Slippery Mike Pence shows he's no different than Trump
On Wednesday night, perhaps the most theoretically consequential vice-presidential debate in history took place. Kamala Harris represented a probable successor to Joe Biden, who at 78 would be the oldest first-term president in history.
Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence may well have to take over in a matter of days for President Trump, who is sick with COVID-19, 74 years old, obese, and has heart disease. Indeed, Pence himself quite possibly also has the virus. He was present at the likely super-spreader event, and though he has tested negative, it can take several days for the disease to progress enough to be detected. (Pence also looked ill, with bloodshot eyes that may be a symptom of infection.)
Yet the debate told the American people very little about how either of them would govern as president. Harris evaded her fair share of questions, but Pence was worse by far. He dodged practically every single question, and lied constantly about nearly every subject of discussion. If he does indeed become president, we know what to expect: more of the same.
Pence is not as boorish and uncouth as Trump, but he is every bit the dissembler. His signature debate technique is to refuse to answer any question, either by bringing up different topics entirely or by throwing up a lot of chaff. Then when his opponent makes any point, true or otherwise, he smarmily shakes his head while saying "that's not true." It's what he did with Tim Kaine four years ago and it's what he did this time.
Three topics in particular stood out. When the moderator asked about whether Trump's Supreme Court Nominee Amy Coney Barrett would overturn Roe vs. Wade, Pence pivoted to Iran, and then to a maudlin pity party about an imaginary parade of liberal attacks against Barrett's religion. It was clear he did not want to speak his true belief, that abortion should be illegal — probably because that position is horribly unpopular.
When the moderator brought up the subject of whether climate change was causing weather disasters, Pence immediately pivoted to claiming that the Trump administration had kept U.S. air and water clean. "I'm proud of our record on environment and conservation," he said. (It appears some conservative messaging consultant has advised Republicans that air and water polls well, as this has become their go-to deflection line lately). On the one hand, traditional pollution of air and water — like smog or sewage leaks — has nothing to do with climate change, which is indeed implicated in much extreme weather (the kind that is predicted to get worse the higher temperatures get). On the other, Pence was lying through his teeth about air and water quality. His administration is in bed with every polluting industry, and has rolled back rules on big corporations poisoning both air and water. Sure enough, measured quality of both has nosedived under Trump rule.
Finally, when the moderator asked Pence if he and Trump would respect the results of the election if they lose, Pence dodged again. "I believe in my heart that President Trump will be re-elected for four more years," he said. Then he moved on to crackpot accusations that Democrats had somehow attempted to "overturn the results of the last election." The plain fact is that Trump, Pence, and the rest of the wretched Republican Party are currently attempting to cheat their way to victory through legal chicanery, preventing people from voting, wrecking the Post Office, hysterical lies about voter fraud, threats of violence, and so on. Pence is clearly on board with the party line that democracy only counts if Republicans win.
Donald Trump's erratic personality and world-historical failure as president has tended to obscure how similar the rest of his party is to him, at bottom. Indeed, he isn't even the first dimwitted Republican celebrity to hold the highest office in the land. Mike Pence may be better at aping the norms of normal politics, but his ability to smoothly lie and dissemble about any subject on cue shows that he would be every bit the threat to America's constitutional government as his boss. In the forthcoming election, I recommend voting against the pair of them.