Shortly after the news media announced that Trump had chosen Mike Pence as a running-mate (a choice that Trump later last night said was not yet firm!), I received a request from the New York Daily News to send them 350 words describing the Governor. Here’s what I sent. (I actually think I was restrained. I could have given them the whole list.)
Yesterday, Donald Trump ended a week of feverish speculation (at least in Indiana) by choosing Governor Mike Pence as his running mate.
Color me bemused.
Pence, who describes himself as “Christian, Conservative, Republican in that order,” has a well-earned reputation as a culture warrior. In his eleven years in Congress, he was best known for efforts to defund Planned Parenthood. A bill to end tax breaks for insurance providers whose policies covered abortion appears to be the only legislation for which he was actually responsible, not just a cosponsor.
As Governor, it quickly became obvious that he had no interest in the nitty-gritty of public administration. Instead, he continued his war on Planned Parenthood, signed the most restrictive anti-abortion bill in the country, diverted education funding to an extensive school voucher program—a gift to the state’s religious schools—and most famously, infuriated the business community and a majority of Hoosiers by signing a “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” (RFRA) that would have allowed businesses to discriminate against LGBT citizens.
The blowback to RFRA was so intense that Pence folded, and signed an amendment “clarifying” the original bill. That retreat, in turn, infuriated the Indiana religious right activists who had promoted the measure—and who are Pence’s base.
Pence has been so inept at justifying these and numerous other unpopular actions that most political observers expect him him lose his re-election bid. That likely loss probably explains why he found a spot on Trump’s ticket attractive, despite the fact that it will require “Mr. Family Values” to sell a thrice-married proud philanderer who talks about the size of his penis to the only constituency with which he has any currency: the religious right.
What Pence adds to the ticket is harder to fathom. He certainly won’t help with women, or LGBT folks, or immigrants (he tried to prevent Syrian refugees from settling in Indiana). His much-ridiculed interview with George Stephanopoulos in the wake of the RFRA debacle suggests he isn’t nearly ready for the scrutiny he will receive on the national stage.
Trump must really need those Evangelicals.
Among the (many) things I didn’t mention was the fact that any credible Republicans who might actually have helped the ticket had previously signaled that they that weren’t interested. (Even Joni Ernst–the hog castrater–declined to be considered.)
Trump’s available choices were Newt Gingrich (six wives between them, and visions of a colony on the moon….), Chris Christie (He’s got a bridge…and an attitude) and our very own Mikey. All wounded, all with favorable ratings in the 30s or below.
Talk about your B teams…..