In what must be an ideologically and emotionally confusing read for liberals, the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer goes on the attack against Vice President Mike Pence and, in the process, manages to paint President Trump in a somewhat sympathetic light for social liberals who are critical of the Christian right.
The article, “The Danger of President Pence,” is essentially a hit piece on the vice president and a cautionary tale. “The worse the President looks, the more desirable his understudy seems,” Mayer writes, but then warns, “If the job is a gamble for Pence, he himself is something of a gamble for the country.”
It seems that, in spite of his loyalty to the unorthodox President Trump, Mike Pence is (gasp!) “’a full-spectrum conservative’ on social, moral, economic, and defense issues.” Mayer notes that Pence could be easily considered an establishment Republican who has strong connections to deep-pocketed Republican donors including the bogeymen of leftist dark money concerns, the Koch brothers.
Anti-religious leftists will enjoy the most-quoted sections of Mayer’s piece, those which detail how President Trump mocked Pence’s Christian beliefs. Mayer quotes several associates and staff members who say that Trump likes to “let Pence know who’s boss.” Trump reportedly asks people who have met with the vice president, “Did Mike make you pray?”
The president also reportedly teased Pence about his pro-life views and his opposition to the gay rights movement. Sources say that in a meeting with a legal scholar who pointed out that states might choose to legalize abortion if Roe v. Wade were overturned, Trump said, “You see? You’ve wasted all this time and energy on it, and it’s not going to end abortion anyway.”
When talk at the same meeting turned to homosexuality, Trump gestured toward Pence. “Don’t ask that guy,” Trump said. “He wants to hang them all!”
The New Yorker article paints Vice President Pence as someone who believes what he says and who acts on those beliefs. Mayer includes a laundry list of socially conservative issues where Pence took stands as governor of Indiana, from tax cuts (“Pence’s commitment to the Kochs was now ironclad”) to the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, although he does get a pat on the back from her for opting in to Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion.
Interestingly, Mayer points out that both the height of Trump’s campaign and the biggest scandal that he has faced are both linked to Mike Pence. Pence’s connections to Republican donors made Trump’s election victory possible. Pence also helped make Trump palatable to Midwestern and Christian voters who were not natural supporters of the brash New Yorker.
At the opposite extreme, Pence was embroiled in the Michael Flynn firing that ultimately grew into the full-fledged Russia investigation. Unlike the other potential VP candidate, Chris Christie, Pence did not raise objections to Flynn’s appointment as National Security Advisor. Flynn was fired in February for lying to Pence about contacts with the Russian ambassador during the transition period.
Although Trump’s mocking comments are what has generated the headlines, Mayer’s main message is that, if Trump is impeached or forced to resign, liberals might like Pence even less. “Democrats should hope Trump stays in office,” said Democrat strategist Harold Ickes, noting that Pence would likely be much more effective at working with Congress and implementing a conservative agenda.