Former VP Mike Pence walks a tightrope in his first extended remarks about Donald Trump

By Gary Abernathy

Pence is well aware that Trump’s base controls GOP’s future

I’ve wondered for a long time how former vice president Mike Pence felt about his ex-boss, Donald Trump, after the events of Jan. 6, 2021. We’ve heard relatively little from Pence since that day. Until now.

For me, one of the most unforgivable aspects of the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol was that Trump placed his longsuffering and loyal vice president in the crosshairs of the agitated crowd that had gathered in Washington to support Trump’s claims that the 2020 election was stolen.

Trump addressed the crowd gathered that day, after Pence apparently told Trump that he (Pence) had to do what was right – that it would be tough, but he had to show the courage to carry out his constitutional duty to lead the certification of the electoral votes that would make Joe Biden the new president.

Trump disagreed with Pence’s definition of courage. He told the crowd the following:

“States want to revote. The states got defrauded. They were given false information. They voted on it. Now they want to recertify. They want it back. All Vice President Pence has to do is send it back to the states to recertify and we become president and you are the happiest people. And I actually, I just spoke to Mike. I said: ‘Mike, that doesn't take courage. What takes courage is to do nothing. That takes courage.’ And then we're stuck with a president who lost the election by a lot and we have to live with that for four more years. We're just not going to let that happen.”

Read that again. We’re just not going to let that happen, Trump said. What takes courage is to do nothing. In other words, the message to Pence was, don’t do your constitutional duty to certify the electoral votes. Do nothing!

And so, the crowd marched to the Capitol, and about 800 of them breached security and rampaged through the halls of Congress, invading offices and trying to break into the House chambers as armed security personnel on the other side put their shoulders against the doors to keep them out. Pence and many members of Congress had to flee for their lives. People died.

After months of virtual silence, Pence has now spoken out. What’s clear are two things. First, he clearly has an eye on 2024 as a possible presidential candidate. Second, he understands that the Trump base is crucial to that effort, and he’s trying to walk a fine line between defending his decision to do the right thing on Jan. 6 while still maintaining his love and loyalty to Trump.

Pence was the guest speaker Thursday at a GOP Lincoln-Reagan Dinner in New Hampshire. The Washington Post reports today:

Former vice president Mike Pence said Thursday he has spoken with former president Donald Trump “many times” since they left office in January and admitted that the two still do not “see eye-to-eye” about the insurrection on Jan. 6, in which a pro-Trump mob overran the U.S. Capitol in a violent siege that resulted in five deaths — and endangered the lives of Pence and his family… “President Trump and I have spoken many times since we left office, and I don’t know if we’ll ever see eye-to-eye on that day,” Pence said, before raising his voice to emphasize the next point. “But I will always be proud of what we accomplished for the American people over the last four years. And I will not allow Democrats or their allies in the media to use one tragic day to discredit the aspirations of millions of Americans.”

Pence lauded Trump and expressed pride in his years of service with the former president, saying, “I learned a lot serving alongside President Donald Trump. Some people think we’re a little bit different. But I think what President Trump showed us was what Republicans can accomplish when our leaders stand firm on conservative principles and don’t back down … It was four years of consequence, four years of results. It was four years of promises made and promises kept.”

Pence had spoken in late April at an event in South Carolina, where he also offered some positive words about Trump. But his remarks this week were much more elaborate and effusive in their praise.

I can relate in part to Pence’s stand on Trump. I’m glad Trump was president. I supported most of Trump’s policies and initiatives. But what I haven’t heard from Pence is that Trump’s post-elections actions should disqualify him in the minds of all Americans from being considered the leader of the Republican Party, or a serious contender for another run for president. Refusing to participate in the peaceful transfer of power – a hallmark of the United States and an important message to the rest of the world – and contributing to an assault on the U.S. Capitol, which Trump’s words clearly did, are things no American should look past.

Have a great weekend.

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