Mike Pence: You May Think He’s Preferable to Trump

But maybe you need to think again about that. A while back – okay, in October, The Curmudgeon has fallen behind in his reading again – The New Yorker published a long piece about vice president Mike Pence. Today, The Curmudgeon shares especially…interesting things about Pence. And offers a few comments. Tomorrow he focuses just on Pence’s relationship with Trump as reported by The New Yorker.

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[Paul] 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.”

 Isn’t this comforting?

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Never fear: there were other people present

…as Rolling Stone reported in January, he referred to her [his wife] in front of guests as “Mother.” Pence’s office has disputed the account, but a former Indiana Democratic Party official told me, “I’ve heard him call her Mother myself.” 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.

Good lord.

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In 1990, Pence tried and failed again to unseat Sharp, waging a campaign that is remembered as especially nasty. One ad featured an actor dressed in Middle Eastern garb and sunglasses, who accused Sharp, falsely, of being a tool of Arab oil interests. But Pence’s campaign foundered after the press revealed that he had used donations toward personal expenses, such as his mortgage and groceries…

Great: another guy skimming off the top of the campaign donations.

The following year, Mike Pence wrote an essay, carried by local newspapers, titled “Confessions of a Negative Campaigner,” in which he said, “A campaign ought to demonstrate the basic human decency of the candidate.” He admitted to reporters that he had violated this standard, and said that he had no “interest in running for elected office in the foreseeable future,” but added that if he ever did he would not wage a negative campaign. “I think he realized he’d besmirched himself,” Sharp told me. “He comes across as Midwestern nice, but it was mean and shallow.”

Based on the 2016 campaign, it appears that Pence has gotten over his desire to pursue “basic human decency.”

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Cecil Bohanon, one of two adjunct scholars at Pence’s think tank, had a history of financial ties to tobacco-company front groups, and in 2000 Pence echoed industry talking points in an essay that argued, “Smoking doesn’t kill. In fact, two out of every three smokers doesn’t die from a smoking-related illness.”

 Think about that for a minute: his position in support of the tobacco industry is that it only kills one-third of its customers.

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 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.

 Say whaaaat?

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 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.”

Because if he’s going to have to put up with those damn homos he certainly isn’t interested in protecting them.

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 Pence served twelve years in Congress, but never authored a single successful bill. His sights, according to Leppert, were always “on the national ticket.”

 Just what the country needed: another do-nothing congressman.

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 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!”

Seriously?

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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.

So he’s in favor of hospitals turning away dying patients?

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 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.”

Great, another science-denier.

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 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.

Because being a demagogue on divisive social issues is a whole lot easier than rolling up your sleeves and getting down to the hard business of governing – especially for a guy who had even less interest in governing that he had success when he tried.

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 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.”

Nothing like being tripped up on your own deceptive and misguided rhetoric.

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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.

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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.

So is the message here “dumb guy” or “bad guy”?

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As governor, he proclaimed his opposition to any expansion of the gaming industry, but, though the state had banned political contributions from casino operators, cash had flowed generously to him from such sources, through indirect paths. The state’s gaming companies, including Centaur, routed donations to “soft money” groups like the Republican Governors Association, which then transferred the money to Pence and other candidates. Pence, meanwhile, used executive orders to quietly grant several of the gambling industry’s wishes, such as allowing riverboat casinos to expand onshore.

Just because you’re against something doesn’t mean you can’t try to benefit from it, too, right?

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Just another day at the office

In 2002, he declared that “educators around America must teach evolution not as fact but as theory,” alongside such theories as intelligent design, which argues that life on Earth is too complex to have emerged through random mutation. Pence has described intelligent design as the only “remotely rational explanation for the known universe.”

 Again with denying science. Pence is a man for the times – only those times were the 1850s.

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 At the White House, Pence has been hosting a Bible-study group for Cabinet officers, led by an evangelical pastor named Ralph Drollinger. In 2004, Drollinger, whose organization, Capitol Ministries, specializes in proselytizing to elected officials, stirred protests from female legislators in California, where he was then preaching, after he wrote, “Women with children at home, who either serve in public office, or are employed on the outside, pursue a path that contradicts God’s revealed design for them. It is a sin.” Drollinger describes Catholicism as “a false religion,” calls homosexuality “a sin,” and believes that a wife must “submit” to her husband.

 It’s amazing that Pence would sponsor this kind of ignorance at the very highest level of the federal government.

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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.”

Well that’s certainly comforting.

This guy is certainly a piece of work, isn’t he?

Tomorrow, a look at Pence’s relationship with the man who is the constant object of his adoring gaze.

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