Well, No One Ever Accused Pence of Being “Politically Correct”…

The Donald’s 2016 Presidential campaign is looking more and more like a really bad comedy–one of those films that tries to be clever and just ends up being an embarrassing groaner. Or maybe the appropriate comparison is to a train wreck.

Whatever it is, you want to look away–to just hide somewhere until the whole thing is over–but you really can’t take your eyes off the continuing farce…

The latest speculation is that The Donald might tap Indiana Governor Mike Pence to run as his vice-president. According to the Indianapolis Star, the two met over the weekend.

Marc Lotter, Pence’s deputy campaign manager, was not able to say whether the two talked about the possibility during the meeting.

“They talked about policies that are working in Indiana and the future of this country,” Lotter said. “Nothing was offered during the meeting, and nothing was accepted.”

Pence endorsed Trump in May, after first endorsing Sen. Ted Cruz ahead of the state’s May 3 primary election. Cruz dropped out of the race the day after losing Indiana to Trump, who received 53.3 percent of votes.

“I’m fully supportive of our presumptive nominee, and I do think Donald Trump will do well in the State of Indiana,” Pence said at the time. “I’m going to campaign hard for the Republican nominee because Indiana needs a partner in the White House.”

If they discussed policies that are working in Indiana, it was a very short meeting.

A political commentator on CBS, asked to discuss Trump’s likely VP choice, noted that Republicans who would be remotely credible had all made their disinterest in going down with this particular ship quite clear. That leaves Newt Gingrich, Chris Christie…and Pence. (Interestingly, all three have approval ratings in the 30s–just like The Donald.)

Evidently, the “calculus”–if anyone on the Trump train can spell calculus–is that Mikey would help shore up the religious right vote. (He certainly wouldn’t help with women or minorities or those pesky “elitists” who want their elected officials to understand the Constitution.)

Pence cannot run both for re-election and the Vice Presidency, so if he’s tapped and amenable, he will have to withdraw his gubernatorial candidacy.

I find this scenario fascinating and oddly satisfying. It would spell the end of Mike Pence’s political career (one small step for mankind…). A last-minute switch of the GOP’s candidate for Governor would probably assure John Gregg’s victory in November. It would give a lot of Hoosier voters an additional reason to reject Trump–not that they don’t have plenty of reasons already.

Most of all, I would love to see the inevitable political ads featuring clips from Pence’s disastrous RFRA interview with George Stephanopolous.

“Now George.” “Now George.” “Now George.”  Not a Sarah Palin performance, perhaps, but close enough.

This all really is like very bad comedy.


Gender Matters

Back in 1980, when Republicans were members of a political party and not a religion, I was the Republican candidate for Congress from Indiana’s (then) eleventh district. In 1980, it was still comparatively unusual for either party to run a woman, and I had plenty of opportunity to grit my teeth over the tendency of reporters to focus on what I was wearing rather than what I was saying. My Washington-based consultant advised me to “look tough,” so that my gender would not be read as feminine softness–advice that, in retrospect, probably just made me look unpleasant.

In the 30+ years since that campaign, women have arguably made considerable progress–but we’re kidding ourselves if we don’t think  sexism still frames political contests. Gender bias remains, but it manifests itself more subtly. In 2008, Sarah Palin tried to sell herself as a conservative version of a feminist, but that claim rang hollow to real feminists for many reasons, not the least of which was that much of her support was based upon her undeniable good looks. I am firmly of the opinion that neither Palin nor Bachmann would have achieved political prominence had they looked like Janet Reno.

Which brings me to an intriguing, if depressing, study recently reported in the Journal of Religion and Politics.

The authors were investigating the oft-noted tendency of today’s religiously conservative candidates to use “dog whistles”–phrases that don’t register with the more secular among us, but that signal to the extremely religious that the candidate is one of them. (George W. Bush was a master at this.) They found, however, that this tactic was more effective when used by male candidates that when it was used by females.  As the authors noted, “The code functioned as a highly sophisticated, closed-circuit cue for Evangelicals regarding male candidate acceptability…the code does not work in the same way for female candidates.” While reluctant to draw conclusions, they raise a pertinent question: “What if the Republican ‘advantage’ in using religious appeals is based on an inherent characteristic–gender–of those making the appeals?”

Whatever the answer to that question, if we have learned anything about politics during the past decade, it is that–for good or ill–race, gender, religion and sexual orientation continue to frame our responses to those who run for office.


Rapture Me Up, Scotty

Well, I see that Saturday is the big day–all the saved” Christians will evidently be leaving the rest of us (aka me and all of my friends) as they are Raptured. I know this because my email is filled with messages about “Rapture cocktails” and post-Rapture looting parties, and because a Facebook friend posted helpful information about a site that–for a relatively modest fee–will take care of your pet after you leave.

News accounts have taken note of the true believers who have given away all of their worldly goods in anticipation of their imminent departure.

Not being a biblical literalist, I have some lingering questions: for example, will self-identified “bible-believing” Christians like Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee and Michelle Bachmann be leaving us?  If not, can we send them to the Afterlife anyway?  What should we do with all the tacky lawn ornaments True Believers will leave behind? And most important of all, what kind of dreadful world will the rest of us create? How will we know who to despise?

What will we do without the elect to tell us how to live and who to love? How will we know who Jesus doesn’t want us to tax?

Come to think of it, I am sure I’m one of the damned, because a post-Rapture world sounds heavenly to me.


Journalism’s Responsibility?

In a recent blog post at Political Animal, Steve Benen addressed the decision of the Washington Post to run an op-ed on climate change written (okay, probably ghost-written, since she’s given no hint that she’s familiar with the English language) by Sarah Palin.

The problem isn’t just that the paper published another right-wing piece from someone who’s obviously clueless — note, the WaPo published a similarly foolish Palin op-ed in July — it’s that the piece is factually wrong. The paper has a responsibility to publish content that informs its readers. Obviously, with “opinion” pieces, the standards are slightly different, but that does not give the editors license to run claims that are patently, demonstrably false.

Marc Ambinder had a very strong post, reviewing Palin’s claims, point by point, which is worth checking out. But also don’t miss Media Matters’ piece, which notes that the Palin op-ed even contradicts the Washington Post‘s own reporting.

This assertion raises an issue that is becoming increasingly important: what is the obligation of so-called “mainstream” journalists to fact-check what they print? On the one hand, as Benen acknowledges, this is an opinion piece, and clearly labeled as such. On the other hand, one of the concerns voiced about the imminent demise of newspapers is that readers will be deprived of genuine journalism, which is expensive to produce in large part because journalists are expected to engage in fact-checking and verification of claims they publish.

The Washington Post regularly runs columns by George Will–who clearly does not choose to believe the science of climate change–that contain demonstrably false factual claims. On rare occasion–VERY rare–they’ve later apologized. (Generally, only after the outcry from the scientific community was deafening.) 

I write op-eds, and I would be indignant if my editor (who virtually always disagrees with me about policy choices) changed my columns. On the other hand, I make strenuous efforts to ensure the accuracy of factual assertions, and to be clear about what parts of my columns are based on evidence and which parts are my opinions.

The fractured nature of our media environment makes it much too easy to dismiss ALL news sources as unreliable or biased. The most important argument for “real” journalism–i.e., not talk radio, not shock jocks, not panderers/water-carriers like Fox News and the rightwing/leftwing blogs–is that they are the best source of objective information. (Objectivity, by the way, is different from “balance.” If 99 percent of observers agree that the object before them is a cup, balance requires finding the one delusional individual who insists it is a plate. Objectivity requires the reporter to call it a cup.) If we can’t depend upon the mainstream media to fact-check what they print, what becomes of that argument?