Mike Pence Is Useless

by Cinzia Croce

I was never a fan of Vice President Mike Pence. I thought his addition to the presidential ticket brought nothing to the table, and I and feared that his hardcore social conservatism would derail the Trump campaign. Thankfully, my fears never materialized. Social issues remained marginalized, and for most of the campaign Pence was invisible. The one time the he was under the spotlight — the vice-presidential debate — Pence passed his test with flying colors. I was so impressed with his performance that I offered a mea culpa and declared that I was thrilled to have been wrong. Looking back, it wasn’t so much that Pence shined but more that Tim Kaine dimmed in his lousy attempt to play the attack dog. Nevertheless, now that I have had six months to evaluate Pence’s contributions to the Trump administration, I can confidently say that my initial assessment of him was right on target: he is a dead weight.

Mike Pence

The Pence pick was hailed by conservatives primarily for two reasons: first, he would appease the GOP establishment and help unify the party behind Trump; second, as a former member of the GOP congressional leadership, he would be able help Trump get his agenda through Congress. He has spectacularly failed on both counts. The GOP establishment has never united behind Trump. During the campaign, they made repeated attempts to push him out of the race — most notably, by overreacting to the Billy Bush tape — and, since the inauguration, have tried to damage the president politically by aggressively pursuing the Russia-collusion investigation and vehemently defending special counsel Robert Mueller. As far as helping the president get his agenda through Congress, the administration has not been able to score one major legislative victory in six months. Pence has made several trips to the Hill and has nothing to show for it. His latest humiliation was his unsuccessful last-ditch effort to convince John McCain to support the so-called Obamacare “skinny repeal”. Only legislation in which there is clear common ground between Trump and the GOP establishment — e.g. reducing regulation, judicial appointments and improving healthcare delivery to veterans — is getting through Congress. Funding the president’s signature issue, the wall, has been postponed until the fall, and Republican senators are already making noise that they may never support building it. Continue reading


The Perks of Being a Carnival Barker

by Cinzia Croce

There was only one time I seriously considered dropping my support for Donald Trump: when he selected Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his running mate. My reaction was very visceral, and was mostly due to Pence’s reputation as a hardcore social conservative. Trump had managed to marginalize social issues during the Republican primary –- something that I thought I would never live to see. For the first time in a long time, the GOP primary debates were not dominated by questions about the age of the earth, the definition of marriage, or abortion. I was on cloud nine, and Pence threatened to bring me back to earth. As soon as Trump confirmed him as his vice presidential pick, I could see the Democrats salivating at a fresh opportunity to revive the War on Women, raise the prospect of the LGBT community being stripped of their newly acquired civil rights, and distract from Trump’s powerful economic message. My heart sank. I was also not impressed with Pence’s performance during the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act controversy, where he somehow managed to anger all sides of the debate, and often came across as unsure, looking like a deer in the headlights as he dealt with a hostile press. I feared that Trump had made a fatal mistake on the scale of John McCain’s mistake in choosing Sarah Palin as his vice president — I even went as far as labeling Pence as the male Sarah Palin.


I am thrilled to have been proven wrong. As I predicted, the Democrats did try to turn Pence into politically radioactive material. Within a day of Trump’s announcement, the Democrat-designated mudslingers and their media helpmates began their familiar attacks, which were very effective in the past. But this time they gained no traction. Unlike in the case of John McCain, who threw Palin to the wolves and stepped away, Trump helped to blunt the attacks against Pence by drawing attention to himself, allowing his running mate to fly under the radar. After the GOP convention, Pence barely received any coverage, and was free to focus on his key task of bringing home recalcitrant Republicans. Whether inviting Russia to produce Hillary’s infamous emails or getting into an extended spat with Khizr Khan, Trump never ran out of new shiny objects to keep all eyes on him, leaving the Democrats talking to themselves about Pence. Continue reading

Donald and the Dead Weight

by Cinzia Croce

Donald Trump owes Jeb Bush an apology. After mocking him for his “low energy” at a time when the country needs spirit, Trump has selected a veritable cadaver to be his vice president — and just like that, the Trump Train has been derailed. It is still possible to put it  back on track, but it is severely damaged. Instead of barreling to the finish lines, Trump and his dead weight — sorry, running mate — may straggle across it.


A few hours after Trump confirmed his selection via Twitter, Mike Pence made his first media appearance, on Fox’s Sean Hannity Show. He delivered a respectful, albeit extremely laid back, performance — laid back to the point that I frequently wondered if he had pulse. Pence was a little shaky addressing Trump’s controversies, such as the temporary ban on Muslim migration, which he had previously denounced as “offensive and unconstitutional.” The next day, both Trump and Pence appeared together for the formal introduction of the ticket. It was a no-frills event — one that did not even include any signage featuring both candidates’ last names. Pence delivered the standard conservative stump speech with the requisite homages to Ronald Reagan and nods to fiscal discipline, strong defense and traditional values. He showed some signs of energy — but one can imagine fast-paced, mile-a-minute New Yorker Trump pushing Pence to pick up his pace a little.

But the real problem was written all over Trump’s face. He came across like a trapped man, and for the first time since the night he lost the Iowa Caucuses, he looked unhappy. The only time he seemed to enjoy himself was while dancing on the grave of the failed #NeverTrump effort, which failed to force a floor vote to plunge the convention into chaos. This, combined with Trump’s admission that he chose Pence to unify the party, lends credence to the speculation that the ticket was a backroom deal. The GOP establishment would deliver a drama-free convention, a united party, and donors with open checkbooks — and in return, they’d get their man on the ticket. But Trump has never struck me as the type of personality that is willing to accept a situation not to his liking for very long. He is an intelligent man, and must know that the GOP establishment is not interested in helping him get elected. All they care about is maintaining their majorities in Congress. Their hope is that once Trump is gone, they put the populist wave that swept through the primaries behind them — and go back to their old, comfortable ways. I would not be surprised at all if Trump is already plotting ways to dump Pence after Cleveland.

“The Male Sarah Palin”: A Roundtable Discussion on Pence

by Cinzia Croce and Alex Knepper

Donald Trump’s announcement of Indiana Gov. and former Congressman Mike Pence — a Tea Partier before there was a Tea Party — as his running-mate has left us a little stunned. We’ve decided to try out a ’roundtable discussion’ format to hash out this topic:

Cinzia Croce (CC): I was really hoping until the bitter end that the news reports were wrong.

Alex Knepper (AK): I am confused. Some reports are claiming Ivanka probably vetoed a Christie selection owing to his prosecution of her father-in-law, but if not him — why Pence, of all people? Did he really have so few options? The Pence selection goes against everything we know about Trump: the premium he places on loyalty, his penchant for boldness and theatricality, his aversion toward attaching himself to religious-right concerns, etc. Pence endorsed Ted Cruz just two months ago — when it counted, right before the Indiana primary. Trump barely even knows Pence and is already dominating among every demographic group Pence helps shore up. I don’t get it.

CC: I am devastated. For the third time in a row, the GOP veers right for its VP pick. McCain did it with Palin, Romney did it with Ryan, and now Trump has done the same with Pence. Just like Palin undermined McCain’s strongest argument against Obama, which was his lack of experience, Pence undercuts Trump’s appeal — which was to marginalize social issues like abortion and homosexuality in order to propose new policy positions on trade and immigration. Pence is also not very articulate or quick on his feet. He will be the male version of Palin. Trump needs to improve his margins with women and moderates. Pence doesn’t help and he may actually harm Trump with said voting blocs. Maybe Indiana is in play? But if that’s the case, then the election is already over. Hillary will be the next POTUS.

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