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The Washington Post would like to dispel a few "myths" about Vice President Mike Pence, who may have played a far-right Christianist bigot on TV and in Congress and as governor of Indiana and as Donald Trump's third or fourth favorite piece of furniture, but he's actually a lot more complex than that. Or so says an op-ed by Tom LoBianco, author of the recently published Pence bio, Piety & Power: Mike Pence and the Taking of the White House. But don't worry, Mr. LoBianco's piece debunking these five "myths" doesn't really debunk much of anything, and it certainly doesn't paint Mike Pence in an especially flattering light, either. All in all, it's just kind of a silly frame on which to hang a book promotion. But maybe someone will buy a copy of the bio in the deal?


LoBianco says there's a lot more to Mike Pence than a lot of simplistic stereotypes, which might be a surprise if LoBianco were writing about anyone but an actual cartoon character. But sure, we'll play along with LoBianco's premise that Pence is a "master at stealth campaigning," when as far as we can tell, Pence has always been pretty transparent in his aim of advancing the interests of Mike Pence.

The first strawman of a myth LoBianco tackles is that Pence is a "theocratic ideologue." Sure, Pence likes to say he's a "Christian, a conservative and a Republican — in that order," but that's not altogether true, LoBianco explains, because Pence's true lord and savior isn't Jesus of Nazareth, but Niccolò Machiavelli. While serving in Congress, it was useful to be a hard-right culture warrior, but when he ran for governor of Indiana in 2011, it was a lot more useful to frame himself as a conservative technocrat so he could follow outgoing Gov. Mitch Daniels.

And when it came to the state's law allowing businesses to discriminate against gays, as long as they did so for Jesus, Pence was equally flexible in his commitment to bedrock principles: He signed on to a compromise that defanged the bill, rather than risk the support of a big donor who supported gay rights. We're not sure "he's a hypocritical squish" is quite the reversal of a "myth" Pence would like, but sure, that's persuasive enough. We're entirely willing to believe that instead of being an ideologue, Pence has no ethical compass at all.

The whole piece runs along in that vein. We learn that (Myth 2) Mike Pence is neither Trump's puppetmaster nor a do-nothing "coat rack," because Trump is too fucking unhinged to be anyone's pawn, certainly not Pence's. We aren't exactly sure LoBianco really dispels the notion that Pence is merely a passive bystander in the administration with this anecdote, though:

In one attempt to change Trump's mind without angering him, Pence invited former senators Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) and Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) to his office to discuss nuclear disarmament before Trump's 2018 trip to negotiate with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un in Singapore, Lugar told me.

See, Pence tried to do a thing! Oh, but then there's this, in parentheses: "Trump listened for 20 minutes but didn't appear to pay much attention, Lugar said."

Myth 3 is a real nothingburger. Is Pence "ready to push Trump off a cliff"? Nahh, prolly not, since Pence didn't try to take over the top of the ticket when the Access Hollywood video came out, says LoBianco. Again, we don't need to be convinced that Pence is smart enough to recognize his own future hopes for being president rely on keeping at least some support from the Trumpian base. Myth 4 similarly feels like filler, because a listicle has to have five items. Supposedly, we need to understand that a favorite Bible verse doesn't mean Mike Pence sees himself as foreordained by God to be president. Fine, if you say so.

LoBianco has a far bigger hurdle in trying to overturn his last "myth" -- to dispute the idea that Pence "hates gay people," LoBianco deploys the timeworn trope that Pence is, far from seething with hatred, actually capable of being quite nice to sodomites when he has to. Oh, sure, he "may may indeed overlook the way his policies affect gay people." Or maybe he just hates gay people and wants to harm them, like for instance when he allied himself with a viciously hateful group that believes "homosexuality is harmful to all," or wanted to divert funding from AIDS treatment into "pray away the gay" programs, to name just two examples.

But look at the civility that negates all that politically expedient gay-bashing that he probably didn't even theocratic-ideologue-ically care about!

But does all that mean he is personally anti-gay? His friends and advisers say no. To prove the point, the U.S. ambassador to Germany, Ric Grenell, a gay conservative Republican, said he and his partner have been warmly accepted by the Pences in person: "Mike and Karen are great people, they're godly people, they're followers of Christ. They don't have hate in their heart for anyone. They know my partner. They have accepted us." A White House spokesman argued that Pence was not "anti-gay" because of a cordial meeting he had with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar and his gay partner last month.

Honestly, considering that LoBianco quite consciously relies on the opinion of Pence allies here, we can't tell whether he's taking the piss here, damning Pence with faint praise, or just completing a writing assignment he kind of hates having to do, to have it done with. Again, we're willing to believe Pence doesn't personally hate gays, and just finds it politically convenient. What a swell guy.

At least LoBianco didn't introduce us to Mike Pence's one black friend.

What what? OPEN THREAD.

[WaPo]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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