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 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.

Continue reading

Why Clinton Will Tap Kaine for VP

by Alex Knepper

Hillary Clinton is running as the responsible candidate — the one you can trust, at the very least, not to blow up the world. Therefore, she will pick Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, the ultimate do-no-harm pick, for the vice-presidency.

Kaine’s resume is nearly as impressive as Clinton’s: as a popular governor and senator of the major swing state of Virginia, former DNC head, fluent Spanish speaker, and apparently ethically-spotless family man, Kaine checks off all the essential boxes. There is no doubt whatsoever that he could step in as president on Day One, if required. In a testament to his raw political talent, he was even a finalist to serve as Obama’s vice-president eight years ago — before he even finished serving a single term as governor. He is, in a word, an articulate, center-left party man — and one who is loyal to Hillary Clinton. Combined, the Clinton-Kaine ticket would have a total of two decades in major executive and legislative roles — and would have the strongest formal credentials of any ticket in the modern era.

Continue reading

Why Trump Will Tap Christie for VP

by Alex Knepper

Pundits sometimes accuse Donald Trump of having no guiding principles. Of course he does: Ted Cruz got it right months ago when he said that “everything in Donald’s world revolves around Donald.” That’s why he’s going to pick Chris Christie as his VP.

Christie put his reputation on the line for Trump earlier than anyone else of his stature — and endured an avalanche of ridicule and humiliation for it, without blinking. It took him only two weeks after the end of his campaign in New Hampshire to provide a full-throated endorsement of Trump: “He is rewriting the logic of American politics” and is a “strong and resolute leader,” Christie said of his “good friend.”

Continue reading

Cruz’s Hail Carly Pass

By Alex Knepper

We have to wonder who else Ted Cruz asked to join him in this desperate, cockamamie scheme before having to settle for Carly Fiorina. (Marco Rubio? Mike Pence?) Who else but Fiorina would agree to this? She has always been supremely ambitious in politics despite there being little to recommend her for high office — and since she has nowhere else to go after this election, remains as hungry for power as ever, and despises Trump, she has nothing to lose. It’s now or never for her.

Fiorina adds a few not-minor assets to the Cruz team: a burst of novelty and excitement over an all-non-white-male GOP ticket, connections in California Republican politics that will help him organize ahead of the crucial June primary — we should expect Fiorina to focus all of her energies there after the Indiana primary — and, much like Cruz himself, an articulate demeanor, albeit one that comes across as a bit rehearsed. She also retains something of a claim to ‘outsider-dom,’ having never been elected — although that is not exactly for any lack of trying.

cruzfiorina

But her liabilities are as obvious as they were in 2010 and 2015: as a walking, talking PowerPoint presentation, a repeat political loser, and a history as one of the faces of corporate incompetence being rewarded with ‘golden parachutes,’ Fiorina would manage to make Hillary look naturally warm and ‘likeable.’ No matter how convincingly she can articulate right-wing ideology, she still comes across as a little robotic, and anyone who scratches even slightly below the surface of her resume will rediscover the litany of issues that held her back in previous elections.

Perhaps the biggest mystery of this move — aside from the chutzpah of announcing a running mate the day after coming in 3rd place in four contests — is this: Who is a Fiorina voter? Or, more precisely: Who is a Trump or Kasich voter who is so taken with Fiorina that he’d switch to Cruz? For whom does this selection tip the difference? The move to announce a running mate is audacious, but it doesn’t actually seem to make much strategic sense. But it does steal him the limelight. Nonsensical limelight-grabbing has worked awfully well during this cycle, though, so maybe the senator is onto something.