Would Pence be better than Trump?

With Mike Pence, former governor of Indiana, as Vice-President and the man would succeed Donald Trump when Trump gets impeached, here is some highlights of Pence’s political career and who helped him rise to nearly the top.

Pence likes to say of himself, “I am a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order.”

Kellyanne Conway, the Trump advisor, who became a pollster for Pence in 2009, says he is “a full-spectrum conservative” on social, moral, economic, and defense issues. Pence leans so far to the right that he has occasionally echoed A.C.L.U. arguments against government overreach. He has, as an example, supported a federal shield law that would protect journalists from having to identify whistle-blowers in court.

According to former Chief of Staff and current Breitbart editor, Steve Bannon, Pence is “the outreach guy, the connective tissue” between the Trump Administration and the most conservative wing of the Republican establishment. “Trump’s got the populist nationalists. But Pence is the base. Without Pence, you don’t win.”

Pence has the political experience, the connections, the composure, and the ideological mooring that Trump lacks. He also has a close relationship with the conservative billionaire donors who have captured the Republican Party’s agenda in recent years.

At the time, as he declared his candidacy, he did not need support from “rich donors” because of his real-estate fortune and he denounced super pacs, their depositories of unlimited campaign contributions, as “corrupt.” While Trump disliked big donors because he has the money, Pence’s political career has been sponsored at almost every turn by those same big donors. Chief among them are the Koch brothers.

The Koch brothers [second largest private company in the US and worth an estimated $90 billion], along with several hundred of their donors, had amassed almost $900 million dollars to spend on the Presidential election, but they declined to support Trump’s candidacy. At one point, Charles Koch, at one point, described the choice between Trump and Hillary Clinton as one between “cancer or heart attack.”

The Koch brothers support an anti-tax and anti-regulatory agenda as it is good for their businesses and it is also something Trump is pushing for [but failing]. But Trump is not conservative enough to get their support and dislike the way he handles himself.

Democrat Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island has previously accused the Kochs of buying undue influence. He said “if Pence were to become President for any reason, the government would be run by the Koch brothers.”

Bannon is also nervous at the prospect of a Pence Presidency by saying that “I’m concerned he’d be a President that the Kochs would own.”

An editor for an Indiana newspaper said “Mike Pence wanted to be President practically since he popped out of the womb. He’s very ambitious, even calculating, about the steps he’ll take toward that goal.”

In 1990, Pence tried and failed for the second time to beat a Democrat for Congress, waging a campaign that is remembered by many as especially nasty. One ad from Pence featured an actor dressed in Middle Eastern clothing and sunglasses, who falsely accused Sharp of being a puppet of Arab oil companies. But Pence’s campaign tanked when the press announced that he had used election donations toward personal expenses, for example, his mortgage.

In 2000, Pence used the tobacco industry talking points by saying “Smoking doesn’t kill. In fact, two out of every three smokers doesn’t die from a smoking-related illness.”

Pence pushed for policies that intruded on people’s private lives. There is a far-right group that supported the criminalization of abortion, unmarried women should be denied access to birth control and campaigned against equal rights for homosexuals called Indiana Family Institute. In the early .nineties, he joined the board.

As well in 2000, Pence ran as the favorite when a Republican congressman in Indiana vacated his seat. Pence ran on a platform that included a promise to oppose “any effort to recognize homosexuals as a discrete and insular minority entitled to the protection of anti-discrimination laws.” He won, by 12 percent.

In 2002, he declared that “educators around America must teach evolution not as fact but as theory,” alongside such theories as intelligent design, which argues that life on Earth is too complex to have emerged through random mutation.

As he was now in Washington, appeared on Sunday talk shows as well as the conservative speaking circuit. He was invited to talk in front of property-rights groups, pro-life groups, and gun owners’ groups. But throughout his twelve years in Congress, but never authored a single successful bill.

Mike Lofgren, a former Republican congressional staff member  and a critic of Trump said “He was as far right as you could go without falling off the earth. But he never really put a foot wrong politically. Beneath the Bible-thumping earnestness was a calculating and ambitious pol.”

In addition he was an early voice of the Tea Party movement. That group opposed taxes and government spending with an angry edge.

But in 2011, he threatened to shut down the federal government unless it defunded Planned Parenthood. He pushed harder than most if not all the other Republicans on that subject.

He unsuccessfully sponsored an amendment to the Affordable Care Act that. That amendment would allowed for a government-funded hospitals to turn away an abortion by a dying woman. In a few years later, as governor of Indiana, he signed a bill barring women from aborting a physically abnormal fetus. That bill said a miscarriage would also require fetal burial or cremation. A federal judge would eventually find the law unconstitutional.

When the Koch brothers enlisted Pence to kill the bill when they felt threatened with the “cap and trade” bill in 2009. A Koch supported group called  Americans for Prosperity called the bill “the largest excise tax in history.” Meanwhile, Pence called it “the largest tax increase in American history.” [Neither statement was true.]

Pence became Charles Koch’s favorite potential candidate for President in 2012, but he instead ran for governor of Indiana and won with only forty-nine per cent of the vote. Not too impressive. After Pence was elected, he began taking controversial far-right stands. Some critics believed they were geared more toward building his national profile than toward serving Indiana voters.

At one point, he pushed for a tax cut for Indiana residents earning fifty thousand dollars a year received a tax cut of about $3.50 per month. Pence claimed that the cut stimulated the economy and “the largest income-tax cut in the state’s history” [shades on Donald Trump!].

He killed an application for an eighty-million-dollar federal grant to start a statewide preschool program. Education officials in Pence’s own administration favored the grant, but conservative opponents of secular public education had complained. It was killed because the federal government had attached “too many strings”. There weren’t any.

The Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, the Koch brothers’ Virginia-based membership group for big conservative donors,  serves as a dark-money bank, allowing donors to stay anonymous while distributing funds to preferred campaigns and political organizations. [During the past decade, the group gave out an estimated billion and a half dollars in contributions.]

As Indiana governor, in the spring of 2015, Pence signed a bill called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Pence claimed it protected religious freedom, but then a photograph of the closed signing session surfaced which showed Pence surrounded by monks and nuns, along with three of the most virulently anti-gay activists in the state. The image went viral and  Indiana residents discovered that what it really did was to essentially legalized discrimination against homosexuals by businesses in the state.

At that time, Pence was interviewed by George Stephanopoulos and asked him five times during the interview if it was now legal in Indiana for a business to discriminate against homosexuals. Each time Pence was asked, he tried to deflect the question. Pence also would not answer weather he personally supported discrimination against gays.

Even with a PR firm using gays and others in the various ads, there was a huge backlash to the bill. Conventions in the state were canceled, tourist stayed away and companies that were willing to expand in the state held off. Pence finally gave in and signed a watered down bill. With such a huge defeat, he felt the best he can do now is be on Trump’s ticket instead of running for President.

As well, In 2015, there was a big outbreak in HIV diagnoses – blamed primarily on the opioid users sharing needles. Pence’s campaigning against Planned Parenthood had contributed to the closure of five clinics in the region. None of them actually performed abortions, but all had offered HIV testing.

In the legislature, there was talk about studying the possibility of legalizing a syringe exchange, but the right wing blocked the idea. Pence threatened to veto any such legislation and  he scheduled his own event, where he announced that he would pray about the syringe-exchange issue. On the following day, he said that he supported allowing an exchange program on a limited basis as an emergency measure but only in Scott County where there would be no state funding. The number of HIV case dropped after in that county. Surprised Pence did not credit his praying for the change.

After the November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, Pence would issue a controversial executive order barring the resettlement of Syrian refugees in Indiana – even with the pressure of the Bishop of Indianapolis. Pence told him, “I need to protect the people of the state” even though a family from Syria was vetted for two years. Eventually, federal courts struck down Pence’s executive order as discriminatory. The now Cardinal said “No” when asked if there was a Christian argument in support of turning the refugees away.

When it was proven that a man who spent nine years in prison for an armed robbery that he didn’t commit should be released, Pence left him to rot in prison with no pardon. Pence finally left the decision to his successor, another Republican governor who granted Cooper a pardon within weeks of taking office.

As governor, he proclaimed his opposition to any expansion of the gaming industry but used executive orders to quietly grant several of the gambling industry’s wishes, such as allowing riverboat casinos to expand onshore. Gaming companies channeled money to various Republican groups who then gave the money to Pence’s team.

In 2016, when it came time for a running mate, Trump was worried because Pence had little money and one bank account according to a campaign-finance disclosure form which held less than fifteen thousand dollars. Recognizing that Trump was susceptible to flattery, he told the media that Trump “beat me like a drum.”

After left hanging for days, Trump called Governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie [Trump’s second choice for vice president] and said, “They’re telling me I have to pick him. It’s central casting. He looks like a Vice-President.” Unsure who the “they” are unless the same “establishment” he was fighting not to be connected to.

After Trump’s “grab her by the p?ssy” comments, Pence refused to take Trump’s calls for a while and sent him a letter saying that he and Karen, as Christians, were deeply offended by his actions and needed to decide whether to remain with the campaign. Pence, of course, stayed even if it was a bit against his religion. It is ambition over religion for him.

After the election Trump dumped Christie who was in charge of the transition team. Christie’s team had been quietly gathering résumés and making plans for months. But Pence’s team threw out the research, dumping thirty binders of material into the trash. Right after, very religious conservative groups started to weigh in on the choices that Pence brought to the table.

Trump began to appoint many people with ties to the Kochs and to Pence in positions that affected Koch Industries financially, such as those dealing with regulatory, environmental, and fiscal policy. Dozens of Koch friends and employees quickly got jobs in the new administration in all areas including Scott Pruitt to head the EPA after he came from the oil industry.

With most nonpartisan analyses saying that it would favor the very wealthy, the Kochs enthusiastically support the White House’s proposed tax-cut package. [The proposed elimination of the estate tax alone would give the Koch brothers’ heirs a windfall of billions of dollars.]

When officials were discussing laying charges against Mike Flynn, several law professors have argued that the Pence as Vice-President could be vulnerable to charges of obstructing justice, or “misprision of a felony,” for participating in a meeting about shutting down the federal investigation and then providing a false cover story to the public.

Unlike most Vice-Presidents, Pence has never been given any particular portfolio of issues or projects. He’s continued to serve as the key contact for conservative groups and campaign donors.

Pence readily complied when Trump asked him to stage a protest at an NFL game in Indianapolis on October 8th, by leaving the stadium when some players refused to stand for the national anthem. They knew the players would protest. [Pence’s trip reportedly cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.]

Pence’s religious fundamentalism exceeds others who have been in the White House. Pence has been hosting a Bible-study group for Cabinet officers, led by an evangelical pastor named Ralph Drollinger who has said “women with children at home, who either serve in public office, or are employed on the outside, pursue a path that contradicts God’s revealed design for them. It is a sin.” Drollinger also describes Catholicism as “a false religion”, calls homosexuality “a sin”, and believes that a wife must “submit” to her husband.

So the question is: Is Pence considered overall an improvement over Trump or will make things worse if Trump is impeached.

[Primarily with information from The New Yorker magazine.]

 

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About ebraiter
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