At an RNC meeting with top Republican donors last night in New Orleans, Mike Pence-- like every Trump pick, another one who Trump now claims was a disaster-- said "There is no room in this party for apologists for Putin; there is only room for champions of freedom." No one had any doubt who that carefully scripted remark-- released a day in advance-- was aimed at... although it goes beyond Trump and hits Trump allies like Mike Pompeo and, especially, Fox News hosts Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham. To Republicans who agreed with Trump and Putin that NATO's day had passed, Pence, who never uttered a word about it while he was vice president, asked, "Where would Russian tanks be today if NATO had not expanded the borders of freedom?"
The Associated Press reported that "Pence also continued to push back on Trump’s lies about the 2020 election as he lays the groundwork for a possible 2024 presidential run. Trump, who has been teasing his own comeback bid that could potentially put the two in direct competition, has continued to falsely insist that Pence had the power to overturn the 2020 election, which he did not. 'Elections are about the future,' Pence said. 'My fellow Republicans, we can only win if we are united around an optimistic vision for the future based on our highest values. We cannot win by fighting yesterday’s battles, or by relitigating the past.' Pence has been increasingly willing to challenge Trump-- a dramatic departure from his deferential posture as vice president."
Pence has said the two men will likely never see “eye to eye” on the Capitol insurrection of Jan. 6, 2021, when Trump supporters stormed the building in an effort to stop certification of Joe Biden’s election victory. Last month, he directly rebutted Trump’s false claims that he, as vice president, could have overturned the results, telling a gathering of lawyers in Florida that Trump was “wrong.”
...While Pence allies believe that he can forge a coalition that brings together movement conservatives, white Evangelical Christians and more establishment-minded Republicans, Trump’s attacks on Pence have made him deeply unpopular with large swaths of Trump’s loyal base, potentially complicating his bid for the Republican presidential nomination.
Pence's career had faltered and he was sinking when Trump brought him aboard in 2016, primarily to help him capture Pence's strongest base-- dumber-than-shit white evangelicals. The problem is that that demographic has entirely abandoned Pence for Trump and that evangelicals are the most pro-Putin/anti-American demographic in the country. Despite all his anti-Choice, anti-LGBTQ palaver, Pence is no longer their hero; Trump and Putin are because-- at their core-- evangelicals worship authoritarianism and would prefer being told what to do by a "higher authority" than trying to use the critical thinking that they don't possess (Buy Bull schools) to make decisions on their own. Extreme religionists in general-- not just evangelicals-- fit this pathetic mold.
Yesterday Trump National Security Advisor, who Trump now hates, told the Washington Post that Trump would have granted Putin's #1 top priority had he been reelected: pulling the plug on NATO. Bolton said in an interview with Michael Duffy that he had persuaded Trump not to quit NATO in 2018 during a NATO summit. "Bolton’s remarks Friday offer new insights into Trump’s views on NATO. During his presidency, Trump frequently sought to undermine the alliance, accusing its members of being “delinquents” and repeatedly telling aides he wanted to leave it. According to the New York Times, Trump told his top national security officials that he did not understand why the military alliance existed, and often described it as a drain on the U.S. Retired Marine Gen. John F. Kelly, one of Trump’s former chiefs of staff, has also been described as saying that 'one of the most difficult tasks he faced with Trump was trying to stop him from pulling out of NATO.'"
Bolton, who has become a vocal critic of his former boss, recently drew Trump’s ire after telling conservative network Newsmax that the former president “barely knew where Ukraine was.” Bolton, in that interview, also denied that Trump was tough on Russia, and claimed that the former president complained about any sanctions on Russian oligarchs in the United States. Bolton has also said Trump “did not” do a better job with Russia than President Biden has.
In a rebuke to the suddenly and very rapidly dwindling number of Republicans in Congress who are blindly following the pro-Trump/pro-Putin, anti-NATO line, Pence said to the GOP fat cats, "To those who argue that NATO expansion is somehow responsible for the Russian invasion of Ukraine: Ask yourself, where would our friends in Eastern Europe be today if they were not in NATO?"
In his column yesterday, Greg Sargent noted that "Tucker Carlson and J.D. Vance are both highly successful demagogues operating in the 'conservative populist nationalist' space, so watching them grapple with the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the determined international response to it, has been illuminating indeed. At first, both adopted simple-minded nationalist tropes about the gathering threat. The Fox News host blithely suggested those sounding the alarm were warmongering globalists manipulating the masses into hating Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Hillbilly Elegy author smarmily told us to care more about our own border than that of Ukraine. But on Thursday night, Carlson and Vance addressed the ongoing horrors of the invasion with a bit less of their usual glibness. They seemed uncertain how to proceed, and the resulting spectacle exposed the vacuity of their ideological double act in all its performative chintz."
"Ultimately," Sargent concluded, "what’s being exposed is the hollowness of Carlson-Vance populist play-acting. 'For right-wing nationalists, America’s weakness under a Democratic president, and the worthlessness of international coalitions, are core to their worldview,' Nicholas Grossman, a professor of international relations at the University of Illinois, told me. 'Russia’s invasion and the strong, unified Western reaction to it have upended that view,' Grossman continued. He noted that the usual demagoguery is faltering in the face of world-historical events: 'Some things are too big to lie about, even for professional liars.' Look, we all have tremendous introspection to do about our various worldviews right now. But the cheap demagogic hustle we’re seeing from Carlson and Vance isn’t genuine introspection. It’s rank evasion."