Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Incomplete Portrayal

It's never too early to warn viewers and voters of the danger of Mike Pence, who may very well become President of the United States sometime in the next 32 months. .Sunday night on "Last Week Tonight," John Oliver did so for nearly fourteen-and-a-half- minutes of his nearly twenty-and-a-half minute commentary.   And at the end, he promoted his new book, "A Day in the Life of (rabbit) Marlon Bundo," which instantly rose to #1 on Amazon, and all of whose proceeds will be donated to the Trevor Project and AIDS United.

Oliver is disappointed that Pence's rabbit Marlon Bundo is likeable and "an objectively good name for a bunny."  Melissa Locker of Time summarized

Marlon Bundo has been at official press conferences, has an Instagram account documenting his life with the vice president, and now stars in a new children’s book written by the Pence family — and one by Oliver. “In a complete coincidence, we have also published a book about Mike Pence’s rabbit,” announced Oliver.

There are a few differences between the books, though. In Oliver’s version, from illustrator EG Keller and Last Week Tonight staffer Jill Twiss, Marlon Bundo wears a bow tie, is gay and wants to get married to another boy rabbit...

Oliver had earlier pointed out Pence's "impecable credentials as a social conservative" who holds "extreme positions- like opposition to abortion and gay rights" and is "exceptionally good at dodging questions," noted Oliver. He showed a clip of Pence (and Trump) critic Omarosa Manigault stating "Jesus didn't say that," which should be a warning to Christian conservatives, but isn't and won't be.

As he himself would agree, Pence should be assessed (in part) by his belief that religious faith informs his personal and professional life. Nonetheless, his word cannot be trusted. Admittedly, the returns aren't in yet as to whether he was telling the truth when he claimed that, apart from a whole lot of people around him, he wasn't aware that National Security advisor-designee Mike Flynn had talked to Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak in December about U.S. sanctions on Russia.

Not so, though, was the Vice-President's remark in February "Irrespective of efforts that were made in 2016 by foreign powers, it is the universal conclusion of our intelligence communities that none of those efforts had any impact on the outcome of the 2016 election."  Chris Hayes commented "This is simply untrue. It's not a determination anyone in the IC has made." Pence's statement was a lie worthy of Donald Trump.

That is no small thing. Still, it pales in comparison to the primary threat to the American republic posed by the Vice-President, which was ignored also by Oliver.  In "The Danger of President Pence," Jane Mayer lays out a damning case against the Indianan, in which she ignores neither his cultural,  nor economic, conservatism. She explains

Pence’s close relationship with dozens of conservative groups, including Americans for Prosperity, the Kochs’ top political organization, was crucial to his rise....

In June, 2009, (Trump White House legislative affairs director Marc) Short brokered Pence’s first invitation to address a Koch “seminar,” as the brothers call their secretive semi-annual fund-raising sessions for top conservative donors. The theme of the gathering, in Aspen, Colorado, was “Understanding and Addressing Threats to American Free Enterprise and Prosperity.” Pence’s speech was a hit. ...

The Kochs, who are not religious, may have been focussed more on pocketbook issues than on Pence’s faith. According to Scott Peterson, the executive director of the Checks & Balances Project, a watchdog group that monitors attempts to influence environmental policy, Pence was invited to the Koch seminar only after he did the brothers a major political favor. By the spring of 2009, Koch Industries, like other fossil-fuel companies, felt threatened by growing support in Congress for curbing carbon emissions, the primary cause of climate change. Americans for Prosperity devised a “No Climate Tax” pledge for candidates to sign, promising not to spend any government funds on limiting carbon pollution. At first, the campaign languished, attracting only fourteen signatures. The House, meanwhile, was moving toward passage of a “cap and trade” bill, which would charge companies for carbon pollution. If the bill were enacted, the costs could be catastrophic to Koch Industries, which releases some twenty-four million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere a year, and owns millions of acres of untapped oil reserves in Canada, plus coal-fired power plants and oil refineries.

Pence, who had called global warming “a myth” created by environmentalists in their “latest Chicken Little attempt to raise taxes,” took up the Kochs’ cause. He not only signed their pledge but urged others to do so as well. He gave speeches denouncing the cap-and-trade bill—which passed the House but got held up in the Senate—as a “declaration of war on the Midwest.” His language echoed that of the Koch groups. Americans for Prosperity called the bill “the largest excise tax in history,” and Pence called it “the largest tax increase in American history.” (Neither statement was true.) He used a map created by the Heritage Foundation, which the Kochs supported, to make his case, and he urged House Republicans to hold “energy summits” opposing the legislation in their districts, sending them home over the summer recess with kits to bolster their presentations.

According to the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University, after Pence began promoting the Kochs’ pledge the number of signatories in the House soared, reaching a hundred and fifty-six. James Valvo, the policy director for Americans for Prosperity, who spearheaded the pledge, told the Reporting Workshop that support from Pence and other Republicans helped “a scrappy outlier” become “the established position.” The cap-and-trade bill died in the Senate.

Short said that he “didn’t recall the Kochs ever asking for help on the issue,” adding, “The Republican Conference believed it was a winning issue because of the impact that the bill would have had on jobs.” In any event, the pledge marked a pivotal turn in the climate-change debate, cementing Republican opposition to addressing the environmental crisis.

Peterson said that the Checks & Balances Project hadn’t detected “much money going from the Kochs to Pence before he promoted the ‘No Climate Tax’ pledge.” Afterward, “he was the Kochs’ guy, and they’ve been showering him with money ever since.” Peterson went on, “He could see a pathway to the Presidency with them behind him.”

Indeed, by 2011 Pence had reportedly become Charles Koch’s favorite potential candidate for President in 2012. 

Yet, no one gets to be a Koch favorite only by denying, the delicious phrase of the late novelist Albert Camus, "the wholly human origin of all that is human." There are lots of Republicans who have done that. In 2014 Democratic Party official and activist Brad Woodhouse wrote

AFP has repeatedly championed tax breaks for big oil companies, such as the Koch brothers' piggy bank -- Koch Industries -- and railed against standards to keep our air safe to breathe and our water safe to drink.

They've played cheerleader for Rep. Paul Ryan's extreme budget plans that would turn Medicare into a voucher program and cut taxes for the wealthy at the expense of the middle class.

They've poured money into statewide elections in Wisconsin and North Carolina to remake the statehouses in their mold -- then lauded their politicians as they gutted education and attacked women's rights.

They worked to end a celebrated school integration program in Wake County, North Carolina, and fought to stop a fix aimed at helping Louisiana homeowners in high-risk flood zones avoid paying more for flood insurance.

John Oliver spent over 20 minutes alerting people to Mike Pence, raised lots of money for gay-oriented charities, and raised his own profile. That is a good thing.

At the same time, Oliver spent over 20 minutes and failed to utter the word Koch.  Those are twenty minutes failing to notice that Rhode Island senator Sheldon Whitehouse observed “If Pence were to become President for any reason, the government would be run by the Koch brothers—period. He’s been their tool for years.”   And if was 20 minutes neglecting to mention that Seve Bannon understands “I’m concerned he’d be a President that the Kochs would own.”

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