Mike Pence Is Spineless

There is one thing about Mike Pence: He shows himself to be a spineless weasel every chance he gets.

Just last Wednesday, Pence said in a speech that he would “consider” testifying before the Jan. 6 committee if summoned. What does that mean? They want to talk to him, and he knows it.

We’ve known for weeks that Pence’s lawyer and the panel have been talking informally about having him speak to investigators.

Is he fishing for a subpoena so it would look as if he had been compelled? Is he simply muddying the waters? It’s always hard to tell with Pence. People with unclear convictions are doomed to communicate unclearly.

Last January, a mob went to the Capitol and threatened the life of Pence. Rioters yelled, “Hang Mike Pence!” A gallows was erected. He barely escaped the rioters.

And yet this man is still so caught up in the politics of not wanting to run afoul of Donald Trump’s cult that he treads lightly in many of his comments about the former president and that horrible day.

The public is left to parse oblique phrases as Pence attempts to put a little distance between himself and Trump without truly turning on him.

Pence seems to be under some delusion that he has a chance at being elected president. In what world? Trump’s cult still hates him, and no Democrats worth their salt would cross over to vote for him.

Maybe he is holding out hope that one of Trump’s many scandals will do in the former president. But even in that case, Trump 2.0, Ron DeSantis, will be there to take up the mantle.

Maybe Pence believes that there are enough old-school, mainline Republicans silently sulking in the wings, waiting for a more traditional Republican like him to step in, someone who has touched the hem of the garment but has not put on the straitjacket, someone who is not Trump but was Trump adjacent.

This is, of course, a fantasy inflated by blind ambition.

Almost no one wants a President Pence. He doesn’t have a lane or much of a chance. He’s a horrible politician. Even Republicans in Indiana, where he was governor, were happy that Trump picked him to run for vice president and took him out of the state, because Pence’s term had been so strained.

While Trump was considering Pence for the vice-presidential slot in 2016, CNN reported, “Removing Pence from the governor’s race, several senior Indiana Republican officials, aides and operatives said, would allow the state G.O.P. to escape from the turmoil of years of social battles over same-sex marriage and religious freedom.”

Trump, a thrice-married show-off with no real religious identity, needed Pence in 2016 to help reassure Republicans. Trump was, after all, the guy who said the Bible was his favorite book but struggled to name a favorite verse. When asked to do so in 2015, he dodged with this unbelievable answer: “When I talk about the Bible, it’s very personal, so I don’t want to get into it,” he said. “The Bible means a lot to me, but I don’t want to get into specifics.”

That’s ridiculous. Personal? Sharing your favorite Bible verse isn’t like sharing your medical history. The Bible repeatedly exhorts Christians to share the Gospel, not to keep it guarded like your hand in a card game.

It says in 2 Timothy 4:2, “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.”

When Trump chose Pence as his running mate, he was giving him a role he could handle. Pence would be Trump’s religious shield: upright, simple and obsequious. Pence needed only to gush at Trump in public like a teenager in love. Job done.

For four years, Pence would laud and applaud the boss, loyal as a lap dog.

Then Pence realized what others already knew: With Trump, all relationships are transactional, and loyalty isn’t reciprocal.

Pence, the supposed religious man, had shielded and excused all manner of dishonest and immoral behavior by Trump, only to be on the receiving end of Trump’s ire. But still, Pence can’t fully confess to the wrong that he himself wrought.

During the Trump years, Pence was an enabler and an accomplice. He shared in the cruelty of it all, the crime of it all, the corruption of it all. This is not to say that he was always an active participant, but he helped to sell Trump and consistently defended him.

Yes, Pence did the right thing on Jan. 6, but that doesn’t change the fact that up until then, he carried himself like a coward. When he gave his Wednesday speech, he even gave a wishy-washy answer to a question about the F.B.I. search of Mar-a-Lago. He defended the F.B.I. rank and file, but said we can still hold the attorney general “accountable.” Hold him accountable for what?

This was just more Pence doublespeak, always wanting to have it both ways.

If I had ever held Pence in high regard, I would say that I was disappointed in him. But I never did.

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