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Sunday, May 20, 2018
Politics ...

The February 2018 Atlantic Monthly mag had a long article on Vice President Mike Pence, going into great detail about his evangelical religious views, and how he squares them with his extreme loyalty to Donald Trump. It seems as though Trump could do most anything, no matter how heinous, and Mike Pence would still be there to defend Trump. So it was interesting to read how Pence responded to the big revelation in October 2016, during the midst of the election campaign against Hillary Clinton, that Trump was on tape, courtesy of the show Access Hollywood, discussing his sexual exploits of women in a very crude and abusive fashion.

McKay Coppins, the editor of the article, reports that Pence clearly was considering jumping ship during the first few days of the firestorm that this revelation (by the Washington Post) had triggered in the Republican Party. For a few days there, it seemed as if Trump’s continued candidacy hung in the balance. According to Coppins, Pence distanced himself from Trump during those days, not returning phone calls. There was serious talk among GOP leaders and funders about dumping Trump and putting Mike Pence in his place (with Condoleezza Rice in the VP spot). And Pence was indeed returning phone calls from such leaders. Coppins reports that then-GOP National Chair Reince Priebus advised Trump that he could either drop out or lose in a landslide, and that Pence and Rice were ready to step in as the new GOP Presidential ticket.

Trump, of course, pulled a Houdini and slipped out of that crisis. Two factors came together to save Trump, and he brilliantly exploited both. First, there was a national debate with Clinton coming up in two day, the second in a series of three debates. Second was the fact that Hillary Clinton was married to former president Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton was of course famous for his own political Houdini moves with regard to the multiple women who accused him of sexual exploitation over the years. He even slipped out of a clearly documented dalliance with a White House aid (Monica Lewinsky) during his second term, managing to ride out an impeachment trial in the Senate. Throughout Mr. Clinton’s Presidency, Hillary Clinton was his equivalent of Mike Pence; she was always there to defend him, no matter what the charges or however credible they were.

Trump decided to go for the Clinton family jugular by bringing to the debate several of Bill Clinton’s female accusers, loudly making the point that his “locker talk” with Access Hollywood was kid-stuff compared to what Bill Clinton got away with — and with Hilary Clinton playing a key role in assuring her husband’s political survival. Trump’s tactic worked brilliantly, and Pence was back on board the Trump ship in a flash, cruising on toward a seemingly unlikely victor in early November.

So, when you think about it — Hillary Clinton was hoisted on her own petard, so to speak. Had Joe Biden somehow been the candidate instead of Ms. Clinton (and former FBI Director James Comey, who seems to be taking the blame for many other things regarding the 2016 election, might as well also be blamed for precluding a Biden candidacy by going light on Clinton during the FBI’s e-mail national security investigation), Biden could have claimed the higher moral ground and cast lightening bolts of aspersion against Trump for his degraded moral character. GOP leaders would probably have redoubled their push to get Trump out of the way and get Pence on top of the ticket, and by mid-October, Trump would have fallen from grace.

(As to what the outcome of a Biden-Pence showdown would have been . . . it seems fairly clear, to me anyway, that Biden would have beat Trump; Biden would not have let Michigan and Pennsylvania slip from his hands; recall that Biden grew up in Scranton, Pennsylvania. But Pence might have done better in the West than Trump did, and had he held Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, and gained Colorado and Nevada from the Dems . . . that race would have gone down to the wire).

But Hillary Clinton, and not Joe Biden, was on the debate stage on that October night. And it was quite clear that she could not go after Trump on moral grounds with a straight face. Bill’s chickens had finally come home to roost, and Hillary can take credit for feeding those chickens along the way. The Clintons survived and thrived by playing an especially dirty game of politics, and they were finally beaten by a political novice who studied their dark and brilliant tactics, and learned quite quickly how to turn them around against the Clinton dynasty.

Hillary Clinton continues to offer the public an assortment of reasons regarding why she lost to Trump (including in that assortment, of course, is James Comey and his early November announcement that the FBI needed to take another look at her e-mails). She makes it seem as if a curse had descended upon her candidacy, and she had to encounter Biblical onslaughts of plagues, locusts, and Russian hacking! And yet, Coppins makes it pretty simple . . . Trump had a moment of extreme danger and vulnerability in early October; one wrong move and he would be nothing more today that a political footnote, the first modern candidate for the Presidency to drop out just a few weeks before the election. But Trump made all the right moves, while Clinton continued doing a variety of wrong things (such as refusing to back down from her earlier description of Trump supporters as a “basket of deplorables” . . . forgetting that a whole lot of potential Democratic voters lived in the same communities and worked in the same places as those “deplorable” Trump supporters . . . and thus losing a lot of the votes that could have saved her in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania).

As to Mike Pence, he appears to be playing a “long game”, and maintaining his attractiveness to future Republican voters. He will maintain a stronger claim to the states and voters that put Trump into the White House. Pence is not a Houdini, but he doesn’t need to be. He is probably the Democrat’s worst nightmare for the 2020’s (at age 58, he arguably has another 20 good years left in national politics).

◊   posted by Jim G @ 9:48 am      

  1. Jim, Some random tho’ts:

    It seems to me that Trump always manages to get out of tight spots he gets himself into. In the end it seems to me he does not take any real responsibility for anything, gets someone else to do that aspect of things, and thus is not responsible when things go wrong. He sure knows how to take care of himself but cares not one bit for others. I find it interesting that the man seems to lack the ability to empathize in any way with any one.

    As to Pence: I also read an article on him, but I think a different one. (And once again I have no reference [what a shock!]; but it must have been an article in “The Atlantic” in the more or less recent past.) The one I read discussed Pence’s ability to support Trump in the most ridiculous of situations, but it seems he has a reason for doing so.

    The article I read pointed out that Pence is a staunch and VERY conservative Roman Catholic who feels called by God, put in the place as vice president by God, to take over when Trump is impeached. According to the article, Pence is of the opinion that it’s just a matter of time until Trump is impeached and he (Pence) takes over as president.

    I don’t know what I think of that; it may be going from the frying pan into the fire. A person who thinks he has a direct line to God can be a big problem; then again, he might simply “disappear” when things do not turn out as he expected.

    As to politics and the inner sanctum of what really goes on: I’ve been watching the TV program “Scandal” for a while now; it seems to me it might be pretty close to the mark as to what really happens in the inner workings of politics. If that were to prove true, it would mean the voters would be horrified if they truly knew what really went on among politicians.

    I heard Stephen Colbert interview James Comey one night; Comey was promoting his new book, of course. But he did make one statement that struck me and set me to thinking. He very generally referred to the need (presumably too often in politics) to “choose the least worse choice”, which does not say much that is positive for politics. (It also made me wonder if Comey is a Catholic as that is also a Catholic teahing—when faced with all choices that are bad, choose the least worst.

    And as to Hillary Clinton “standing by her man”: No, I am not excluding her from the term Politicians. But I do not think one can compare Pence standing by Trump and whatever shenanigans he might be capable of with Hillary standing by Bill Clinton thru his actions that got him impeached.

    For one thing Hillary is married to Bill; Pence is not married to Clinton. Marriage establishes a bond between two people that is of an entirely different kind than that of VP and prez. People may choose to stay together in a marriage for a lot of reasons, one of which may be that both desire power and know the other is one possibly an effective way to achieve that power. Or put more generally, as I once heard a woman say in a “gathering place” for women (OK, it was a women’s bathroom): She said: “My husband and I have decided that ‘things’ will be the goal of our marriage.” I tho’t: Well! That leaves out love, but is a definite goal that I guess a lot of people may want to pursue.

    So, who is to say why the Clintons have remained together; they are probably the only ones who know the reason, and that is between the two of them only. However, a VP/president relationship is very different. Obama used his VP as a man who could help him with in times when he needed advice no one else could give him. (And that likely occurred much more often than one would think.) So I do not think that it’s valid to make a comparison between Hillary and Bill and Trump and Pence.

    If Pence thinks he’s been called by God to quietly wait in the wings to take over as president when Trump is impeached, that’s a one-man thing, not a relationship between the two men. It would remain to be seen how right Pence may or may not be in what he thinks he’s called by God to do. MCS

    Comment by Mary S. — May 21, 2018 @ 11:26 am

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