#Pence2020 | #WhatTheyVotedFor
“I’m skeptical Pence can emerge from the White House’s crisis unscathed … but the fact that the vice president is even trying suggests we’re approaching the every-person-for-themselves phase.”
#PresidentRyan | ¿#WhatTheyVotedFor?
Amid everything else over the last week or so, we ought not forget this:
We’re left with an unsettling picture. Flynn told the transition team he’s the subject of an ongoing federal investigation, and either that information either reached Pence or it didn’t. If Pence was out of the loop, he was dangerously incompetent at his job. If Pence knew, and Flynn became National Security Advisor anyway, that’s worse.
Remember, as the turmoil surrounding Flynn grew more serious, the vice president said he was completely unaware of Flynn’s alleged misdeeds. In March, when Fox News asked Pence about Flynn having to register as a foreign agent, Pence said he was hearing the story for the first time.
Except, as Rachel has explained on the show, that’s literally unbelievable. Not only were there multiple news reports for months about Flynn’s foreign work, but Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) wrote to Pence’s transition team to make sure Team Trump was aware of this.
Because, quite frankly, it still cracks me up that once upon a time, when Rubio was fumbling for water, Paul was drowning in plagiarism, and Christie apparently had nothing to do with that bridge, we might have heard Mike Pence’s name whispered as the cyclical dark horse. The Indiana governor, by Republican accounts, was politically savvy and a dedicated conservative. And while others might disagree about the savvy, it seemed for naught when he signed a RFRA and failed to comprehend what happened next. Except, of course, his dramatic revitalization as Donald Trump’s vice presidential candidate, and then vice president. It was easy enough to joke that we might yet see a President Pence.
#PutiTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor
Something goes here about the headlines that drop in the evening; in the week before President Trump’s infamous tweetstorm accusing President Obama of wiretapping him, evening headlines kept the White House running ragged night after night. And, yes, there is some irony that we have now come far enough ’round the circle that Carter Page might well be the answer to what the president was on about. Or, as the evening headline from the Washington Post has it, “FBI obtained FISA warrant to monitor Trump adviser Carter Page”:
This is the clearest evidence so far that the FBI had reason to believe during the 2016 presidential campaign that a Trump campaign adviser was in touch with Russian agents. Such contacts are now at the center of an investigation into whether the campaign coordinated with the Russian government to swing the election in Trump’s favor.
Page has not been accused of any crimes, and it is unclear whether the Justice Department might later seek charges against him or others in connection with Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election. The counterintelligence investigation into Russian efforts to influence U.S. elections began in July, officials have said. Most such investigations don’t result in criminal charges.
Rachel Maddow spent some effort on msnbc last night driving a point about how unusual it is that we should see leaked such details of a FISA warrant. In that context perhaps it behooves us to consider whether or not the prospect of leaking this FISA warrant would come about at all were it not for President Trump’s twitterpated tantrum after a week of bad evening headlines.
#PresidentPotsherd | #WhatTheyVotedFor
“I assume ‘let’s blame Obama’ will become a popular rallying cry in far-right circles, because it’s vastly easier than dealing with the facts.”
It is not quite correct to ask who is surprised. In truth, nobody ought to be surprised. Still, though, if we inquire, for the sake of some decent societal form, what brought on Mr. Benen’s line, well:
This week, the president has moved on to a new explanation: this is all Obama’s fault. USA Today reported this morning:
President Trump said that former president Barack Obama is “behind” the angry protests that have erupted at Republican town halls around the nation during an interview on the Fox News morning program Fox and Friends scheduled to air Tuesday morning.
“I think he is behind it,” Trump said when asked about Obama’s role in the protests. “I also think it’s politics. That’s the way it is.
“No, I think that President Obama is behind it,” Trump said, “because his people are certainly behind it and some of the leaks, possibly come from that group, some of the leaks – which are really very serious leaks because they’re very bad in terms of national security – but I also understand that’s politics. And in terms of him being behind things, that’s politics. And it will probably continue.”
This is, in many ways, the perfect Donald J. Trump Conspiracy Theory.
And this is the Donald J. Trump administration, after all.
This is not what we would ordinarily call a profile in courage:
Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz again reversed his position on Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy on Wednesday night, saying he’d vote for the Republican nominee but wouldn’t endorse him.
“I will not defend or endorse @realDonaldTrump, but I am voting for him,” Chaffetz tweeted Wednesday. “[Hillary Rodham Clinton] is that bad. HRC is bad for the USA.”
The House Oversight Committee chairman had previously backed Trump’s candidacy before withdrawing his endorsement on Oct. 8 following the revelation that the Republican nominee had made lewd and sexually aggressive comments while filming for an “Access Hollywood” interview in 2005.
Then again, this is Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT03) we’re talking about, so it’s not like anyone expects a lot. To that end, we should at least note the accomplishment, the e’er graceless flip-flop-flip.
This is worth paying attention to:
On Sunday when Pence appeared on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” host John Dickerson asked him about Trump’s claims that the election is “absolutely rigged” and his calls for supporters to closely monitor polling places for voter fraud. “I don’t think any American should ever attempt to make any other American nervous” when voting, Pence responded.
Dickerson did not question Pence, however, about why Indiana State Police recently seized 45,000 voter-registration applications, most of them from black voters. So while viewers may have given Pence credit for seeming relatively reasonable compared with his running mate, alleged voter suppression in his own backyard went largely unnoticed amid the hoopla over Trump’s hysterical claims.
Indiana State Police last week raided the largest voter registration agency in the state because of just 10 confirmed cases amid 45,000 submitted voter-registration forms containing so-called fraudulent information.
Indiana’s Secretary of State Connie Lawson, a key sponsor of her state’s 2005 voter ID law (upheld by the Supreme Court), in September announced an investigation of the Indiana Voter Registration Project. On Oct. 4, state police detectives served a search warrant on the project’s Indianapolis office. The results of the search have not been released, and the affidavit and search warrant will remain sealed for 30 days, according to the Indy Star.
The Star article from Justin L. Mack and Holly V. Mays reports of a “voter fraud case that spans nine counties”, and that the “growing number of involved counties leads investigators to believe that the number of fraudulent records might be in the hundreds”.
The real number is apparently ten, at this point. We’ll have to see what comes. Tesfaye notes:
In a Saturday statement, Pence spokesman Matt Lloyd called the voter-suppression allegations “beyond absurd.” Lloyd said, “The Indiana State Police has uncovered strong evidence of voter fraud by Patriot Majority USA.” He added, “Among Governor Pence’s top priorities is ensuring the integrity of the election and that every single Hoosier vote counts. He has full confidence in the Indiana State Police investigation to achieve this goal.”
This is important: If the idea of suppression is “beyond absurd”, then there had better be something significant going on with this group. After all, as the Star reports―
The search warrant was served Tuesday morning, police said. The results of the search are not being released, and the affidavit and search warrant will remain sealed for 30 days.
“An investigation of this nature is complex, time consuming and is expected to continue for several more weeks or months,” said a State Police statement. “Victims of the activities by some agents of the Indiana Voter Registration Project may not discover they have been disenfranchised from voting until they go to vote and realize their voting information has been altered. Such action may result in the citizen having to cast a provisional ballot.”
―mass disenfranchisement is unquestionably in play; Indiana law enforcement has acknoweldged that it is.
This is an important story.
Image note: Gov. Mike Pence (R-IN) speaking at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, 27 February 2015. (Photo by Gage Skidmore)
Mack, Justin L. and Holly V. Hays. “State Police raid Indy office in growing voter fraud case”. Indy Star. 6 October 2016.
Tesfaye, Sophia. “While Donald Trump talks of a ‘rigged election,’ Mike Pence may suppress the votes of nearly 50,000 African-Americans “. Salon. 17 October 2016.
This is fun. Peter Montgomery, for Right Wing Watch, the day after Barack Obama was re-elected in 2012:
Not only did Obama win big, but voters in Maine and Maryland embraced marriage equality, and Washington seems likely to join them. Minnesota voters rejected a Religious Right-backed attempt to put anti-gay discrimination into the state’s constitution. Tammy Baldwin was elected to the Senate, where she will be the first openly gay member.
Well before all those results were in, it was clear that the night was not going according to what Religious Right leaders had thought was God’s plan. At 10 pm, Tony Perkins and Jim Garlow held a phone call briefing for pastors. It was a very subdued affair, with representatives of the state marriage campaigns trying to sound hopeful about the then-uncalled outcomes in their states. Perkins and Garlow also held a Wednesday webcast on the “aftermath and aftershocks” as the scope of their Election Day drubbing sank in. “The problem in America is sin,” said Garlow. But, he said, “we have no problem that the next Great Awakening cannot solve.”
The tendency after an election defeat to avoid blame by casting it elsewhere was in full flower the day after the election. Rep. Jim Jordan, a Religious Right favorite, described Mitt Romney as “the most liberal Republican nominee in history” who had “waffled” on abortion, had passed a health care bill as governor, and had a hard time convincing conservatives on his commitments on taxing and spending. Perkins criticized Romney for not campaigning on issues of life, marriage, and religious liberty, even though Obama used them to appeal to his base. Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway agreed, saying Republicans had not done enough to draw the contrast on social and “moral” issues. Regarding the marriage wins, Perkins blamed Obama in part, saying the president’s policies have had “a shaping influence on the culture.” He and others also blamed marriage equality proponents’ financial advantage ....
.... Some Religious Right leaders sought solace in faith that God is ultimately in control. “America as we know it may have signed its death warrant tonight,” said Garlow during the pastors’ briefing. But not to worry, he said, nations come and go, but God’s kingdom is forever. Perkins said FRC and its allies would continue to stand strong in the face of “an increasingly hostile culture.”
Others looked forward to the next political fight. Pollster Conway predicted that 2014 would bring, like 2010’s Tea Party wave, a conservative resurgence and called for candidate recruitment to begin now. Perkins agreed that conservatives have never had a stronger “farm team” and touted potential conservative candidates for 2016, including Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal, Rand Paul, and Mike Pence.
Yes, indeed, a genuine Kellyanne Conway sighting, as the pollster reminded Republicans, as we hear every election, how things would go better if they would just become more misogynistic, homophobic, masculinist, Christianist, supremacist―you now, whatever counts among Republicans as family values and morality. It’s also worth noting, in addition to the farm team standouts, the presence of Tony Perkins of Family Research Council.
It’s just an interesting contrast. Kellyanne Conway, in her role as Donald Trump’s campaign manager, has undoubtedly drawn a contrast on social and moral issues. Mr. Perkins, for his part, was last heard explaining, “My personal support for Donald Trump has never been based upon shared values”.
This is worth noting:
For the good of the country, Gov. Bill Haslam believes Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump should withdraw his candidacy and give way to vice presidential nominee Mike Pence.
Haslam, R-Knoxville, became the first prominent Tennessee Republican to make such a statement when he issued his comments Sunday afternoon. He joins a growing chorus of national Republicans to repudiate their party’s standard bearer in light of a 2005 video where Trump made vulgar comments that appear to condone the sexual assault of women.
“I want to emphasize that character in our leaders does matter. None of us in elected office are perfect, but the decisions that are made in the Oval Office have too many consequences to ignore the behavior we have seen,” Haslam said.
“It is time for the good of the nation and the Republican Party for Donald Trump to step aside and let Gov. Mike Pence assume the role as the party’s nominee. If he does not step aside, I will write in a Republican for the office of President.”
It is easy to get caught up in narrative and moment, and thus we sometimes feel flat-footed when history blows past us and, you know, of course we could see it coming, but it’s so easy to lose oneself in high-strung, even mythopoeic history that we often instinctively caution ourselves against believing the hype.
This time, though, let us go ahead and mark the moment with Gov. Bill Haslam; the Tennessee Republican’s statement serves as a personal benchmark insofar as it is now possible for me to believe that Donald Trump might well have finally done gone an’ broke it.
Even still, doubt whispers and cynicism clamors; this can’t really be the moment, except that yes, if “vulgar comments that appear to condone the sexual assault of women”, as Dave Boucher’s report for the Tennessean puts it―and why not? it’s a reasonable description dutifullyα ducking the fact that we all know there’s no matter of mere appearances about it―are somehow insufficient to settle the matter, then there is far more wrong in these United States than merely Donald Trump.
We kind of knew that last, already, right? I mean, we’re all clear on what is going on, here?
‘Tis easy to hedge. This is going to be an interesting week, proverbially and otherwise. Consider it this way, please: Mr. Haslam denounces Mr. Trump’s misogyny, preferring instead Mr. Pence’s less felonious misogyny. This ought to be absurd enough to get us through the days.β
α There are reasons why the reportage is not supposed to do the convicting and crucifying. This is, however, really, truly that straightforward. What seems striking is that the nod and wink, this time, would reject the good ol’ boys’ club.
β And that’s a completely meaningless sentence, isn’t it?
Image note: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump holds a rally in Fredricksburg, Virginia, 20 August 2016. (Photo by Leigh Vogel/WireImage)
Boucher, Dave. “Bill Haslam: Donald Trump needs to step aside for Mike Pence”. The Tennessean. 9 October 2016.
“Trump is a genius at stepping on his own messaging, and I don’t think there’s a force on Earth, at least without heavy weaponry, that can ever separate Trump from his ability to tweet. I think everybody in that campaign is trying to pry the smartphone away from him, and it’ll never happen.”
―Mike Murphy, 4 October 2016
Image note: Detail of photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters.
This is important:
In one important area, Pence has the advantage of being perceived as a mainstream pol. Politico published a piece yesterday that characterized tonight’s vice presidential debate as “Battle of the Normals,” and a “sane moment” in a campaign cycle that’s often seemed insane.
On a certain level, I can appreciate where analysis like this is coming from. As a matter of tone and temperament, Mike Pence is hardly scary: the governor is a mild-mannered, soft-spoken Midwesterner. Unlike the man at the top of the GOP ticket, no one would ever expect Pence to start tweeting at 3 a.m. about his disgust for a beauty-pageant contestant and encourage Americans to seek out a “sex tape.”
But to shift one’s focus from tone to policy is to see one of the most extremist politicians to seek national office in over a generation.
Steve Benen is not wrong. This has been a factor worth considering in recent years, and even more so this cycle. What counts as centrist or mainstream is, in American politics, a roving range. The msnbc blogger and producer continues:
About four years ago, Nate Silver published an interesting analysis of Paul Ryan, who’d just been named to Mitt Romney’s ticket. Nate wrote at the time, “Various statistical measures of Mr. Ryan peg him as being quite conservative. Based on his Congressional voting record, for instance, the statistical system DW-Nominate evaluates him as being roughly as conservative as Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota. By this measure, in fact, which rates members of the House and Senate throughout different time periods on a common ideology scale, Mr. Ryan is the most conservative Republican member of Congress to be picked for the vice-presidential slot since at least 1900.”
Nate added a chart, highlighting the fact that Ryan’s record put him slightly to the right of Dick Cheney, who was slightly to the right of Dan Quayle.
There are curious circumstances, now and again, in which the GOP hardliners leave me standing shoulder to shoulder with Republicans I generally wouldn’t get along with. George W. Bush on China, and suddenly I’m commiserating with Pat Buchanan? What was it, Jade Helm? How do Rick Perry and I land on the same side? I can tell you, though, that when Lindsey Graham is bagging points off John Kasich being described as a “moderate”, well, at least we have that much in common.
We revisit the question for Mike Pence. Benen notes the Indiana governor also has a record in Congress:
In the 107th Congress (Pence’s first, covering 2001 and 2002), for example, out of 435 members of the U.S. House, Pence ranked #428―meaning that 427 members were to his left, putting the Hoosier on the far-right-wing fringe. The results were roughly the same in the 108th Congress and the 109th.
By the 110th Congress, Pence was at #432, putting him to the right of nearly everyone in the chamber. The results were roughly the same in the 111th Congress and the 112th.
Let’s put this another way: during his congressional career, Pence wasn’t just more conservative than Paul Ryan. His voting record also put him to the right of Michele Bachmann, Todd Akin, Steve King, and even Louie Gohmert. That’s not an exaggeration. Bachmann, Akin, King, and Gohmert all had voting records less extreme than Mike Pence.
The problem is the gap between perceptions of Mike Pence and his actual record. To use Politico’s phrasing, the Hoosier is seen as “normal” and “conventional.” But on a substantive level, we’re talking about a politician whose claim to fame is an anti-LGBT law that did real harm to his state. Pence is a climate denier. He rejects the idea that cigarettes are deadly. He doesn’t believe in evolutionary biology, but he does support “conversion therapy.”
There was an embarrassing episode having to do with alleged Iraqi WMDs; something about privatizing Social Security not being conservative enough; something about government shutdowns; oh, right, and some manner of conspiracy theory about Disney film and women in the military.
Unfortunately, that last isn’t a joke.
Image note: Indiana Gov. Mike Pence appears on FOX News Sunday with Chris Wallace, 22 February 2015. Guest host John Roberts interviewed Mr. Pence regarding various issues, including his status as a 2016 GOP dark horse and the Hoosier State’s infamous “religious freedom” bill intended to empower discrimination. (Image credit: FOX News)
Benen, Steve. “Mike Pence saw secret propaganda in Disney film”. 18 July 2016.
—————. “Pence becomes the most far-right running mate in modern history”. msnbc. 15 July 2016.
—————. “To see Mike Pence as ‘normal’ is to grade on a generous curve”. msnbc. 4 October 2016.
Kaczynski, Andrew. “Mike Pence Argued In Op-Ed That Disney’s ‘Mulan’ Was Liberal Propaganda”. BuzzFeed. 17 July 2016.
Salter, Lamar. “‘My party has gone bats— crazy’: Lindsey Graham jokes about killing Ted Cruz and bashes the remaining GOP candidates”. Business Insider. 26 February 2016.
Silver, Nate. “A Risky Rationale Behind Romney’s Choice of Ryan”. FiveThirtyEight. 11 August 2012.