Education officials in Pence’s own administration favored the grant, but conservative opponents of secular public education had complained. When reporters asked Pence about his decision, he said only that the federal government had attached “too many strings.” But, as Matthew Tully, a columnist at the Indianapolis Star, wrote, “he could not name one.” Eventually, after widespread criticism, Pence reapplied for the grant. Tully concluded that Pence had a “fatal flaw”-- he was “too political and ideological” to be a good governor. “His focus was on the next step up, not the job at hand,” Tully wrote.

Political handicappers noticed that Pence was spending a lot of time taking trips to states with important Presidential primaries and mingling with big out-of-state donors. In the summer of 2014, Pence spoke at an Americans for Prosperity summit in Dallas. At the event, he stood by Short’s side and declared himself “grateful to have enjoyed” David Koch’s support. That fall, Pence reached out to Nick Ayers, a young, sharp-elbowed political consultant, to see if he would help him in a 2016 Presidential run. Nothing came of it, but Pence clearly had White House ambitions.

In the spring of 2015, Pence signed a bill called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which he presented as innocuous. “He said it protected religious freedom, and who’s against that?” Oesterle recalled. But then a photograph of the closed signing session surfaced. It showed Pence surrounded by monks and nuns, along with three of the most virulently anti-gay activists in the state. The image went viral. Indiana residents began examining the law more closely, and discovered that it essentially legalized discrimination against homosexuals by businesses in the state.

“The No. 1 challenge we face in Indiana is the ability to attract and retain talented people,” Oesterle said. “If the state is seen as bigoted to certain members of the community, it makes the job monumentally harder.” The Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Oesterle said, “was not an issue of Pence’s creation”—it had “gurgled out” of the far-right fringe of the Indiana legislature. But, he added, “there was a lack of leadership.” In his view, Pence should have prevented it and other extreme bills from moving forward. “You can see it happening in Washington now,” Oesterle said. “He’s not that effective a leader, or administrator. Extremists grabbed the initiative.”

The outcry over the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was enormous. Gay-rights groups condemned the bill and urged boycotts of the state. Pete Buttigieg, the young gay mayor of South Bend, who is a rising figure in the Democratic Party, told me that he tried to talk to Pence about the legislation, which he felt would cause major economic damage to Indiana. “But he got this look in his eye,” Buttigieg recalled. “He just inhabits a different reality. It’s very difficult for him to lay aside the social agenda. He’s a zealot.”

In an effort to quell criticism, Pence consented, against the advice of his staff, to be interviewed by George Stephanopoulos on his Sunday-morning show on ABC. Stephanopoulos asked him five times if it was now legal in Indiana for businesses to discriminate against homosexuals, and each time Pence was evasive. Pence also sidestepped when Stephanopoulos asked him if he personally supported discrimination against gays. “What killed him was his unwillingness to take a clear position,” Oesterle said. “You saw the conflict between his ideology and his ambition. If he’d just said, ‘Look, I think people should have the right to fire gay people,’ he would have been labelled a rigid ideologue, but he wouldn’t have been mocked.”

Smulyan, the broadcasting executive, began getting calls from acquaintances all over the country, asking what was wrong with Indiana. The hashtag #BoycottIndiana appeared on Twitter’s list of trending topics, and remained there for days. Alarmed business executives from many of the state’s most prominent companies, including Cummins, Eli Lilly, Salesforce, and Anthem, joined civic leaders in expressing disapproval. Companies began cancelling conventions, and threatening to reverse plans to expand in the state. The Indiana business community foresaw millions of dollars in losses. When the N.C.A.A., which is based in Indianapolis, declared its opposition to the legislation, the pressure became intolerable. Even the Republican establishment turned on Pence. A headline in the Star, published the Tuesday after the Stephanopoulos interview, demanded, “fix this now.”

Within days, the legislature had pushed through a less discriminatory version of the bill, and Pence signed it, before hastily leaving town for the weekend. But he clearly had not anticipated the outrage he’d triggered, and then he had tried to save his career at the expense of his professed principles. Steve Deace, an influential conservative radio host, told me that Pence’s reversal was “almost the worst conservative betrayal I’ve witnessed in my career.” He added, “He had no chance at national office after that, other than getting on the Trump ticket.” Similarly, Michael Maurer, the owner of the Indianapolis Business Journal, who is a Republican but not a hard-line social conservative, said, “It just exploded in his face. His polls were terrible. I bet he’d never get elected again in Indiana. But he went from being a likely loser as an incumbent governor to Vice-President of the United States. We’re still reeling!”

...Trump handily won the Indiana primary. Pence, who had tepidly endorsed Ted Cruz, switched to Trump. Pence’s history with Trump, however, was strained. In 2011, Pence had gone to Trump Tower in Manhattan, seeking a campaign donation. Trump brought up some gossip-- the wife of Mitch Daniels, the outgoing governor of Indiana, had reportedly left him for another man, then reunited with her husband. According to the Times, Trump announced that he’d never take back a wife who had been unfaithful. Pence reacted stiffly, and their conservation grew awkward. Trump gave Pence a small contribution, but the coarse New York billionaire and the prim Indiana evangelical appeared to be on different wavelengths.

Nevertheless, in 2016, political insiders in Indiana began hearing that Pence would welcome a spot on the Trump ticket. “There was no doubt he’d say yes,” Tony Samuel, the vice-chair of the Trump campaign in the state, who was a lobbyist for Centaur and other companies, told me. Paul Manafort, who was Trump’s campaign chairman at that point, arranged for Trump to meet Pence, and urged Trump to pick him. Pence was seen as a bridge to Christian conservatives, an asset in the Midwest, and a connection to the powerful Koch network. Kellyanne Conway, who had done polling work for the Kochs, pushed for Pence, too, as did Stephen Bannon, although private e-mails recently obtained by BuzzFeed indicate that he considered the choice a Faustian bargain-- “an unfortunate necessity.”

Still, Trump remained wary. According to a former campaign aide, he was disapproving when he learned how little money Pence had. In 2004, the oil firm that Pence’s father had partly owned had filed for bankruptcy. Mike Pence’s shares of the company’s stock, which he had valued at up to a quarter of a million dollars, became worthless. In 2016, according to a campaign-finance disclosure form, Pence had one bank account, which held less than fifteen thousand dollars.

But in July Pence found a way to please Trump when he played golf with him at Trump’s club in Bedminster, New Jersey. Recognizing that Trump was susceptible to flattery, he told the media that Trump “beat me like a drum.”

Yet, in a phone conversation that I had with Trump during this period, he told me that he was torn about the choice. He noted repeatedly that Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, had been “loyal” to him. When I asked Trump if he shared Pence’s deeply conservative social views, he became uncharacteristically silent.

Trump came closer to picking Christie than is generally known. On July 11th, Christie appeared at a campaign event with Trump. Afterward, the Trump campaign informed him that the choice was down to him or Pence, so he needed to “get ready.” The next day, Trump flew to Indiana to do a campaign event with Pence. A tire on Trump’s plane developed a flat, so he and his son Eric, who had accompanied him, decided to stay the night. They joined the Pences for dinner at an Indianapolis restaurant. The foursome emerged looking happy. (Samuel, who was at the restaurant, told me that Trump tipped the chef a couple hundred dollars.)

At dawn on July 13th, Ivanka and Don, Jr., flew to Indianapolis to join their father for breakfast with the Pences at the governor’s mansion. The Times soon reported that Trump had asked Pence if he would accept the job, and that Pence had responded, “In a heartbeat.”

...Before Pence’s trip to Bedminster, he had asked his brother Gregory to meet him at a Burger King. “He said, ‘Donald Trump wants to talk to me,’ ” Gregory recalled. They both knew what it was about. “I told him, ‘You have to go, you have no choice,’ ” Gregory said. As he saw it, his brother also had no choice about saying yes, if picked: “When your party’s nominee asks you to be the running mate, you have to do it.” But it was a gamble. As Gregory put it to me, “If he lost, he had no money, and he had three kids in college. He took out student loans for the kids. He’s got a retirement account, but I was afraid he’d run out of money in just a couple of weeks. He’d have to get a job. He was rolling the dice.” Some politicians in Indiana were surprised that Trump wanted to pick Pence, who was flailing as governor, and that Pence wanted to run with Trump. “The one thing you could count on with Pence was interpersonal decency, which made it strange that he joined the Trump ticket, the most indecent ticket any party’s ever put together,” Pete Buttigieg said. “But, really, he had nowhere else to go. His chances of getting reëlected were fifty-fifty at best.”

By July 14th, Trump’s aides had leaked that he was about to pick Pence, who had flown to New York for the announcement. But that night, as CNN reported, Trump called his aides to see if he could back out of his decision. The next morning, Trump called Christie and said, “They’re telling me I have to pick him. It’s central casting. He looks like a Vice-President.” A few hours later, Trump announced Pence as his running mate.

Several days later, at the Republican National Convention, Newt Gingrich, who had also been passed over for the Vice-Presidency, found himself backstage next to Trump while Pence was giving his acceptance speech. “Isn’t he just perfect?” Trump asked Gingrich. “Straight from central casting.”

The awkwardness between Pence and Trump didn’t entirely dissipate. When the Access Hollywood tape surfaced, revealing Trump’s boast about grabbing women “by the pussy,” Karen Pence was horrified. According to a former campaign aide, Pence refused to take Trump’s calls and sent him a letter saying that he and Karen, as Christians, were deeply offended by his actions and needed to make an “assessment” about whether to remain with the campaign. They urged Trump to pray. When Trump and Pence finally did talk, Pence told him that his wife still had “huge problems” with his behavior. But in public Pence was forgiving, saying, “I am grateful that he has expressed remorse and apologized to the American people.” (A Pence spokesman has denied that there was any friction over the incident.

Pence exceeded expectations in the Vice-Presidential debate, and traversed the Midwest tirelessly. “He did an amazing job,” Bannon said. “Lots of conservative groups had questions about Trump. He answered those questions.” The Kochs were delighted that one of their favorite politicians had joined the ticket, although, because of Trump’s stance against wealthy donors, Pence and the Kochs agreed to cancel a speech that he had been scheduled to give at their donor summit that August. The Kochs continued to withhold financial support from Trump, but Short, the former Koch operative, became a top adviser to Pence on the campaign. Some billionaires in the Kochs’ donor network-- such as the hedge-fund manager Robert Mercer, who has also financed Bannon’s ventures-- began backing Trump.

The Koch network gained even further sway after Trump won the Presidency. Three days after the election, Trump pushed aside Christie, who had been overseeing his transition team, and put Pence in charge, with Short as a top deputy. Trump had promised to “drain the swamp” in Washington, but he had no experience governing, and few political contacts. He was also superstitious, and during his campaign he had deflected discussions about post-election staffing, fearing that it would bring bad luck. Christie’s team had been quietly gathering résumés and making plans for months, but Pence’s team threw out the research, dumping thirty binders of material into the trash. “Donald Trump ran against the establishment, but there was a vacuum,” a member of the earlier transition team said. “Movement conservatives jumped in. There was strong think-tank participation from Heritage and others who saw the opportunity.”

Trump began to appoint an extraordinary number of officials with ties to the Kochs and to Pence, especially in positions that affected Koch Industries financially, such as those dealing with regulatory, environmental, and fiscal policy. Short, who a few months earlier had tried to enlist the Kochs to stop Trump, joined the White House as its director of legislative affairs. Scott Pruitt, the militantly anti-regulatory attorney general of Oklahoma, who had been heavily supported by the Kochs, was appointed director of the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt, in turn, placed Patrick Traylor, a lawyer for Koch Industries and other fossil-fuel companies, in charge of the E.P.A.’s enforcement of key anti-pollution laws. As the Times has reported, a document called “A Roadmap to Repeal,” written by Koch operatives, has guided the E.P.A.’s reversal of Obama Administration clean-air and climate regulations. Don McGahn, who had done legal work for Freedom Partners, became White House counsel. Betsy DeVos, a billionaire heiress, who had been a major member of the Kochs’ donor network and a supporter of Pence, was named Secretary of Education. The new director of the C.I.A. was Mike Pompeo, the congressman who represented Charles Koch’s district, in Wichita, Kansas; before Pompeo ran for office, the Kochs had invested in his aerospace business. Pompeo, the former transition-team member said, “wasn’t even on Trump’s radar, but he was brought in to meet him and got appointed, like, the next day.” A recent analysis by the Checks & Balances Project found that sixteen high-ranking officials in the Trump White House had ties to the Kochs. The pattern continued among lower-level political appointees, including in Pence’s office, which was stocked with Koch alumni. Pence reportedly consulted with Charles Koch before hiring his speechwriter, Stephen Ford, who previously worked at Freedom Partners.

Senator Whitehouse, the Rhode Island Democrat, believes that the Kochs “will stick one hundred of their own people into the government—and Trump will never notice.” As a result, he said, “the signs of a rapprochement are everywhere.” Whitehouse continued, “One by one, all the things that Trump campaigned on that annoyed the Koch brothers are being thrown overboard. And one by one the Koch brothers’ priorities are moving up the list.” Trump’s populist, nationalist agenda has largely been replaced by the agenda of the corporate right. Trump has made little effort at infrastructure reform, and he abandoned his support for a “border-adjustment tax” after the Koch network spent months campaigning against it, and after Pence and Short discussed it privately with Charles Koch at a meeting in Colorado Springs this summer. Bannon’s proposal to create a higher tax bracket for citizens earning upward of five million dollars was dropped. The Kochs enthusiastically support the White House’s proposed tax-cut package, which, according to most nonpartisan analyses, will disproportionately benefit the super-rich. (The proposed elimination of the estate tax alone would give the Koch brothers’ heirs a windfall of billions of dollars.)

...Mark Knoller, who has covered the White House for CBS since Gerald Ford’s Presidency, said of Pence, “He’s the most publicly deferential to his President of any V.P. I can remember.” At Trump’s first full Cabinet meeting, Pence said, “This is the greatest privilege of my life, to serve as Vice-President to a President who’s keeping his word to the American people.” Pence readily complied when Trump asked him to stage a protest at an N.F.L. game in Indianapolis on October 8th, by leaving the stadium when some players refused to stand for the national anthem. (Pence’s trip reportedly cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.)

In private, however, Pence has become a back channel for government figures who are frustrated by the impulsiveness and inattention of a President who won’t read more than a page or two of bullet points. Erick Erickson, a conservative commentator who admires Pence, told me, “Everyone knows that Mike Pence can get the job done, and the President can’t, but no one can say it.” According to NBC, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently became so enraged by the President’s incompetence that he called him “a fucking moron” in front of others, and threatened to quit. In an effort to calm Tillerson, and prevent yet another high-level resignation, Pence reportedly “counselled” the Secretary of State on how to manage Trump, suggesting that he criticize him only privately.

“Trump thinks Pence is great,” Bannon told me. But, according to a longtime associate, Trump also likes to “let Pence know who’s boss.” A staff member from Trump’s campaign recalls him mocking Pence’s religiosity. He said that, when people met with Trump after stopping by Pence’s office, Trump would ask them, “Did Mike make you pray?” Two sources also recalled Trump needling Pence about his views on abortion and homosexuality. During a meeting with a legal scholar, Trump belittled Pence’s determination to overturn Roe v. Wade. The legal scholar had said that, if the Supreme Court did so, many states would likely legalize abortion on their own. “You see?” Trump asked Pence. “You’ve wasted all this time and energy on it, and it’s not going to end abortion anyway.” When the conversation turned to gay rights, Trump motioned toward Pence and joked, “Don’t ask that guy-- he wants to hang them all!”

...Many Americans have debated whether the country would be better off with Pence as President. From a purely partisan viewpoint, Harold Ickes, a longtime Democratic operative, argues that-- putting aside the fear that Trump might start a nuclear war-- “Democrats should hope Trump stays in office,” because he makes a better foil, and because Pence might work more effectively with Congress and be more successful at advancing the far right’s agenda. Newt Gingrich predicts that Pence will probably get a chance to do so. “I think he’s the most likely Republican nominee in 2024,” he said. Ron Klain, who was chief of staff to the former Vice-President Joe Biden, is skeptical of this, given Trump’s accumulating baggage. “There is no success for Mike Pence unless Trump works-- he cannot run far enough or fast enough to not get hit by the falling tree,” Klain said. “But he may think he can.” Evidently, the next chapter is on Pence’s mind. Over the fireplace in the Vice-President’s residence, he has hung a plaque with a passage from the Bible: “ ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the lord, ‘Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”

I don't know a lot of people in Pence's world so I reached out to a friend who does, Frank Schaeffer. "As a former evangelical right wing leader myself (in the 1970s and 80s as my dad Francis Schaeffer’s nepotistic sidekick) today," he told me early this morning, "Mike Pence is transparent to me. I know the routine: a high moral attitude about everything-- except the dirty far right laundry hidden in the basement. To understand Pence you need to understand that he’s an evangelical far right Reconstructionist. Most theologians argue that the New Testament Law of Love “corrects” or “completes” the Old Testament Law of Retribution. Not the Reconstructionists like Pence. Here’s a good summary of the Reconstructionists’ extremism from Frederick Clarkson (coauthor of Challenging the Christian Right):
“Epitomizing the Reconstructionist idea of Biblical ‘warfare’ is the centrality of capital punishment under Biblical Law. Doctrinal leaders (notably Rushdoony, North, and Bahnsen) call for the death penalty for a wide range of crimes in addition to such contemporary capital crimes as rape, kidnapping, and murder. Death is also the punishment for apostasy (abandonment of the faith), heresy, blasphemy, witchcraft, astrology, adultery, ‘sodomy or homosexuality,’ incest, striking a parent, incorrigible juvenile delinquency, and, in the case of women, “unchastity before marriage.” According to North, women who have abortions should be publicly executed, “along with those who advised them to abort their children.”
This is WHO Pence is at heart. The kind smarmy evangelical exterior hides the cold heart of a Christofascist thug. To Pence, Trump is just a stepping stone to theocracy."

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