Saturday, June 3, 2023

Can Pence’s Trump-lite mix of policy and humility persuade Republicans?

TeaThere were croissants, macarons, and copies of the book So Help Me God. There were journalists but it could not be called a stampede; One front row seat was nominated by the Guardian, while others assigned to the media were eventually given to regular audience members.

Mike Pence, former US Vice President, walks into the auditorium of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) thinktank in Washington last week. It was the latest stop in a lengthy book tour that is apparently testing the waters for a 2024 presidential run promoting his memoir.

In incident after incident, interview after interview, Pence frames his book as a story about growing up in small-town Indiana, placing his faith in Jesus Christ, and marrying “the girl of my dreams.” . But the 63-year-old has struck a delicate balance when it comes to both burying and praising his former boss, President Donald Trump — a Caesar.

Pence has repeatedly defended his decision to resist pressure from his boss to overturn the 2020 election — while stopping short of condemning Trump as a traitor who should not hold elected office again.

Asked by the Associated Press what consequences Trump should face for the January 6 attack on the US Capitol, the former VP replied: “It’s up to the American people … And look, I’ve always been proud of the Trump administration’s record.” Will be.” Asked by NBC’s Meet the Press whether the president had committed a criminal act in inciting an insurrection, he replied: “Well, I don’t know if listening to lawyers’ bad advice is criminal or not.”

In a town hall broadcast by CNN, Pence said: “Let me just say that it was a great honor for me to be a part of the Trump-Pence administration … But in the end, our administration didn’t go well.” And he told CBS News’ Face the Nation: “While the President and I parted ways amicably, I believe that when we look to the future, we will have better options.”

Pence charted a similar course at AEI last week, seeking to embrace Trump’s legacy while simultaneously keeping the man at arm’s length. They were always an odd couple: a dashing New York celebrity billionaire accused of sexual harassment and a pious Midwestern governor who refuses to dine alone with a woman who is not his wife.

But Pence claimed they had formed an unlikely bond.

“President Trump was not just my president, he was my friend,” she said. “We’ve developed a really close working relationship, which I know surprises people… Not that we don’t have our differences.” There were, and I describe some of them in the book, but throughout the administration I always thought it was important that I express my opinion to the President in private.

,The relationship between the President and the Vice President is very unique in the entire US government and I never wanted to be in a situation where there was any daylight between me and the President. Loyalty is the essence of a vice president’s job. Your greatest allegiance is to God and the Constitution.,

No one but Trump could beat Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016, he argued, a realization he realized after seeing the way Trump connected with voters in Indiana. Pence said that when he travels the country now, people are longing for him to return to the Trump-Pence administration’s record on energy independence, wages, jobs, the military and the appointment of conservatives to the courts.

“But in the same breath, almost always people tell me that they want leadership that has the ability to unite our country around our highest ideals and solve some of these longstanding problems. And I think everyone Starts with some decency and respect. I think democracy depends on an enormous amount of civility.

Pence cited his Christian faith and his friendship with Tom Lantos, the only Holocaust survivor to serve in Congress, and John Lewis, who one year saw him cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, to commemorate Bloody Sunday. was asked to join. ,I didn’t agree with either of them on almost anything except that they were both good men and really great men and it was an honor to call them friends. So I think that’s what people are looking for now.,

Mike Pence signing books
Mike Pence’s lengthy book tour to promote his memoir is also testing the waters for the presidency. Photograph: Wade Vandervoort/AFP/Getty Images

It was a rebuke to Trump’s brand of outrageous, double-edged and divisive politics, a bet that people are now tired of that circus and are looking for a more serious tone. As he considers going head-to-head with Trump for the Republican nomination in 2024, Pence is making a case that he can deliver a similar policy agenda without the name-calling and insult-throwing. In short, Trump-lite.

The audience at the AEI event included Ryan Streeter, 53, who drove Pence around Indiana in a Buick sedan in 1988 when he was first running for Congress and later as a policy advisor when Pence was governor of Indiana. Worked.

Streeter, who is now director of domestic policy at AEI, said: “He’s very honestly trying to hold on to things that he believes were good policy wise while now Very clearly creating some distance between him and Trump’s style and probably his focus. On issues that are probably very heavy in a way that he wouldn’t do. It seems very deliberate. Jan 6 created the historical event that necessitated this separation between the two.

Pence, who has harbored White House ambitions since his teenage years, told the audience that he and his family will spend time over the holidays listening to Americans and making decisions about their future. A Morning Consult opinion poll this week showed him supported by 8% of likely Republican primary voters, trailing Trump at 49% and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis at 31%, but leading Liz Cheney, Ted Cruz and Nikki Haley at 2% each. Forwarded.

mike murphy, A Republican strategist who recently interviewed Pence in Indianapolis during his book tour believes his call for a return to more modest political discourse could help differentiate him from Trump and his imitators. “The best thing about Pence is that he’s not afraid to discuss tender or controversial topics, but he does it with grace.

“When he gets hecklers, instead of saying kick their ass like Trump would say, he says this is the voice of freedom, that’s why we have the First Amendment, so you can yell at me if you want.” He just has a very polite, friendly style. I’ve known the guy for 35 years. I’ve never seen him yell once, and when you’ve been a governor or a congressman, you’ve certainly had your moments of yelling from time to time. There would be many reasons.

Michael D’Antonio, co-author of The Shadow President: The Truth About Mike Pence, agreed: “I think he’s also considering DeSantis, who’s way off his base, a rather obnoxious guy and Trump lacks decency, so maybe Pence is betting all this and I don’t think it’s One is a bad bet. Everyone is so tired of pettiness that, if someone can completely persuade the Republican Party that an end is coming and that what may have existed in 2010 will return, they will Will be taken

But he added: “The only obstacle is that his deeply anti-abortion and anti-choice record will make him a tough sell for suburban women and all non-evangelicals in the general election and he could be a huge target for pro- Choice movement. His background is also anti-LGBTQ in a more extreme way than Trump’s and it’s on record. He can’t run from it.,

Indeed, Pence may be living through the worst of both worlds. The Trump base can never forgive him for refusing to support the president’s coup attempt, as “Hang Mike Pence!” Incidents of booing in and after the Capitol. Meanwhile, Democrats cast him as a lapdog, a loyal and fawning second-in-command who defended Trump through every crisis and controversy until he was a reluctant “hero” on Jan. 6. became.

antjuan ceriteA Democratic strategist, said: “The challenge for him is to separate himself from being a certified Trumpster, even as he tries to toe the line of separation. The smart candidates in the Republican primary are going to wrap around the Trump axle every chance they get. He really can’t present himself as an alternative because there are people who have many more layers of separation from Trump no matter what he does.

Reed Gallen, co-founder of the anti-Trump group Lincoln Project, said: “He’s definitely running for president. He’s the only one for whom it really makes sense to run against Trump because Trump tried to kill him.” . I get it, I don’t even blame him for it. That guy tried to hit you, you want to run against him: I’m fine with that. But the truth is, that bowl of vanilla ice cream.

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