Pence: The Definitive Portrait

Let me begin by saying that I am not a particular fan of George Will. I find him patronizing, occasionally dishonest, frequently petty, and given to a prose style evidently intended to remind us lesser beings that he once swallowed a thesaurus.

But I really, really loved his recent screed about Mike Pence, which he titled “Trump is no longer the worst person in government.”

Most readers of this blog have probably seen it by now–for a couple of days, it was the most widely shared column on my Facebook feed, and probably many others. (As one of my friends noted, we in Indiana have had this impression of our former governor for years; it’s nice that non-Hoosiers can share it.)

Will doesn’t waste time getting to his thesis. Here’s the opening paragraph.

Donald Trump, with his feral cunning, knew. The oleaginous Mike Pence, with his talent for toadyism and appetite for obsequiousness, could, Trump knew, become America’s most repulsive public figure. And Pence, who has reached this pinnacle by dethroning his benefactor, is augmenting the public stock of useful knowledge. Because his is the authentic voice of today’s lickspittle Republican Party, he clarifies this year’s elections: Vote Republican to ratify groveling as governing.

Oleaginous. Toadyism. Obsequiousness. Lickspittle. Ordinarily, I would be annoyed by the pretentiousness of the language, but I am compelled to admire how perfectly it fits. I do hope Mike Pence has a dictionary…

The entire column is a devastating–and accurate–takedown of Mr. Piety, and if you have somehow missed it, I encourage you to click through. What evidently set Will off was Pence’s praise of Joe Arpaio, the despicable sheriff who spent years violating the constitutional rights of people in Arizona, during a speech in Tempe.

Noting that Arpaio was in his Tempe audience, Pence, oozing unctuousness from every pore, called Arpaio “another favorite,” professed himself “honored” by Arpaio’s presence, and praised him as “a tireless champion of . . . the rule of law.” Arpaio, a grandstanding, camera-chasing bully and darling of the thuggish right, is also a criminal, convicted of contempt of court for ignoring a federal judge’s order to desist from certain illegal law enforcement practices. Pence’s performance occurred eight miles from the home of Sen. John McCain, who could teach Pence — or perhaps not — something about honor.

As those of us who have known him for years can attest, this performance was classic Pence. His “service” as governor was marked both by his constant parading of his Christian bona fides and his equally constant willingness to act in what most people would consider very unChristian ways: trying to block desperate Syrian refugees from settling in Indiana, opposing basic civil rights for LGBTQ Hoosiers, endorsing punitive anti-choice, anti-woman legislation… all while neglecting the pesky, day-to-day details of actually governing the state.

It’s hard to disagree with Will’s brutal last paragraph.

There will be negligible legislating by the next Congress, so ballots cast this November will be most important as validations or repudiations of the harmonizing voices of Trump, Pence, Arpaio and the like. Trump is what he is, a floundering, inarticulate jumble of gnawing insecurities and not-at-all compensating vanities, which is pathetic. Pence is what he has chosen to be, which is horrifying.

Florid prose or no–when the man is right, he’s right.


  1. If I remember correctly, Agnew was done away with shortly BEFORE Nixon went away.
    Lets hope that it works the same way this time.

  2. Pence is campaigning for a future presidential run and we all know it. While most somewhat respectable politicians distanced themselves from Trump, Mike dropped to his knees in sheer servitude because it gives him the national spotlight and one seat closer to his career aspiration.

    Mike sold his soul to the devil many years ago working for the Koch brothers’ funded Indiana Policy Review. He’s nothing more than a wagon traveling preacher with a tin can.

    I’ve read several articles which place Pence behind the most damaging leaks from within the Trump administration. He may appear as a Trump “toady”, but if Trump goes down… 🙂

  3. George
    Will once “swallowed a thesaurus”? And “Mr. Piety”? Fell off my chair laughing.
    And then I sobered up once again. No laughing matter, but thanks for the brief moment, Sheila!

  4. An interesting article in the Indianapolis Star today titled, “Lucas paid for Pence’s Colts tickets”. The gift of two tickets for Pence and “Mother” were valued at $774. The cost to Indianapolis Municipal Police Department and Lucas Oil Stadium security was much, much higher. There was the unreported inconvenience to local businesses in the stadium area and others attending the game as well as traffic to and from the airport and airport security as he made his brief appearance to make a personal statement against those who “took a knee”. We here in Indianapolis well remember his pre-planned cameo appearance at the game, as do many across the country. He stated he wanted to attend because his favorite player, Peyton Manning, was being honored that day but didn’t stay to see it happen. That fiasco cost all of us many thousands of dollars in tax money so he could prove his point then rush to another engagement, I believe in Los Angeles.

    The Star article contains a list of his other such gifts as that $774 pair of tickets to make a silent political statement. Other gifts “outed” those supporting Pence and Trump and their current mis-administration of the government and this country.

    Vernon; this should interest you, I understand you had to self-publish due to the content of your newest book although you are already a published author. I self-published a small volume of poetry in the mid-1970’s so I know the cost and footwork involved. “The Pences received between $15,001 and $50,000 in royalties for “Marlon Bundo’s Day in the Life of the Vice President”, a book about the family rabbit written by Pence’s daughter, Charlotte and illustrated by Karen Pence.” The article does state they are donating proceeds to an art therapy charity and a nonprofit that fights slavery and human trafficking, but…Trump stated he would donate all presidential salary back into the U.S. Treasury. I think that is where he said it would go; it is difficult to keep the Trump and Pence lies straight in this old brain. Was that donation listed on Trump’s financial report submitted yesterday? But I digress….

    Last week our local Channel 6 News reported Pence voted in our primary election with an absentee ballot (with photocopy of same) using the address of the Indiana Governor’s Mansion as his home address. It hasn’t been his home since 2016 and must be crowded when he visits and the Holcomb’s are at home there. Of course that news item has disappeared from the airwaves as did the bruhaha about his private E-mail use for government business.

    Pence appears to have quickly adjusted to switching positions from Indiana’s Republican CEO puppet to being the National Bubblehead to Trump. When I posted my “Pence Must Go” yard sign for two years; this is NOT what I meant to happen.

  5. Lickspittle…….it has been obvious from the beginning. Again, thank you!

  6. I usually consider George Will entertainment, but I agree with him on his analysis of both Trump and Pence. Pence lacks the skills most professional politicians have honed over their careers – rhetoric, vocabulary, humor, insight – but has managed to continue to be elected to high public offices. So while I agree with Will’s characterization of Pence, it begs the question: If he is so obviously flawed and incompetent, who votes for him, and why? Has the Indiana Republican party collapsed into a group who openly and whole-heartedly supports incompentence and ignorance? (I suspect that the answer is yes). Has the public intelligence diminished to the point where a person clearly unqualified to hold a high public office, who professes to be a Christian in the face of so much evidence to the contrary, can elicit a vote from so many? (Again, yes). So while we agree that Pence is a dunce, the voters get the government they deserve.

  7. The best line in this post is: “I do hope Mike Pence has a dictionary.”

  8. daleb; in this case the vast majority of the popular vote, we voters did NOT get what we deserve, we were handed the Electoral College/Citizens United bought and paid for candidate. A similar situation in 2000 resulted in the country being handed George W. and the ensuing Iraq war.

    That being said I am going to move to another subject; I ordered Vernon Turner’s book, “Why Angels Weep: America and Donald Trump” from Amazon. In 2016 I ordered “Lincoln County Stories” authored by our own Theresa Bowers from Amazon in Kindle version. The stories revolve around rural southern Indiana families during he 1960’s and their lives during the civil rights movement. Theresa’s people are so well written, I thought the book was biographical in nature; it is an excellent read. I have encouraged her to return to Lincoln County for a sequel and how they and their descendants would try to survive our current dilemma regarding civil – and human – rights.

  9. You left out my favorite comparison to a fictional character – Uriah Heep – in the Dickens’ David Copperfield story. In fact, look Uriah Heep up and you will see some of Will’s vocabulary in the definition. The Vice President to me has consistently represented a real life Uriah Heep. Will did add oleaginous, but the rest is right out of Charles Dickens.

  10. Jane Mayer (yes, her again) wrote a book last year called “The Danger of President Pence.” I haven’t read it yet, but I do intend to pick it up soon. She said it was hard to find anybody in Indiana who had anything good to say about our VP. Pence is the sole reason I hope 45 is not impeached and found guilty.

  11. I sure do hope that enough voters in this country now know about 45-1/2 and his evil ways to make sure that he never becomes President. We all have to work to shut down the evangelical voters before they completely take over the country.

  12. What continues to amaze me is that Pence constantly displays a high level of immaturity and in your face spitefulness and the majority of voters in Indiana eat it up. Perhaps he has found the key to his supporter’s hearts… immaturity and spitefulness.

    JoAnn, thank you for your continued support.

  13. I love reading comments here even if I don’t speak. I’d like to remind folks that Pence and Cruz are rabid Dominionists and the people of that group is thrilled to have some of their own so high in government. They’ve worked hard to get Pence and Ted Cruz where they are. You can learn a lot about Dominionists with research.

  14. JoAnn,

    Thank you for ordering my book. As with my other attempts, this one tries to connect the dots of historical events and perspectives to illustrate the main theme. In this case, it’s America’s complete collapse of intellect that allowed such creatures as Trump and Pence to emerge from the slime and get elected. Nobody would read my manuscripts because, they say, I have no platform. Today, in the publishing of non-fiction, an author must have pre-ordained fame so publishers can send them on nation-wide book tours to do their selling for them. Some friendly agents have informed me of this situation. If I was a syndicated columnist, had my own TV show, been elected, rescued children from a burning building or landed an airplane on the Hudson River, I’d have book deals all over the place. Not in America.

    Terrific comments from Sheila and everyone today. Arpaio is Trump’s Martin Bormann, while Pence is his Herman Goering. The parallels are obvious, but Trump hasn’t nearly the charisma or the brains of Adolf Hitler. He does, however, share the evil and narcissism of the worst person in history.

  15. Hopefully, you can view this link:

    It exposes the religious bigotry of the evangelical cult. No dog whistles here, just fire and brimstone. Pence does not have the nerve to actually say what Robert Jeffress, a Texas Baptist pastor who once said that a vote for Romney, then a GOP presidential candidate, was vote for Satan, is scheduled to speak at the event to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

    “Evangelicals know they’re not compromising their beliefs in order to support this great president,” he (Robert Jeffress) told Fox News in March. “And let’s be clear, evangelicals still believe in the commandment ‘Thou shalt not have sex with a porn star.’”

    “However, whether this president violated that commandment or not is totally irrelevant to our support of him,” he said.
    There you have it a “nutshell” – (pun intended) – of the evangelicals. In a certain sense these pastors have a kinship with The Trumpet (aka Agent Orange), they are scam artists and con men, hawking religion like Agent Orange did with Trump University.

    Agent Orange and Pence both know the allegiance of the evangelicals is absolute. Logic will not sway the evangelicals – if you are not with us – you are going to hell.

  16. Monotonous,

    “Evangelicals know they’re not compromising their beliefs in order to support this great president,” he (Robert Jeffress) told Fox News in March. “And let’s be clear, evangelicals still believe in the commandment ‘Thou shalt not have sex with a porn star.’”

    They’re not compromising their beliefs. They believe in an ARYAN JESUS. To again use the words of Walter Cronkite: “It’s WHITE SUPREMACY masked by CHRISTIANITY.”

  17. “There you have it a “nutshell” – (pun intended) – of the evangelicals. In a certain sense these pastors have a kinship with The Trumpet (aka Agent Orange), they are scam artists and con men, hawking religion like Agent Orange did with Trump University.”

    Monotonous; they have turned Christianity upside down and inside out, not only accepting sin as being their Christian right but their duty, but clasping all forms of sin to their bosoms and preaching it from their political pulpits and intend putting it into our national education system. Have Catholics yet removed confession booths from their churches as no longer being necessary? What about the padded kneeling areas in churches; there are now other acceptable reasons for some to get on their knees that don’t include praying? Will sin become required by law when/if Pence replaces Trump? Will it even require that action to put it in place? Does our future hold the possibility of a Jim Jones mass suicide of entire cities to escape the future the current administration has planned for us? Will our current allies begin building walls to keep Americans from illegally crossing their borders? Yes; Pence is scarier than Trump but on another level. Between them they have all levels of destruction of, not only democracy but humanity, covered. And we can’t count on ether of them to go into hiding to commit suicide if we find the votes to overturn this administration. We, as a nation, have provided for their secured financial and physically protected futures once they leave office…alive.

    Jules Verne’s “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea” and “Around the World In 80 Days’ were science fiction when written; so was “1984” which has come and gone and surpassed those prophetic scientific fictions. We need to look to the movie “Soylent Green” for a glimpse of our probable future; paid for by Citizens United.

  18. Mike Pence does adoring gazes better than Nancy Reagan did. He heaps adoration on a man who has broken every commandment. Pence bore false witness in admiring Joe Arpaio for adhering to the rule of law even though Sheriff Joe refused to honor court orders very publicly. But Trump is onto him and has demanded that Corey Lewandowski join the Pence staff to keep an eye on Pence. It’ll be interesting to see if being ‘your brother’s keeper’ breaks out between the two of them.

  19. Peggy,

    I must disagree with Jane Mayer’s observation that it is hard to find anyone in Indiana who has anything good to say about Pence. Unfortunately, there are still many religious zealots in this state who think he is wonderful. I want to escape the insanity of this state on a daily basis.

  20. Nancy Papas –

    Thanks for telling us that trump has placed Lewandowski on pence’s staff to keep an eye on him.

    That news just made my day!

  21. VT: “Arpaio is Trump’s Martin Bormann, while Pence is his Herman Goering”.

    I’m not in disagreement,who/ what is Gina Haspel?

    She claims she was just “following orders.” Is she not reprehensible and incorrigible?

    It really makes it impossible for me to have much confidence in a ‘resistance’ that is willing to give support to someone willing to confirm Haspel as head of any governmental organization/agency. It feels like surrender. In fact,it’s total complicity. Plus,it is seemingly similar as the acceptance of Christians to Trump’s hedonistic ways.

  22. Will finally hit a home run, Thanks for this article. Will be shared with friends.

  23. William,

    Haspel would be Trump’s Heinrich Himmler. The parallels continue to astound…

    To your point about a spineless Congress: No news there. It IS an election year, and, mostly Republicans, are scared to death to make any waves that might upset Trump’s base. After all, that’s all they have and they want to make sure they get 100% of them to vote for them in order to have any chance at re-election. There will be NO courageous action from these slugs. The large number of “retirees” amongst the Republicans is clear indication that (1) the party has lost its way and succumbed to fascism and/or (2) they see they have no chance of being re-elected.

  24. I enjoy the comments as much as the posts…Pence. What can I say but this guy creeps me out as he stares at IQ45’s head as he speaks. Every single time Pence is behind dotard making a speech, he eyes him so much, I want to throw things at my tv. And Sheriff Joe cost Maricopa County millions of dollars in legal fees and payouts to victims of his round ups against latinos. Millions of dollars with more to come because they are allowing latinos to bring suits against him for false arrests.

  25. I, too, am no fan of George Will, but I thought his description of Pence a good one. Like most people, I also like opinions that agree with mine and decry those that do not. In this case, however, I cannot understand how anybody of any political, gender or racial stripe can buy into this obvious and disgusting toadie.

    Religion is his cover, and whether real, an opiate or delusion, is the tool with which he manipulates voters to vote against those terrible baby-killing libertine communists posing as liberals when his pretended stance on such matters kills more babies AND women in back-alley pursuits of the latters’ constitutional rights as defined by Roe. His stance on helping the poor is also at total odds with the one held by Jesus, his hero of all time. Truth be told, he resembles the antichrist as described in theological lore and is worse than Trump in the sense that Trump’s “sins” are out in the open while his lusts for power are hidden under the cloak of the gentle Nazarene. Will, haughtiness and all, was right.

  26. Gina “Mommy Dearest” Haspel – five Democrats—Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Joe Donnelly, (Ind.), Mark Warner (Va.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), and Bill Nelson (Fla.)—have said they plan join with the rest of the GOP and vote for Haspel, which makes it likely her nomination will clear the full Senate.

    Gina “Mommy Dearest” Haspel has taken the Nuremberg Defense – I was just following orders.

    April 7, 2017 WASHINGTON – The Senate confirmed Neil Gorsuch as the 113th justice of the Supreme Court on Friday with the support of only three Democrats, including Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly.

    So what is Joe Donnelly?? How does he fit it Petain – Vichy Democrat or Quisling??

  27. Monotonous,

    So what is Joe Donnelly?? How does he fit it Petain – Vichy Democrat or Quisling??

    It’s too early to make a call.

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