Monday, October 16, 2017

Overnight-- With Mike Pence

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"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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6 Comments:

At 12:43 AM, Anonymous ap215 said...

Well said.

 
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At 6:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Overly long and pedantic article that preaches to the choir. The imbeciles that need to gain insight into just how dangerous this motherfucker is won't be reading it and wouldn't give a flying fuck about it anyway. Such is their delusion... I mean "faith".

Let me point out that this asshole is no less a hypocrite than anyone who SAYS X but lives Y. $hillbillary's rhetoric is tepidly progressive but her deeds scream fascism, war and elitism. Obamanation is lauded as a fine man, but he murdered thousands of innocents with drones, refused to enforce laws and committed corporate fellatio often (he's reaping the paychecks now for those "favors").

What degree of hypocrisy is necessary for someone as pious as he is to voluntarily serve under such an anti-Christian as the orange-utang? How does this motherfucker read the new testament and interpret it as a call to hate so many (women, nonwhites, lgbtqs, poor, elderly and children)? Are these who jesus would hate, deprive and kill?

Pence probably sees himself as the first king of the holy evangelical empire.. which shall replace the constitution as our basis for government. I wonder if he looks ahead enough to be planning a new inquisition, crusades and the like. I'd wager that he is.

By the time the inquisition is over, this nation will be very white, male and brain dead... but very pious. Hey, not that much different than it is now... except the melanin content. He doesn't have that far to take us.

Broken crosses everywhere.

 
At 7:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course, no one should EVER advocate violence, but just for the sake of historical accuracy, there WAS a meme that floated around in the early 1970s that went "Shoot Agnew first."

 
At 7:52 PM, Blogger Bill Michtom said...

Doom to you who legislate evil, who make laws that make victims — laws that make misery for the poor, that rob my destitute people of dignity, exploiting defenseless widows, taking advantage of homeless children. What will you have to say on Judgment Day, when Doomsday arrives out of the blue? Who will you get to help you? What good will your money do you?" - Isaiah 10:1-3

 
At 8:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bill, Bill, Bill...

They don't read ALL of that book. Only Leviticus mostly. If you read all of it, and insisted that it was all 'the word of gawd', you'd go insane from all the contradictions. Watch any teevee preacher. See what I mean?

**THEIR** gawd wants whites to kill all others and form a more perfect union, monochromatic, despotic and pious. Precedent: when their gawd commanded the ethnic cleansing of the Canaanites.

 

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