Sunday, September 09, 2018

Fulfilling God's Will

In a profile early this year in The Atlantic, McKay Coppins laid out a description of Mike Pence that reinforces the article's title, "God's Plan for Mike Pence." Coppins notes that in 1992 Pence began in Indiana a talk show in which he :liked to describe himself as “a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order,” and he was careful to show respect for opposing viewpoints."

Pence had lost two previous races for the US House of Representatives but

By the time a congressional seat opened up ahead of the 2000 election, Pence was a minor Indiana celebrity and state Republicans were urging him to run. In the summer of 1999, as he was mulling the decision, he took his family on a trip to Colorado. One day while horseback riding in the mountains, he and Karen looked heavenward and saw two red-tailed hawks soaring over them. They took it as a sign, Karen recalled years later: Pence would run again, but this time there would be “no flapping.” He would glide to victory.

And so he did, following which

to his colleagues on Capitol Hill—an overwhelmingly secular place where even many Republicans privately sneer at people of faith—everything about the Indiana congressman screamed “Bible thumper.” He was known to pray with his staffers, and often cited scripture to explain his votes. In a 2002 interview with Congressional Quarterly, for example, he explained, “My support for Israel stems largely from my personal faith. In the Bible, God promises Abraham, ‘Those who bless you I will bless, and those who curse you I will curse.’ ” He became a champion of the fight to restrict abortion and defund Planned Parenthood.

Pence later was elected governor but eventually became very unpopular, and sensed a grand opportunity to get the heck out of Dodge, or at least Indiana. Maneuvering for a place on the national ticket, during Independence Day weekend in 2016

True to form, Pence spent much of their time on the course kissing Trump’s ring. You’re going to be the next president of the United States, he said. It would be the honor of a lifetime to serve you. Afterward, he made a point of gushing to the press about Trump’s golf game. “He beat me like a drum,” Pence confessed, to Trump’s delight.

Having found a second god, one bearing little resemblance to the one of the New, or even the Old, Testament, Pence waxed enthusiastically about his leader:

On the stump and in interviews, Pence spoke of Trump in a tone that bordered on worshipful. One of his rhetorical tics was to praise the breadth of his running mate’s shoulders. Trump was, Pence proclaimed, a “broad-shouldered leader,” in possession of “broad shoulders and a big heart,” who had “the kind of broad shoulders” that enabled him to endure criticism while he worked to return “broad-shouldered American strength to the world stage.”

Also true to form, as vice-president the former talk show host, congressman, and governor has been- at least publicly- one of the President's most loyal sycophants. On Sunday he tweeted

Treating Trump in almost God-like fashion is a continuation of the pattern Coppins recognized when he pointed out that the President

does not always reciprocate this respect. Around the White House, he has been known to make fun of Pence for his religiosity. As Mayer reported in The New Yorker, he has greeted guests who recently met with Pence by asking, “Did Mike make you pray?” During a conversation with a legal scholar about gay rights, Trump gestured toward his vice president and joked, “Don’t ask that guy—he wants to hang them all!”

But taking abuse is a small price to pay. Coppins writes of one of Pence's fraternity brothers at Indiana's Hanover College:

Decades later, when (Dan) Murphy read about Pence vying for a spot on the presidential ticket with Donald Trump, he recognized a familiar quality in his old friend. “Somewhere in the midst of all that genuine humility and good feeling, this is a guy who’s got that ambition,” Murphy told me. And he wondered, “Is Mike’s religiosity a way of justifying that ambition to himself?”

While Pence's religiosity is probably much more than that, its public display serves as a rationalization of his ambition, which is boundless. Within hours of publication of the Access Hollywood tape in October, 2016

Pence made it clear to the Republican National Committee that he was ready to take Trump’s place as the party’s nominee. Such a move just four weeks before Election Day would have been unprecedented—but the situation seemed dire enough to call for radical action.

It's extremely unlikely that Vice President Pence wrote last week's anonymous op-ed in The New York Times, and somewhat unlikely that it was done on his behalf (although David Corn seems to disagree).

Still, when a guy who can convince himself that he is foremost a Christian and goes on to be obeisant to the most immoral and unethical politician of our era, he can turn on a dime and claim he is doing it with God's blessing. The most subservient servant sometimes turns out to be the handiest with a shiv, and if the opportunity presents itself, Mike Pence will make sure no amount of prayer or piety gets in his way.

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