Truer Words Were Never Spoken

A column by Richard Cohen in the Washington Post is unkind, but deadly accurate.

Actually, the subhead says it all: Trump is crazy. What’s Pence’s excuse?

Cohen’s lede:

When history holds its trial to account for the Donald Trump presidency, Trump himself will be acquitted on grounds of madness. History will look at his behavior, his erratic and childish lying and his flamboyant ignorance of history itself and pronounce the man, like George III, a cuckoo for whom restraint, but not punishment, was necessary. Such will not be the case for Mike Pence, the toady vice president and the personification of much that has gone wrong in Washington.

On any given day, Pence will do his customary spot-on imitation of a bobblehead. Standing near Trump in the Oval Office, he will nod his head robotically as the president says one asinine thing after another and then, maybe along with others, he will be honored with a lie or a version of the truth so mangled by contradictions and fabrications that a day in the White House is like a week on LSD.

Those of us who have known Pence prior to his unlikely ascension to the Vice-Presidency aren’t surprised by his acquiescence; Pence is not particularly intelligent, thoughtful or self-aware. The adjective Cohen uses– “toady”– is entirely apt. (In fact, when I see him doing his “bobblehead” routine, or especially when he is proclaiming his Christian piety, I always think of Dickens’ Uriah Heep–the smarmy character who was always proclaiming his humbleness.)

What is worrisome about Mike Pence isn’t that he is, in Cohen’s words, “clueless.” It’s that he is entirely typical of today’s GOP officeholders.

I don’t feel an iota of sympathy for Pence. He was among a perfidious group of political opportunists who pushed Trump’s candidacy while having to know that he was intellectually, temperamentally and morally unfit for the presidency. They stuck with him as he mocked the disabled, belittled women, insulted Hispanics, libeled Mexicans and promiscuously promised the impossible and ridiculous — all that “Day One” nonsense like how the wall would be built and Mexico would pay for it….

The president cannot be trusted. He cannot be believed. He has denigrated the news media, not for its manifest imperfections but for its routine and obligatory search for the truth. He has turned on the judiciary for its fidelity to the law and, once, for the ethnic heritage of a judge. Trump corrupts just about everything he touches.

From most of the Republican Party comes not a whisper of rebuke. The congressional leadership is inert, cowed, scurrying to the White House for this or that ceremonial picture, like members of the erstwhile Politburo flanking Stalin atop Lenin’s mausoleum. They are appalled, but mute. They want to make the best of a bad situation, I know, and they fear the voters back home, but their complicity ought to be obvious even to them.

This captures the situation perfectly. Here in Indiana, the Republicans we’ve sent to represent us in Congress are all doing their best imitation of Pence’s “bobblehead.” They’ve traded whatever honor and integrity they had (and in some cases, that wasn’t much) for more visible committee assignments and financial help from the RNC in the next campaign.

I don’t know how they sleep at night.


  1. I live in Texas where a mean old man is a clone of Trump and our governor delights in punishing Texans who have original thoughts. But he’s not crazy. I think Trump and Pence and our Texas governor and lieutenant governor should be locked up together so they can spew nonsense and visions.

  2. Because we have sat back and allowed them too. One way or another we share culpability for the flotsam that infests Washington, D.C. Ultimately, we’ll have to fix it but right now the “will” of the American people doesn’t seem to be working too well. My question is how far can we let this mess go before it explodes or we do and what happens then? We seem to be incapable of taking the long look at anything but that is a typical American problem and it just might be our undoing in a very real sense this time. God help us, please!!

  3. Many in Education would cheer Pence going down in flames. He has had a pass his stupidity from the state GOP but I don’t think he will be able to do his “awe shucks” routine on the national level. Glad to see that he is being seen as the piece of crap that he is.

  4. Happy to hear the Uriah Heep reference. I am a Dickens fan and this character was built for Pence. The Vice President emulates Uriah perfectly. I have been calling Pence “Uriah Heep” for years. Good to see someone else saw the similarity. Go read David Copperfield to see how smarmy someone can be. Or just keep watching the Vice President.

  5. After the impeachment, will Pence deliver the “The Trump Nightmare is Over” speech?

  6. I stand with Bob Kennedy; I cannot sleep at night. One reason is very personal; much of this is familiar to me due to my years working in the Indianapolis Republican City Government from Lugar to Goldsmith. The true Republican administration ended when Mayor Bill Hudnut left the City-County Building and Goldsmith’s destruction began, it was a microcosm of the Nixon administration which pales in comparison to the Trump administration in less than six months. Since Goldsmith left the City-County Building, his “people” remain in the State House to carry on and build on his ruling strategies.

    I have been watching MSNBC this morning and had to stop; only to pick up, in essence here where I left Mika and Joe, et al. Impeachment! Impeachment! Impeachment, is the current watchword for much of this country – aimed only at Trump and which would put Pence in the Oval Office (he is already in the White House). Who, if anyone, is watching Pence?

    A former government official, now a law professor, explained on MSNBC why we are not yet at impeachment level regarding Trump. He has not yet obstructed a sitting grand jury investigation or any other legal action with anything he has said or done. Watching MSNBC, we were reminded of a vital fact regarding problems with presidential administrations in this country, “It is not the crime but the cover-up which is the crux of the problem.” All eyes are on Trump; who, if anyone, is watching Pence? Former FBI Director Comey’s paper trail is a vital part of the case for bringing actual charges, along with Sally Yates and Sen. Clapper’s testimonies, which could and should lead to Impeachment! Who, if anyone, is watching and documenting Pence’s actions?

    Those of you who remember Watergate will remember Deep Throat’s guidance of Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward led them through their slow, often tedious, investigation leading to Nixon’s resignation. Deep Throat gave the repeated instruction, “Follow the money.” He finally did admit to them that following the money would lead to the top but he knew, as the attorney stated on MSNBC this morning, it takes following the cover-upS and the money to build a legal case to take to court. It took Bernstein and Woodward two years to build that full and credible case against Nixon and his entire administration.

    If – IF – a case for impeachment against Trump can be built, we do NOT have two years; he is scheduled to flee the country and meet with world leaders which is more frightening than having him stay here and fuck up on a daily basis. We are already under the threat of nuclear attack due to his antics.

    WHO, IF ANYONE, IS WATCHING PENCE? That is as vital as trying to follow the madman Trump who is currently in charge of this asylum. No, I don’t sleep at night.

  7. Cohen says the Republicans in Congress fear the voters back home? What planet is he living on? I can’t find any indication that the Rs from Indiana are afraid that Hoosiers will vote them out for supporting Trump. We should, of course, but if you believe that’s going to happen then I have a lovely bridge I’d be willing to sell you.

  8. I was mildly bemused by all of the surprise over the “Comey Memo” last night. Anyone who has served in the Federal Government knows that writing a memo to the record is SOP whenever you have a one on one discussing important or sensitive issues. It’s the first thing you do when you return to your office, especially if you’re a careful and capable individual like Comey. I wrote dozens. I’m certain Comey has written hundreds.

    Until Republicans actually take an action regarding the investigations into 45’s ties to Russia, his vioation of the emoluments clause, or his obstruction of justice, expect this long national nightmare to continue.

  9. Even IF, IF Trump is miraculously removed from office, and IF Pence, by some stroke of good fortune is somehow booted along with him, next in line for the White House is Orrin Hatch, president pro tempore of the Senate, and after him Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. How sad is it that I’m hoping it’s Hatch?

  10. Joy Reed has been talking about how Pence is not untainted here. He was the head of the Transition Team which did the background on Flynn and he had been briefed on his Russia connections though Pence later denied he had knowledge. We know how truly awful Pence is, but we also know he’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer, he doesn’t have a following except among the most fundamental Christians. He won’t be leading big rallies in Brandenburg Square. We also know that it doesn’t take long for voters and the donor community to get very tired of him and see through him. And, if he goes, next in line if Ryan. Ryan scares me because he is smart, the R donor community likes him a lot. My take…Pence would try to move the country into theocracy territory alienating big R donors and most of the country, but he wouldn’t start a war and, he wouldn’t win re-election. Sheila, the only fair thing is a new election. Could that ever happen??

  11. Susan, so the next in line after Pence is Hatch. Interesting. I thought it as Ryan. Yeah, it is sad. But he’s somewhat normal and probably too old to run again.

  12. Susan and Nancy; copied and pasted from Wikipedia:

    “3 U.S.C. § 19. Vacancy in offices of both President and Vice President; officers eligible to act
    (1) If, by reason of death, resignation, removal from office, inability, or failure to qualify, there is neither a President nor Vice President to discharge the powers and duties of the office of President, then the Speaker of the House of Representatives shall, upon his resignation as Speaker and as Representative in Congress, act as President.”

  13. Craven opportunist that he is, I would imagine Pence is just giddy at the thought of his theocracy rising from the ashes of the short-fingered vulgarian’s equally short reign of incompetence and corruption. We’d better hope that the Democratic Party gets its act together in the next 18 months, and doesn’t just depend on the chaos to win elections. Even as bad as the administration is going to get, the GOP clowns are not going to vote themselves out of office.

  14. The Rs that I know have become eerily silent about the man they voted into office. They are still happy that an R is the President and see this situation as being much better than if any D was there. The Rs in Indiana, and elsewhere, have created safe seats for themselves through gerrymandering and they have no concern about keeping their jobs as long as they continue to obey their dark money billionaire and millionaire donors.

    If the people could get a referendum to eliminate money from elections we could actually elect qualified people who have a desire to serve and do what is right for our country. However, we all know this will never happen. I see our country continuing this downhill spiral until the general public is so beaten down that our only chance for survival is to revolt against the ologarchy that runs our country.

  15. They, Pence and his cadre, sleep fine. He is so un-self aware as to not realize his own sins of ambition. To be Prez because he is God’s instrument. And God doth work in mysterious ways. Remove Trump, prosecute Pence, and throw them both in Federal prison; Ah I do dream, but sleep yields nightmares.

    Thank you Ms Kennedy for your thoughtful columns. Keep speaking truth to power:-)

  16. I’ve forwarded Cohen’s article to friends in other states to give them a heads up warning: That the nation comes closer by the hour to opening the little package under the Christmas tree, sent to them by the people of the great state of Indiana, Mr. Pence.

    Trump almost got things right. There is a big swamp in Washington, populated by people just like Mr. Pence, but Mr. Trump actually worked to bring them. Like the civil war doctors who wanted to save lives, but carried the very diseases that killed the soldiers. Pence brings his unique brand of bad.

  17. Hurray for Richard Cohen and the Washington Post. The Fake President Donald Trump has been steadily unraveling for quite a while, and strong voices like those of Richard Cohen and Sheila Kennedy will reinforce what a lot of people already believe. Three cheers for piling on.

  18. Pence’s type is common in Indiana. You have to remember that to them, this is tribal. People wonder if they, the republicans (white traditionalists) really believe their own bullshit or are purely sociopathic confidence gamesters, and the answer is, yes, they are both. What they experience when they go to the city, or see public transportation go by, or watch the Democratic national convention, is revulsion. They see a town, or a bus, or a convention hall full of disrespectful, uppity, lazy not-like-us people. Not just the (whispered) b-l-a-c-k-s, but also all those who choose to be with them: hippies, freaks, socialists, atheists, abortionists, various mongrel-looking people, and most of all women who don’t know to keep their mouths shut and their legs closed.

    So what we need to remember:
    1) many, but not all of them, are stupid, brain damaged, or so strongly predisposed to blind tribalism that they simply lack the ability to think their way out of their mindsets, and
    2)they are true believers, at least in the sense that they are completely emotionally invested in their points of view. They may squirm at the more ridiculous claims of their church, for example, but there is no where they would rather be. Those are THEIR people, and
    3) many, once they have accepted their tribal membership, then wear it like a sports jersey, fully invested in the fallacy of the zero sum game, and play to win for their people, regardless of what they have to say or do. They may even justify, in their own minds, the evil they do as being righteous, like holy war.

    This is Pence, your next president, and you should not expect those of his tribe to change their allegience for any reason.

  19. Every single day it’s something new with this administration. It’s exhausting to keep up. Great summary.

  20. I think the silence of Republicans can be farily interpreted as complicity in result. Not doing anything about this deranged and clueless piece of protoplasm masquerading as president is tantamount to approval, and if so, then their silence based on such logic means that all of them must go as well. It could be argued (as I have in a blog a few weeks ago) that if Trump is removed for electoral fraud then Pence has to be removed as well since he was not nominated by his party but was rather a choice by Trump and that he was elected not on his own but in tandem with Trump, and with Trump’s tainted election his is as well and that he has to go along with Trump. I also blogged that the result (Ryan of Ayn Rand fame) might not amount to an improvement, but one that could be appointed as such a matter would go before the Supreme Court in short order. This court has “elected” presidents before (see Bush v. Gore), so though the facts are unique in uncharted territory, the power to decide is not.

  21. I agree that many of us are responsible for the mess we live in. Now I think that it will be very interesting to see whether or not the checks and balances that we have understood are in place will actually prove to be viable and effective. Some of us were around during the Nixon debacle, but I guess it doesn’t hurt for history to repeat itself simply to prove to those who didn’t experience the process at that time that there can be some balance in power in this and other countries. Let’s hope our elected officials choose country over party. Good luck to us all.

  22. Maywin; “debacle” is the perfect term for Nixon and his administration. “a violent disruption, a complete disaster, a complete failure”; also the perfect term for the first five months of Trump’s disastrous “deconstruction” of democracy.

    Remembering the Nixon “debacle” brought to mind our long-lost, obviously forgotten, original Nixon vice president, Spiro Agnew. An excellent argument to have demanded Trump’s and Pence’s tax forms when they became the nominees and taken whatever legal action required to get them. How much in campaign funds, tax dollars and legal fees would have been saved had we known about Agnew’s “tax difficulties”…not to mention the national embarrassment?

  23. I went to law school with Mike Pence. The notion that he is not “particularly intelligent” is absurd. Mike is a very smart guy. What is also the case is that he is a very personable person. In law school he was very popular even among liberals who didn’t like his conservative views.

    Unfortunately the Pence I know didn’t come across as Governor. I blame a lot of that on misguided aides he surrounded himself with. Regardless, there is absolutely no question he would be 100 times better President than Trump is. Admittedly that’s a very low bar.

  24. People on here need to distinguish between a President whose policies they wouldn’t like (Pence) and a President (Trump) who is dangerously unqualified and unfit for the office. Pence might help enact policies you don’t like. Trump threatens the very survival of the Republic. Huge difference.

  25. Richard Cohen is a hack. Anyone with an ounce of integrity is aware he has no credibility. Plus,he’s a menace to women who work within close proximity to him.

    Here is a quote from Richard:”, Cohen wrote, “The evidence Colin Powell presented to the United Nations – some of it circumstantial, some of it absolutely bone-chilling in its detail – had to prove to anyone that Iraq not only hasn’t accounted for its weapons of mass destruction but without a doubt still retains them. Only a fool – or possibly a Frenchman – could conclude otherwise.”

    Cohen wrote a column in 1986 which argued owners of jewelry stores were right to refuse to allow entry to young black men because of a fear of crime.

    In 2007, he criticized the prosecution of Scooter Libby (in the Plame affair criminal investigation) as politically motivated, saying, “This is not an entirely trivial matter since government officials should not lie to grand juries, but neither should they be called to account for practicing the dark art of politics. As with sex or real estate, it is often best to keep the lights off”.[15] Cohen was in turn criticized by Media Matters for America and within the Columbia Journalism Review for factual errors in his presentation, including his contentions that Plame had not been a covert agent, and that “outing” Plame “turns out not to be a crime.”

    Cohen,much like the majority of the pundit class,is a joke.

  26. I went to the same law school as Pence but graduated much earlier. I agree with Ogden that there is a difference between survival and bad policy choices but refuse to be tied to one or the other since both are bad. I never knew Pence but I am familiar with some of what he has done in public policy matters, and they harken back to Puritan times in matters social and to the Gilded Age in matters economic. I also question whether Pence can suceed Trump short of an attempt to do so under the 25th Amendment since Pence was not nominated by his own party and if Trump is impeached and criminally convicted Pence suffers the same taint inasmuch as he ran with Trump and enjoyed his electoral fruits. I think the Supreme Court would have original jurisdiction of such a groundbreaking suit questioning Pence’s accession to the throne under such circumstances which, of course, could lead to an Ayn Rand presidency of Ryan. Such a choice!

  27. Itʻs too easy to call Trump “crazy.” Instead, he is wholly selfish which can appear to some as “mad,” yet everything he does makes sense if his only goal is to be a “winner.” Because he has no regard, respect or consideration for others, his unethical, antisocial actions seem insane to the rest of us ordinary folks. This is no excuse for his behavior, but calling Trump “crazy” absolves him from responsibility for his crimes against democracy and humanity. He is just a supremely selfish Jerk.

  28. I listen to Mike penses radio show and being raised as a conservative in some ways especially a fiscal conservative I was hopeful that politicians like him might make it to Washington. I know a lot of people don’t like trump even my sister who knows of some of his business dealings with people she is associated with has very ill feelings towards President Trump. But to think that we would elect Hillary Clinton to the presidency is even more absurd the name and Pence as a bobble head doll

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