Is VP Mike Pence The White House Walking Dead?
The man who would be president, Mike Pence, might not even be vice president after 2020. (We mean BESIDES how they're gonna get their asses kicked. BESIDES THAT.) Those are the rumors circulating lately. Pence is much creepier than Donald Trump, who for all his faults doesn't call his wife "Mother." Sure, Trump sometimes calls the first runner-up lady "Melanie," but that's far less Norman Bates.
Gabriel Sherman in the latest Vanity Fair describes a strategy meeting for Trump's 2020 reelection where the topic was floated of dumping Pence in the nearest body of water like his ancestors used to do to suspected witches. Right off the bat you know Pence's standing is shaky when he's not present for a meeting related to the 2020 presidential campaign. Unless they're planning your surprise party, not getting invited to important meetings is a bad sign.
Maybe Pence was just busy casting tie-breaking votes in the Senate to confirm right-wing judges and incompetent education secretaries. However, Trump's advisers seemed prepared for Pence's absence. They reportedly presented Trump with polling that revealed Pence is a weirdo who no one actually likes. OK, that's a little unfair. We don't have access to the internal polls Trump saw, but a recent one from Gallup showed voters are divided on Pence: 43 percent view him favorably with 42 percent viewing him unfavorably. That's plus 1, baby! Sixteen percent have no idea who he is. Trump's favorability is about the same but he's out there picking fights with NFL players and the retired admiral who took out Osama bin Laden. He practically begs voters to hate him. Pence can't break 50 percent and he's offering us a Space Force.
White House chief of staff John Kelly, according to gabby sources, is annoyed that Pence's own chief of staff, Nick Ayers, is campaigning for his job. So he's started whispering or rather shouting manly-like into Trump's ear that Pence is a political drag. The thinking is that Pence doesn't help expand Trump's existing coalition of drooling bigots and enabling sell-outs. According to a source briefed on the strategy session, "[Pence]" doesn't detract from [the ticket], but he doesn't add anything either." I imagine Karen Pence has expressed similar sentiments about their sleeping quarters. Pence was fine when it was uncertain whether religious conservatives would overlook that Trump is literally the devil. But it's obvious now that they're all flaming hypocrites. Trump is also obsessed with appearances. Pence is dull and about as telegenic as a test pattern. This wasn't as much of a problem in 2016 when Hillary Clinton, for what I'm sure were solid reasons, chose as her running mate Virginia Senator Tim Kaine. Pence and Kaine were such weapons of mass dullness I'm surprised George W. Bush didn't mistakenly invade their only vice presidential debate. But what if the Democrats' 2020 nominee is someone with a pulse, like Beto O'Rourke? No, Trump definitely needs to recast.
A more CW-friendly option is Nikki Haley, the former governor of South Carolina, former UN ambassador, and former possessor of dignity. When she left the White House in October, Haley sat for a presser where she spun so many fairy tales they should've invited children to listen. She claimed with a straight face that the US is "more respected" after two years of Trump eliciting death stares and outright rebuke from world leaders. She followed that up with the absurd suggestion that Jared Kushner, who couldn't find his couch in his living room, is a "hidden genius no one understands." Maybe she'd just had an emergency root canal and was still high on nitrous oxide but it felt like she was auditioning for a better role.
Loyalty is also important to a president who has reason to feel the "walls closing in on him." Ivanka or someone close to the president has probably read the 25th Amendment to him ... twice, and then given up and drawn a rough sketch detailing how Pence benefits if Trump is impeached and removed from office. The latter is a total fantasy because you'd have to be pretty far boofed to think Mitch McConnell and his fellow goons would ever vote against Trump. True, Pence is notoriously sycophantic, but maybe that's all for show to keep on Trump's good side. Trump might feel like Pence is just banging it out for the cheap seats.
Many Democrats feel like they at least know how to deal with a possible President Pence. Chuck Schumer would be first in line to give him a piggyback ride around the Oval Office. If Trump is truly worried about Mueller and the possibility of impeachment, he might think his best bet is to replace Pence with someone who simultaneously motivates his base for 2020 but also terrifies his political opponents so much they just shrug and let Trump stay put for a while. Maybe a Donald/Ivanka Trump ticket? Back-to-back Trump should frighten us all.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He recently fled Seattle, where he did theatre work for Book-It Rep and Cafe Nordo.