In The Inscrutable Mike Pence, NY Times’ Peter Baker reviews “PIETY AND POWER: Mike Pence and the Taking of the White House” By Tom LoBianco.
After losing his first campaign for Congress, a penitent Mike Pence swore off the dark side of politics. In a confessional essay in 1991, he wrote that “negative campaigning is wrong” and set out rules for himself for the future. Any campaign, he said, “ought to demonstrate the basic human decency of the candidate,” must advance a goal greater than personal desire and should not be only “about winning.”
A quarter-century later, he signed onto the presidential ticket of a candidate who seemed to be the antithesis of the ideal Pence once envisioned. While Pence himself maintains a public dignity and eschews vitriol against opponents in keeping with his long-ago atonement, he has tethered himself to a president who revels in negative campaigning, makes winning his all-consuming aspiration and has rarely been accused of an excess of human decency.
That Faustian bargain makes Pence one of the most intriguing yet least understood figures in American politics today. …
One clue may be his wife, Karen, known to the public mainly because the vice president refuses to meet alone with women other than her. Her influence seems significant. The cherry-red telephone on his desk as governor was a direct line to Karen, who maintained an office across the statehouse atrium but preferred phone conversations to avoid prying eyes. Karen, LoBianco reports, “was livid” at Trump’s prurient comments in the “Access Hollywood” tape, but her husband concluded it was too late to drop off the ticket. On election night, 2016, Karen refused to kiss Pence. “You got what you wanted, Mike,” she told him. “Leave me alone.”
But she is back to campaigning with him.
When an evangelical pastor who once prayed with Pence in his congressional office ran into him at a ceremony last year, he told him: “You know, Mr. Vice President, more than anything, we need you to find your conscience, the country desperately needs you to find your conscience.”
“It’s always easier said than done,” Pence replied cryptically, and then walked away.
Now that we have an impeachment inquiry underway, we should be asking about a post-Trump administration. As shown here, we don’t know the answer.
(Thanks, Roving Reporter!)