Kleptocrat Or Theocrat?

Frank Bruni had a recent column headlined “Mike Pence: Holy Terror,” with a subhead asking “Do you really want to get rid of Donald Trump?”

There are problems with impeaching Donald Trump. A big one is the holy terror waiting in the wings.

That would be Mike Pence, who mirrors the boss more than you realize. He’s also self-infatuated. Also a bigot. Also a liar. Also cruel.

To that brimming potpourri he adds two ingredients that Trump doesn’t genuinely possess: the conviction that he’s on a mission from God and a determination to mold the entire nation in the shape of his own faith, a regressive, repressive version of Christianity. Trade Trump for Pence and you go from kleptocracy to theocracy.

I would add one more comparison to Trump: Pence is equally incompetent. Former students of mine who worked in the Pence administration when he was governor have reported on his utter lack of interest in–or competence for–actual governing.

Bruni’s column was prompted by a forthcoming book about Indiana’s contribution to American decline, titled  “The Shadow President: The Truth About Mike Pence.”  The book will be published on Aug. 28, and Bruni says it’s the most thorough examination of the vice president’s background to date. (I probably would amend the title to read “The Shallow President,” but then, I’ve known Mike a long time.)

The book persuasively illustrates what an ineffectual congressman he was, apart from cozying up to the Koch brothers, Betsy DeVos and other rich Republican donors; the clumsiness and vanity of his one term as governor of Indiana, for which he did something that predecessors hadn’t and “ordered up a collection of custom-embroidered clothes — dress shirts, polo shirts, and vests and jackets — decorated with his name and the words Governor of Indiana”; the strong possibility that he wouldn’t have won re-election; his luck in being spared that humiliation by the summons from Trump, who needed an outwardly bland, intensely religious character witness to muffle his madness and launder his sins; and the alacrity with which he says whatever Trump needs him to regardless of the truth.

In Pence’s view, any bite marks in his tongue are divinely ordained. Trump wouldn’t be president if God didn’t want that; Pence wouldn’t be vice president if he weren’t supposed to sanctify Trump. And his obsequiousness is his own best route to the Oval Office, which may very well be God’s grand plan.

The book documents Pence’s disregard for science (remember when he insisted that smoking doesn’t cause cancer?) and his willingness to peddle conspiracy theories, like the belief that efforts to address climate change are “a secret effort to increase government control over people’s lives for some unstated diabolical purpose.”

The book also reports on what the authors call his “callousness” toward African-Americans.

As governor, Pence refused to pardon a black man who had spent almost a decade in prison for a crime that he clearly hadn’t committed. He also ignored a crisis— similar to the one in Flint, Mich. — in which people in a poor, largely black Indiana city were exposed to dangerously high levels of lead. D’Antonio told me: “I think he’s just as driven by prejudice as Trump is.”

There are discussions of Pence’s stunt flying to Indianapolis for a Colt’s game (so that he could ostentatiously leave when players took a knee), his long association with Betsy DeVos (and their efforts to divert public school children to religious schools via vouchers), his anti-woman, anti-abortion stances (on the House floor, he called for abortion to be a capital offense), the RFRA debacle, and his embrace of despicable Joe Arpaio.

This was after Arpaio’s contempt-of-court conviction for ignoring a federal judge’s order to stop using illegal tactics to torment immigrants. The conservative columnist George Will seized on Pence’s speech to write that Pence had dethroned Trump as “America’s most repulsive public figure.”

The column didn’t say whether the book addressed the recently publicized consequences of his family gas station business’ bankruptcy, which left Hoosier taxpayers on the hook for millions in environmental cleanup costs. But Bruni does recount two illuminating episodes from Pence’s college days that evidently emerged after the book went to press:

One involved a woman in Pence’s weekly college prayer group. When she couldn’t describe a discrete “born again” experience, “he lectured her on her deficiencies as a Christian and said that she really wasn’t the sort of Christian that needed to be in this group,” D’Antonio said.

Another involved a college friend of Pence’s who later sought his counsel about coming out as gay. D’Antonio said that Pence told the friend: “You have to stay closeted, you have to get help, you’re sick and you’re not my friend anymore.”

What sort of person tells a friend who is experiencing a crisis “You’re sick and you’re not my friend anymore”?

There’s an easy answer to that question–a thoroughly despicable one.


  1. Paul Tillich once stated that when something goes bad it simply becomes bad, but when religion goes bad it becomes demonic.

  2. Thank you, Dr. Kennedy, but there MUST be more. Otherwise how could we have such all-out contempt for a critter known only from Pence’s bumbling with controversy beyond his job description while receiving Governor’s pay from the Indiana treasury?
    He was not, is not, paid for his sycophancy, his performance piety, his hypocrisy. Why doesn’t he confess and redeem himself, ask for the divine charity that could re-birth him as a universal human being rather than the narrow bigot embarrassing heaven and his constituents?
    VOTE Democrat! Deflate GOP pride in self-righteousness.
    Wipe that angelic smile off your face, VP Pence, when you hear your bromancer bloviating unsupportable lies. We know you are thinking “Just you wait, Mr. POTUS, just you wait”.

  3. With all that being said about Pence, he is, in today’s world, just a garden variety Republican. Donald is mentally unstable and infinitely more dangerous.

  4. one huff post recent,by richard north patterson, Americas pre-fascist president, eye opening one,with the what ifs when trump decides he didnt loose,and congresses motives to retaliate. obviously,voting each memeber out,one by one is clearly the only way to stop this. im having more people actully listen in nodak on some of these issues. im speaking of keeping America as one,and stop listening to cheap rehetoric.read something,and make a effort to do some research into a few subjects,but keep it close,and dont bury yourself into too many subjects. many see journalism as a way of just telling someone how to think. im speaking of, when the subject is persued by viable journalists,they,in that same piece,explain the facts,and where,and why. not preaching. look again,and decide. today journalists,who are of the times,now understand and explain,in a easy to understand in most issues. this has been what i encounter in talking with people,who are lazy,no motivation,(but they do vote)until it puts a pin under thier ass. then its a subject too deep.then their looking for a t.v. 10 second answer,and you know where that goes.almost every place here in nodak,if they have a t.v. on, its propaganda fox..and do they ever just glow with bright sunny faces,while shitting on the voter. j goebbels would be proud. talking with them, i find they listen,absorb,and hopefully use that thing in their hand (i phone)to become a tool for info,instead of being led into a mess. in many i see the joy of trump deminishing. but, what i see,is after novemeber the hostilities being born again,if,congress gets to stop trump and mcevil. im sure fox will become weaponized,and any enity that suffrered,be in the blame game again..
    ,damn the majority now,and its a conspiracy. im printing up a card,with many of the top news services,yes mainly left, but i still see the economist,u,s news world report,and the like,who, run decent journalism,to balance the tone. my pocket is not of a suits,but at 63 ill be damn if ill watch this country die under a fascists regime… best wishes in novemeber,,,vote damnit..

  5. Back in the day, those deemed an enemy to the street would be assassinated. Can anybody recall a far-right ideologue being taken out because he was a menace to the state?

    Me neither.

    Because these people are symbolic of the state–the establishment if you will. This about that long and hard.

    Also think long and hard about our nearly one trillion military budget. Who the defend us from? Does anybody believe we have threats?

    The longer the N. Korea game plays out and we learn what China wants, Congress voted to never remove our troops from S. Korea. Why is that?

    We are an empire, but not the kind people want in their country. We spoil everything we touch because true god is MONEY. Pence is the perfect religious stooge and has been for decades yet Indiana voters shook his hand and the press lavished him with love because subscribers would come unglued.

    Is Pence the true symbol of America the Beautiful? The only thing remaining is a flyover by the Air Force after the National Anthem.

    I had several teacher organizations in Indiana seek out help…they wanted pitchy slogans like the right has for getting their base excited. I posted a movie produced in Indiana about the decline of the teaching profession, and only two dozen attended in two different libraries.

    Same thing for the food we eat…I wrote about the damage of CAFOs for years. Broke down the whole system from what we do to the animals and the waste and how it causes cancer. Nobody showed up to the presentations and the documentaries at the library.

    The question that ML posted yesterday is how can we capture the attention in pithy slogans or sound bytes; similar to the propaganda used by the establishment and the right?

    You don’t. Don’t ever succumb to that inner feeling. It’s our prostitute calling. Don’t ever give in to truth-telling…that’s always our downfall. We don’t have an FDR to save capitalism. It’s too late!

    The news industry is dying because they simply cannot produce what the subscribers want to hear because they need the cash flow of the ad revenue. So they lose the faith and subscriptions of readers.

    Edward Bernays broke down the psyche of the German people with the help of his Uncle Sigmund, but the German’s manufactured consent better than anybody.


  6. The debacle of Mike Pence as Vice President; or as in our current situation with Trump, Mike Pence as President-in-waiting was easily recognized by us in Indiana. His religious, anti-women, bigotry and incompetence were know before he was elected Governor of Indiana; just as Trump’s lying, womanizing, business thievery, many bankruptcies, et al, have been in the news for approximately 40 years before that fatal 2016 election. Republicans have not yet realized – or simply not yet admitted – they were not being “careful in what they wished for”.

    A February 9, 2017, article in Rolling Stone reminded us of what was and what is coming with the election results. “THE RADICAL CRUSADE OF MIKE PENCE” “As governor of Indiana he trampled on the rights of women, the LGBTQ community and the poor. Then there’s the incompetence. Meet, quite possibly, the next president” That “possibility” is come closer to reality as we watch and read the self-destruction of Trump. A few of the comments in the article: “PENCE IS A CHRISTIAN warrior, opposing gay rights, Planned Parenthood and declaring global warming a myth.” “He hosted a talk radio show in the 1990’s, calling himself Rush Limbaugh on decaf.” “PENCE’S BUNGLING suggests slow reflexes, a blemish for a congressman but a fatal flaw for a potential president.” And who can forget that infamous picture in his locked governor’s office with those unidentified religious leaders who appear to be of different religious cults; “Holy Warrior; In 2015, as governor, Pence signed a bill that allowed discrimination of the LGBTQ community, with local religious leaders by his side.” Pence announced his intention to move his state RFRA and anti-women laws to the federal level is elected…he probably already has those bills or Executive Orders ready and waiting.

    These were known factors when the Republican party hand-selected Pence as Trump’s running mate. We have seen little of him since the inauguration other than his behind Trump’s shoulder showing his Bobble-Head support as he waits for Trump to finally hang himself. Will he move up to the presidency before 2020 due to Trump’s impeachment or resignation – with an immediate full pardon of course? Or will the GOP move Pence into the position of presidential nominee? Has this ever been done in our history? Either way; in 2020 I will put my “Pence Must Go” yard sign back out front with my “Andre Carson for Congress” sign.

  7. It’s good to see the VP outed for the toad he really is in the national news. I have been warning friends who speak blithely of impeachment that they should consider the consequences of promoting Pence. It is much better to put the House and Senate in the hands of Democrats and just keep 45 from doing any more damage until he can be replaced by the electorate.

  8. Todd,

    “Don’t ever give in to truth-telling…that’s always our downfall.”

    Maybe one of these days, before it is too late, we will start listening to what Todd has been telling us: The problem is much greater than a Donald Trump or a Mike Pence.

  9. While Donald Trump’s insanity continues to dissemble, the specter of Mike Pence looms large and ominously on the horizon. I’m not sure the RNC foisted Pence on Trump as the final decision. I think Trump knows that Pence would be his best ass-kisser VP, so approved of the choice. Trump is NOT religious, so clearly Pence was picked to appease the radical, right-wing, batshit crazy evangelicals as part of the base of baseness that VOTES in large numbers.

    Trump and Pence constitute the worst pairing of national figures since Hitler and Goering. They both must be relegated to the dustbin of history before they destroy our nation and, perhaps, the rest of the world.

  10. Vernon,

    “Trump and Pence constitute the worst pairing of national figures since Hitler and Goering. They both must be relegated to the dustbin of history before they destroy our nation and, perhaps, the rest of the world.”

    No one can argue with you on that statement. However, if you want to get rid of BOTH of them, the only REALISTIC way is to remove their FOOTING.

    foot’ing n. 1. a secure placing of the feet 2. the condition of a surface, as for walking 3. a foothold 4. a secure position 5. a basis for relationship

    ~Webster’s New World Dictionary

  11. Todd @ 7:47 am, my point yesterday in saying yesterday: “I hate to think the Left has to resort to slick marketing to get the point across, but there maybe a place for it.”

    Slick marketing does not mean false hoods or deception. The Left needs to think in terms of asymmetrical warfare. Among the methods are: In a march that shut down a portion of Lake Shore Drive during rush hour and ended with prayers and speeches outside of Wrigley Field, hundreds of anti-violence protesters marched in Chicago on Thursday evening to demand that the city invest in its impoverished neighborhoods and to call for the resignations of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson.

    Our Wall Street-Security-Military-Industrial Complex since 2001 has been in stale mate in Afghanistan. We are told we have the best military on earth, but general after general has failed in Afghanistan.

    Kleptocrat Or Theocrat?? Pence is certainly comfortable in his role as bobble-head bootlicker for President Agent Orange.
    Corey Stewart, running for senator in Virginia, claims he “was Trump before Trump was Trump”.
    “I think that attaching a one word or two word moniker on your opponent worked for him (President Agent Orange) and is an effective tool. The days of the intellectual exchange of ideas are long gone, well before President Trump ever ran for office.”

    “Since Trump currently has 88% approval among Republicans (stronger than any modern president of either party except Bush right after 9/11) it makes sense for candidates in his party to emulate him,” said Newt Gingrich.

    Even candidates who find Trumpism profitable in Republican primaries could face a bitter wake-up call in November. Frank Luntz, a pollster and strategist, said: “It makes sense in Republican primaries because that’s the mood of Republican voters. But in the general elections, independent and swing voters won’t take to it.”
    Candidate Agent Orange and President Agent Orange has delivered the secular version of the tele-evanglists, glittering generalities, lies, an enemy (could be anyone who disagrees with Agent Orange). Agent Orange has become a cult figure, who demands absolute loyalty.

  12. Vernon,

    The FOOTHOLD was created by the TOTAL NON-ACTION of both the Southern Poverty Law Center [SPLC] and the Anti-Defamation League [ADL] to COUNTER what you describe as: “the radical, right-wing, batshit crazy evangelicals as part of the base of baseness that VOTES in large numbers.”

    In the case of the ADL, they’ve gone so far as not only to CAPITULATE, but also to

    Until this STRATEGIC, ORGANIZATIONAL, BLUNDER is faced up to, we will continue along the same SUICIDAL PATH.

  13. I see we have a department of Religious Freedom… Since when is the government the keeper of any RELIGION? – since this bastard despot? Well I can tell you this much – we aren’t much longer for the history books as a nation! It was freedom from religion and its tenets that built this country. But thanks to the seething hordes of seminarians from these ‘evangelical and pentacostal and whathaveyou warehouses’ and the idiocy that they are taught – we are getting what WE built through our ignoring and not answering ignorance. And now I fear that ignorance is going to eat this nation alive – We need to impeach the Administration and then see that all who knew of the treason (including Paul Ryan – they knew there were Senators and others on the Russian DOLE! That was reported last week by the WaPo.) Of course we cannot merely pick the pimples head we have to dig the rot out by the roots.

  14. “Given the same amount of intelligence, timidity will do a thousand times more damage than audacity – Carl von Clausewitz.

    The Reactionary-Rabid Right Wing Republican Party has been audacious and constantly on the attack. The Corporate Democratic Party has been timid since the early 1990’s. The Corporate Democratic Party has suffered one defeat after another at the Federal and State Levels.

    You see this timidity played out since 2016. Where is the plan?? Where is the New Deal for the 21st Century????

  15. Marv,

    Correct on all counts. Clearly, we are at a crisis of self-governing and managing our primitive instincts. What a mess.

  16. First some housecleaning. Lately when I return to Sheila’s site the personal info below the text box is gone. Usually it just stays there from visit to visit. Anyone else having that problem?

    To me Pence chose politics early in life over being a TV evangelist as a way to take advantage of the prosperity gospel and make a very good, very easy life as a Ken doll. I imagine that the Kochs and DeVos’s noticed that his brain was almost completely devoid of ideas so hired him to do their dirty work. Only in these times would he have have amounted to anything and in these times all he amounts to is wealthy and powerful, sad to say.

    I think that we the people have to hold everyone associated with the whole Agent Orange debacle accountable for whatever crimes they have committed. I doubt though if Prince Pest Pence is smart enough to have committed any. He doesn’t need to. The money keeps rolling in if all he does is stand around looking pious.

    So one of the ends of the spectrum of possibilities of 2019 is that he’s last “man” standing. Another is that the Mueller round up only sends the minions to prison and Mike’s position as a decoration doesn’t change.

    That doesn’t matter if we are successful in encapsulating the Executive Brance by a Democrat majority Legislative Branch and are taking advantage of the separation of powers that the founders thought essential for just this situation of a rogue election (though I doubt that they considered it would be rogue by the Russian President through cyber crimes).

  17. m,

    Great questions, “Where is the plan?? Where is the New Deal for the 21st Century????

    The Democratic Party must be afraid of WINNING. It might be a case of organized COWARDICE. In other words, how are we going to handle the losing opposition? They are really going to be MAD with us. “Oh my, oh my.”

  18. Hey Marv and Vernon —
    Why don’t you two exchange email addresses and then you can spare the rest of us your bantering back & forth! I read this blog a) and primarily, to get Sheila’s take on a subject; and b) to read some concise opinions based on the topic or addition information that might be helpful.
    Most days I scroll through all of the bantering blah, blah, blah just to get a few insightful comments.
    I’m just sayin . . . . . >:-(

  19. Kathy,

    If you don’t like what others have to say, then just scroll passed those writers you so dislike.

    It’s easy. Just put your cursor on the slider on the right hand side of your screen and pull down.

    Marv and I won’t miss your distaste for what we exchange.

  20. I am hearing that the Democrats have no plan for America beyond being against Trump’s initiatives. Being AGAINST something is a necessary corollary to being FOR something, i.e., being against Trump’s tariffs and impoverishment of both rural and urban America, being against the kidnapping and imprisonment of children, being against lying, stealing, inflation, further enrichment of the already rich at taxpayer expense via deficit financing and increasing debt, being for an all inclusive health care policy (single payer) and living wages and Medicare expansion and minority rights etc. etc. etc. Who says Democrats are not for something? We are for a virtual revolution in initiatives both old and new and expressed both negatively and positively in contrast to those of the current administration as well as new initiatives not on the radar of the current administration. Let’s end the nitpicking and get a seat at the table.

  21. There are a few million good working people out there in the hinterland who would be most happy to see a democratic platform that did NOT look like a MANIFESTO TO BURY WORKING PEOPLE; how much difference would it make to score a few million more votes for the next democrat candidate for president? FREE THE HUBERT HUMPHREY WING OF THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY!!!!

  22. The goal of the DNC Party is to define a platform that a majority of we the people find beneficial to us. The goal of the RNC business is to define a platform that a majority of those who donate to them find beneficial to them.

    For Democrats our job is to tell the DNC not each other what a majority of we the people expect from government.

    Keep in mind the consequences of extremism that we’ve seen demonstrated by the right wing the last few decades.

  23. I agree with Vernon on the usefulness of scrolling past here. I decide where to hover based on past experience suggesting credibility being granted in some cases and not in others depending on topic, expertise, writing and explanatory skills and my schedule. Not that my retired life is much of a schedule demand but my attention span is.

    Is puppy like.


  24. Just wondering, what are you all most afraid of, Race War, Trade War, Social Revolution, or Total Economic Collapse? Because I’m terrified and feeling powerless. Crazy people are flying this plane and the crash seems imminent. Voting straight Democrat is the only effort I can make and I’m also afraid there are too many blind Trump followers to overcome – that my votes won’t matter. We will find out soon. Thanks for keeping us informed, Sheila.

  25. Mary Louis; YES, afraid all you mentioned but you are wrong thinking your vote won’t count. It will be one less on the side of democracy and one more on Trump’s side. Please; VOTE!

  26. Mary Louise,

    “Crazy people are flying this plane and the crash seems imminent. Voting straight Democrat is the only effort I can make and I’m also afraid there are too many blind Trump followers to overcome – that my votes won’t matter.”

    Your concerns are well taken that your vote won’t matter. I’m sure you’re going to vote, like ME, for every Democrat, but that’s not necessarily going to be the answer.

    You’re right about “crazy people” flying the plane, but they, at least, know how to fly the plane. During W.W. II, both sides used airplanes to drop PROPAGANDA canisters, that were highly effective. Those two crazies, Trump and Pence, have expert propagandists at work, who are not either dumb or crazy, who will make sure by the time November rolls around, that the political environment will be completely different than the one we are now observing and will leave the Democratic Party completely defenseless.

    For example, what will be the Democratic Party’s STRATEGY, if and when the NFL African-American players have had enough from the Trump ATTACKS and take matters into their own hands before the November elections?

    Just watch and see. The Democratic Party will be “frozen solid.”

    The football season starts in the next few weeks.

  27. Oh, yes, I will vote and I am talking to everyone I know about how important it is to vote. Hoping for better times, for sure. I know it’s possible.

  28. Pence is whatever Trump wants him to be whether it’s advocating for separating familes at the border or the laughable need for a Space Force. I believe the term is toady. Whatever he may have been in the past has been put aside for the sake of his new Gollum-like role of mad subservience and slavish devotion to a man who epitomizes the antithesis of every Christian belief that Pence and his ilk claim to live by. I wonder how Pence reconciles his complicity in what surely some remaining shred of his soul must see as the devil’s work.

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