Mike Pence is a stoic guy. Not the worst quality to have as Donald Trump’s vice president. For four years, Pence has supported everything the U.S. president has been responsible for in the Oval Office. Even during the election campaign in the midst of the Corona pandemic, Pence defended every decision and every behavior of the administration in the TV duel with Kamala Harris. That was his role and he played it perfectly.
Even a fly sitting on Pence’s head for more than a minute didn’t faze the 61-year-old as he tried to downplay racist behavior by the Trump administration. To what extent the mockery of the fly – which even got its own Twitter accounts – hurt Pence is not known. But one can assume that the years at Trump’s side also hardened him against one or the other meme.
But after losing the Nov. 3 election, an estrangement began between Trump and Pence that eventually led to a rift last week. A rift that Pence precipitated, putting him at the center of the question of whether to unseat Donald Trump in these final days of Trump’s presidency. House Democratic Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi has given Pence an ultimatum until Wednesday to use the 25th Amendment and declare Trump unfit for office with a majority of the Cabinet. Otherwise, Democrats plan to push their impeachment process, the resolution of which they passed on Monday.
That Pence is in this awkward position for him has its origins in Trump’s refusal to accept the election results. After all of the president’s attempts to halt his defeat failed, Trump finally addressed his vice president publicly at a campaign event in Georgia last Monday. “I hope he comes through,” the president said there, simply meaning that Pence should not accept the Electoral College votes. But the vice president does not have that power. As president over Congress, it is a formal act for the vice president to declare the winner of the presidential election.
But loyalties are not so easily shed. Pence did not initially go on the offensive rhetorically. However, Pence did not support a lawsuit filed by Republicans to expand his powers so that he could have declared the election invalid. He asked the judge to dismiss the suit because he was not the right person to rule on it.
“If Mike Pence does the right thing, we will win”.
A day before storming the Capitol, Pence reportedly said at his weekly lunch with the president, according to the New York Times, that he did not have the authority to change the election results. Even then, it was technicalities that Pence was hiding behind.
The escalation between the president and his running mate did not occur until the day everything escalated in the country. Even before Trump supporters overcame the barricades at the convention and stormed the building, Pence wrote in a three-page statement that it is “my considered judgment that my oath to support and defend the Constitution prevents me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should and should not be counted.”
It was a public rejection of Trump’s call, which he repeated again to his supporters the same day. “If Mike Pence does the right thing, we will win,” Trump had said then. Pence, however, did the wrong thing, at least from Trump’s perspective.
Not one to steal Trump’s thunder
When Congress was able to reconvene after the riots, Pence endorsed Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’ election victory. People close to Trump have fallen out of favor for far less. Pence’s refusal to ignore facts like the Constitution was the ultimate betrayal. Since then, silence has reigned between Trump and Pence. He had never seen Pence so angry, Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe told the Tulsa World. “He said, ‘After all the things I’ve done for him (Trump),'” Inhofe is quoted as saying. On Monday, the two spoke again for the first time, according to CNN, “to discuss the week ahead.”
That Trump would not simply put up with Pence’s behavior should not surprise Pence. He has seen live in the White House how Trump deals with female staffers. However, he has so far excluded his vice president from this. Indeed, Pence had not offered him a target for this so far. While Pence was not among the early supporters of Trump’s presidential candidacy in 2016, he did get behind him when he won the primaries. Pence repeatedly describes himself as “a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order.”
In doing so, he made himself the ideal vice president for Trump. Pence brought enough experience as a former governor and previously a member of the House of Representatives, was well-connected in Washington, D.C., and popular with key conservative evangelical voters. As governor, he had signed into law one of the strictest abortion bans in the country in Indiana, and he was the first sitting vice president to give a speech at the March for Life, a demonstration by abortion opponents. He also supported a bill that would have made it easier for religious companies not to serve gay couples.
Beyond that, Pence’s personality made him unsuspicious of stealing Trump’s thunder or headlines. And he didn’t. Criticism of Trump was not heard from the vice president in the past four years. Pence defended everything – on the issue of climate change, for example, he said during his TV duel with Harris that its cause was unclear. He was silent on all the outbursts from the Oval Office and stood firmly by his boss during the first impeachment trial. At the time, he said Trump had “done nothing wrong. “After election defeat, Pence went silent
In February 2020, Trump made Pence in charge of the coronavirus task force. He downplayed the threat of the pandemic as much as Trump did, saying as recently as August that he could not be “prouder” of Trump’s leadership. As Pence gained attention for his daily, calm and actually factual press conferences, Trump ripped back on the covid updates. Pence didn’t complain. And toured the country much like Trump, attending campaign rallies without Covid protocol.
When it became clear after Nov. 3 that the Trump/Pence ticket would have no future in the White House, Pence went silent. He did not support Trump’s baseless claims of alleged voter fraud, tweeting only sparingly and otherwise focusing on the Covid task force.
Pence is not cut out for a Trump world outside the White House. He’s a career politician. It was time for Pence to think about his post-White House career. Perhaps in these final days, he also revisited his own self-description. His Christ-first mantra will have slipped a notch or two down the list of priorities during his four years at Trump’s side. By deciding to simply do his job in Congress, Pence has cut ties with Trump and kept his future in the party open.
Pence plans to attend Biden’s inauguration, according to reports. That he will allow himself to be pressured by the Democrats and have Trump declared unfit for office is nevertheless rather unlikely. It would not be a maneuver that would benefit him. It is still too unclear how his own party will deal with Trump and his legacy in the future. The vice president is more likely to stoically sit out the last seven days of the Trump presidency. But Mike Pence has had practice at that.
by Jeremy Abbott – American Correspondent – FN