Opinion

What Mike Pence should learn from Judas

Whatever noble and good things you do in your life, you will forever be remembered for your last big act

Vice President Mike Pence could effectively and immediately fire President Trump by convincing a handful of Trump's Cabinet to invoke Article 4 of the 25th Amendment. By the time Trump appealed, he would already be out of office. Congressional Democrats are publicly urging Pence to take this step — in fact, if he does not, the House will impeach Trump for a second time.

There would be something remarkably neat about Pence being acting president for one week. Trump's term ending with an acting president would be a poetic finale for a man who prefers his Cabinet not hindered by Senate confirmation. America would certainly appreciate the flexibility.

Would Pence do it? He is keeping it as an option, in case Trump becomes "more unstable" in his last 10 days in office, CNN reports. But he clearly does not want to take this step, and the conventional wisdom is he won't.

Pence should not only do it, he should take inspiration from the slur running rampant across pro-Trump internet forums, that he is already Judas to Trump's Jesus.

Pence obviously knows the story of Judas Iscariot, but for anyone who doesn't, he is the friend and apostle who sold Jesus to his executioners for 30 pieces of silver, then killed himself in remorse. Not exactly an inspiring role model — Dante puts him in the final circle of hell, being eternally chewed apart by Satan.

But Pence should consider this about Judas: Whatever noble and good things you do in your life, you will forever be remembered for your last big act. And this is Pence's moment in history. Gerald Ford isn't remembered for his college football career or stint as House minority leader — he is and always will be the vice president who took over when Richard Nixon resigned in disgrace, then pardoned him.

Mike Pence will be an ignoble footnote, a historical curiosity — or he will be a legend.

Pence does not appear to be a particularly principled man, though he likes to play-act one. The best explanation for his unswerving loyalty to Trump, through scandal after scandal, is that he is hoping to inherit Trump's political mantle. That dream is over. He is both tainted by his association with Trump and despised by the Trump wing of the Republican Party. After Trump publicly excoriated Pence for not attempting to seize the election for him during a joint session of Congress to tally President-elect Joe Biden's win, a mob of Trump supporters marched on and broke into the U.S. Capitol literally calling for Pence's head. And they brought their own scaffold and noose.

Pence owes Trump nothing.

Of course, the best thing for the country at this point would be for Trump to resign. He has lost his party, his office, and his aura of political teflon. And he is widely regarded as a danger to American democracy and national security. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Trump ally, said Sunday he would vote to impeach Trump for inciting insurrection. A handful of Republican senators have publicly called for him to step down and probably don't want to have to vote on conviction.

Trump leaving on his own terms would also be the best thing for Trump, as Andrew McCarthy argues at National Review. The House will impeach him, and if the Senate were to convict him — either before he's out of office or, more likely, afterward, when Democrats take control — he will lose the thing he loves in life as much as fame: money. Specifically, his $200,000-a-year-for-life presidential pension, about $1 million in annual travel expenses, Secret Service protection, and other perks. And he probably won't be able to run for office again, should the political winds shift.

But "Trump would only abandon the presidency if he felt he had no other choice, most likely because staying put would thrust him into legal trouble," CBS News White House correspondent Weijia Jiang writes at Politico. "Or, if he had something to gain that he couldn't turn down, such as a pardon by the vice president. Neither is the case. Besides, there is nothing Trump dislikes more than a loser. A resignation would amount to quitting, and he views quitters as losers."

In that sense, Pence forcing out Trump may actually be Trump's best viable hope. A win-win-win.

The hard thing about the Judas narrative is that the most despised figure in the New Testament is also a necessary part of the Jesus resurrection story. Without Judas or some other traitor, Jesus isn't crucified, died, buried, and risen again — and there is no Christianity. It is absurd to compare Trump to Jesus of Nazareth, but if you are inclined toward that particular blasphemy, the 25th Amendment would at least allow Trump the possibility of rising from the political ashes of his own profane immolation.

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