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Mike Pence A Hero? Or Was Trump Correct When He Called Him A Pussy And A Wimp?



Just over a week ago, Jonathan Last penned a piece for The Atlantic, Mike Pence Is An American Hero. A better title might have been, "The Indiana Sack Of Shit Who Trump Picked As VP Finally Did Something That Wasn't Horrible, The Way Everything Else He's Ever Done In His Corrupt, Rancid Career Was." It may have been less elegant... but would have been far more more accurate. Pence was the missing protagonist of yesterday's J-6 Select Committee hearing. Before Pelosi's lamest choice for the committee, corrupt coke-fiend Pete Aguilar got his dull presentation going, John Nichols asked why Pence wasn't scheduled to testify. The hearing featured Pence's form chief of staff Marc Short and Pence's former chief counsel Greg Jacob... but not the cowardly lion himself, busily running for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination. Instead Pence was at a meeting of the far right very pro-Trump Republican Study Group chaired by insurrectionist and "lying Trump apologist" Jim Banks of, like Pence, Indiana.

"So why," asked Nichols "is Pence keeping company with this particular congressman, rather than testifying before the committee? Why isn’t the former vice president testifying not just about his belief that Trump’s assessment of the vice president’s power to overturn an election was wrong but, more importantly, about the fact that what Trump did before and during the January 6 coup attempt was wrong?"


And Nichols had the answer as well: "Pence is a craven political careerist who is always looking out for what is best for Pence. He did the right thing on January 6, 2021, and for that he deserves credit. But his appropriate action on that day-- when even House minority leader Kevin McCarthy was rebuking Trump-- was less a matter of political heroism than political positioning. Remember that Pence was so desperately afraid of crossing Trump that he turned to former vice president Dan Quayle for advice on whether he might do Trump’s bidding... [T]he backstory does not read like a chapter from Profiles in Courage. As Kurt Bardella, a former senior adviser for Republicans on the House Oversight Committee who has since become a Democrat, observed... 'Think about it. The vice president of the United States was calling around looking for someone who would give him permission to preside over the complete collapse of our democratic process.' The fact is that Pence was, is, and will always be a political hack. He’s a perennial candidate, constantly on the watch for a way to pursue his ambition for higher office. He’s already campaigning for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination-- visiting key early caucus and primary states, campaigning for fellow Republicans, and begging for money. It’s a failed mission."


"The dominant figure in the Republican Party, Donald Trump," Nichols reminded his readers, "actively despises Pence, as do Trump’s backers, who make up the defining faction in most state parties. But Pence can’t help himself. The career politician who has rarely let an election cycle pass without positioning for another bid for another high office will keep trying to have it both ways. He wants to be seen by Trump critics as the patriot who stood up to the former president, and he wants to be seen by Trump allies as a loyal vice president who did almost everything the boss asked. Testifying before the January 6 Committee would force Pence to take a side... Pence is not going to call Trump a crook. He is not going to describe Trump’s January 6 project as 'an attempted coup.' ... The former vice president will not testify because, when all is said and done, Mike Pence lacks the courage to sacrifice his own ambition for the cause of assuring that there is never another insurrection like the one that occurred on January 6, 2021. He doesn’t even have the guts to demand accountability for the thug who suggested that hanging Mike Pence might be 'the right idea.'"


As longtime Michigan GOP strategist Jeff Timmer tweeted yesterday, "Let's all agree Mike Pence should have been crowned Mr. I Didn't Commit Treason USA for 2021." He later added that "Not one person has indicated that Mike Pence ever pushed back that what he was being pressured to do was corrupt and wrong. Testimony only indicates he lamented he didn’t have the power to do what was being asked... If Mike Pence had even one tiny photon of honor in him he’d testify. But he doesn’t. So he won’t."

But Americans want a hero and the media wants to give them one. Annie Karni and Maggie Haberman got right into the high drama this morning: "An angry mob with baseball bats and pepper spray chanting 'hang Mike Pence' came within 40 feet of the vice president. Pence’s Secret Service detail had to hustle him to safety and hold him for nearly five hours in the bowels of the Capitol. Trump called Pence a 'wimp' and worse in a coarse and abusive call that morning from the Oval Office, Trump’s daughter and former White House aides testified. And a confidential witness who traveled to Washington with the Proud Boys, the most prominent of the far-right groups that helped lead the assault on the Capitol, later told investigators the group would have killed Pence-- and Speaker Nancy Pelosi-- if they got the chance."


Early in the day-- after Trump called him a "pussy" and a "wimp" on the phone, Karni and Haberman, who weren't there but took a Pence staffer's word for it that Pence looked "steely," "determined" and "grim." Go ahead, bet in from of the mirror and make a steely, determined grim face. Feel heroic yet? Are closest cases ever heroic?



We all know Trump didn't call Pence during the riot. Did Pence try to call Trump? If not, why not? As I indicated earlier, Pete Aguilar is a wasted seat in Congress, let alone a wasted seat on the select committee. Pelosi gave him the plum gig because he's part of Team Hakeem's leadership team, not because he has any semblance of competence. Aguilar's speech writer had him read a passage praising Pence for protecting and defending the constitution. A sharper mind than Aguilar, former RNC spokesman Tim Miller noted that Pence "should definitely be awarded a very special cookie or be given a gold star for carrying out the bare minimum constitutional requirement of his office at a time when his boss and his supporters were pressuring him to shirk that responsibility." But Miller knows what is missing from this picture, even if the cloddish, clueless Aguilar doesn't:


Amidst all of this lavish praise of Pence, and the compelling, if fawning, testimony from his own counsel, Greg Jacob, the proceedings felt like they had a phantom limb.
Vice President Pence himself.
Why was it Jacob who was offering second-hand recitations of conversations had by his boss? Was he acting as a spokesperson for Pence or a witness?
Why were we seeing Pence’s chief of staff, Marc Short, tell us about private conversations the VP had via security cam testimony footage, rather than direct testimony from the principal?
Shouldn’t the man of the hour have been in the building? Why was he at a roundtable discussion in Ohio, rather than the rotunda where rioters once tried to hunt him down?
It was Mike Pence whose life was on the line that day, after-all.
It was Mike Pence who they had come to hang. It was Mike Pence who refused to commit a crime for his boss.
Shouldn’t he testify, under oath, about the events of January 6? Don’t we deserve to hear from Pence what his conversations with Trump were like in the lead-up to that day? Shouldn’t he tell us the ways in which the president abdicated his responsibility to help protect the Capitol and everyone within it as the mob descended? Shouldn’t he be asked whether the president was on the side of America and the Constitution or the insurrectionists who were trying to tear it down?
What reason is there for his absence-- besides rank politics?
...Pence has the opportunity to put a stake through the heart of the man who abused him and left him for dead. That chance is right now. Before this committee.
He could testify in front of the entire world and with the eyes of history upon him that Donald Trump was a traitor to America who spurred on a mob in an illegal attempt to stay in power. It would be a moment that would reverberate for ages.
Mike Pence may no longer be working under an oath that requires such testimony, but he nevertheless has a duty to his country to speak the whole truth and let the chips fall where they may.
I’m sure the D.C. smart set will declare that demanding Pence testify against Trump is foolish, because of what it might do to his career prospects. But it’s not entirely clear what those prospects are anyway.


And I’m sure the people in Pence’s orbit would say that the current strategy of plotting a sometimes-Trump primary campaign against his resurrected former boss is a more fruitful political path than career-defining testimony that buries Trump for good as a viable electoral force. Maybe that’s right? But I guess I would just counter... Are you sure?
Hasn’t the Republican political class’s conventional wisdom about how to treat Trump been wrong time after time after time? Might not Pence be better off capturing his moment now?
If the former vice president actually believes the words that he has said about the gravity of January 6, then this is not a moment for three-steps down the board political strategery. It’s a time for clarity and radical candor.
To live up to the praise being bestowed upon him, Mike Pence must testify next week in prime time and finish the job.


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