And in so doing proves John Nichols' point that Mike Pence Is So Much More Nixonian Than Nixon.
Nichols asks "How does a career politician get away with criticizing career politicians?" Well, that's what happened in the Vice Presidential debate.
Nixon used to be able to stare into the camera and lie. Pence proved himself to be even better at that than Tricky Dick.
Mike Pence has no shame. That was established by his decision to quit a campaign for reelection as governor of Indiana and jump into the passenger seat of Donald Trump’s clown car. But the Republican achieved a new level of shamelessness in a vice-presidential debate where he grumbled about Democrat Tim Kaine’s “avalanche of insults” after the senator from Virginia reviewed a litany of Trump’s insulting comments about women, federal jurists, American prisoners of war. When Kaine pressed his point on Trump’s racism and xenophobia, Pence twisted the scenario once more, griping, “Senator, you whipped out that Mexican thing again.”
Pence did it all with a straight face, which some might suggest was Orwellian. In fact, it was Nixonian. Richard Nixon’s great skill as a campaigner was his ability to look into a television camera and make statements that he knew to be false. But Nixon had a measure of shame. He would sweat; he would stumble in his delivery; his eyes would go a little wild.
Not Pence. He is calm and deliberate when mouthing absolute falsehoods. Just watch the Republican vice-presidential nominee deny that Donald Trump said things that Donald Trump is famous for saying. Just watch the Republican vice presidential nominee deny Mike Pence said things that Mike Pence is famous for saying.
That earned the Republican contender high marks from feckless pundits who imagine that shamelessness is a mark of political agility. But that should also unsettle Americans who remember the past and fear for the future. Pence is so much more Nixonian than Nixon.
Why fear for the future? It's Pence's ambition.
Pence’s many stumbles and conflicts made him uniquely unpopular at home. By the summer of 2016, polls had him in a tight race for reelection and The Indianapolis Star reported in May that only 36 percent of Indiana voters said the governor should be reelected. Luckily for Pence, he did not have maintain his reelection run. He was given an opportunity to get on the Trump train, and he leapt on board.
That choice brought Mike Pence, who has mounted 18 primary and general election campaigns over the course of 28 years, to the 2016 vice-presidential debate stage.
Where Pence complained about career politicians—and, in an homage to Nixon, used his vice-presidential platform to set the stage for his all-but-announced 2020 presidential run.
Remember - after becoming Indiana governor:
Pence quickly began making noises about mounting a 2016 presidential run. But no one got very excited about the prospect—especially after Pence’s promotion of extreme religious-right agenda items (including a “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” designed to permit discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community) provoked national outrage and had to be rewritten.
If Pence survives 2016, we will likely have to relive national outrage.