If former Vice President Mike Pence is ever in need of a character witness, he could not do much better than one statement former President Donald Trump made to him.
In his new book “So Help Me God,” Pence quotes Trump as pressuring him to overturn the results of the 2020 election by rejecting electoral votes from the states. When he refuses, Pence says Trump told him “you’re too honest.” It was cynicism at its worst and what so many people hate about Washington and politics.
Pence says he told Trump, “…other than your family, no one in the administration has been more loyal to you than me.” That is undeniably true. Some critics have accused Pence of being too loyal and say he should have spoken out, or resigned, in the face of Trump’s denial of the election outcome.
If Trump defines narcissism, Pence defines integrity: “adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.” Can someone who is more mild-mannered than Clark Kent and the answer to Diogenes’ search for an honest man be elected president in our toxic environment?
The same question was raised following the Johnson and Nixon administrations which saw demonstrations and street violence in reaction to Watergate and the Vietnam War. Along came Jimmy Carter, a church-going, once-married man who seemed just the right candidate to restore moral and political order to the country. In his book, Pence says he twice voted for Carter, but later became a Reagan Republican.
In an interview with David Muir of ABC News, Pence described Trump’s language and behavior that incited a mob to invade the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 as “reckless.” He said it “made me furious.”
He told Muir he had not spoken with Trump in more than a year and didn’t seem especially displeased with that. Asked whether he could support Trump who announced Tuesday he is running again for the presidency, Pence said he thinks there are “better choices.”
The book is not a salacious “tell-all” screed that some other people who worked for presidents have written to settle scores. It is a sober reflection on Pence’s life and his role in one of the most controversial periods of our political and national history. Pence admits when he has made mistakes, something rare for politicians, and he doesn’t make his criticisms of Donald Trump personal. He criticizes Trump’s words and behavior, but does not demean the man. Trump should take note.
Pence comes as close to saying Trump lied to him as he could without saying it outright. Pence had told the president he did not believe he had the power to block congressional certification of President-elect Biden’s election. “Regardless,” he writes, “the Trump campaign issued a statement saying that I had never said that and calling (The New York Times report) ‘fake news.’
“I couldn’t believe what I was reading. The campaign had issued a statement directly contradicting what I had told the president just a few hours earlier.” When Pence’s chief of staff, Marc Short, called the campaign’s communications director, Jason Miller, Pence writes that Miller apologized and then quotes him as saying, “I had no choice.”
While these are some of the juicier parts of the book, much of the rest is about Pence’s upbringing, his father and mother, wife and children. It is a recipe for how his values and worldview developed.
Pence told Muir his family will gather over Christmas and likely decide what the future holds. If he runs for president, he will have stiff competition, all of whom are much better than Donald Trump.