Thursday, May 10, 2018

The Cheney Syndrome

(By American Zen’s Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari)
"Trump is what he is, a floundering, inarticulate jumble of gnawing insecurities and not-at-all compensating vanities, which is pathetic. Pence is what he has chosen to be, which is horrifying." - George Will, 5/9/18
It's a crowning irony that a man who for over seven decades has desperately yearned to be #1 in everything can no longer hold onto the one title to which he had any legitimate claim- Being the worst man in government. Yesterday. George Will took the liberty of abdicating Trump from his title.
     Mike Pence, who started his federal political career as just another whining ultra conservative voice in the wilderness of a US House, had become the latest beneficiary of what can be called "the Cheney Syndrome." That's when a presidential nominee picks the scariest standard bearer he or his staff can find outside of a Super Max. It is a warning by any Republican occupant of the White House, "If you impeach me, think of what this guy will be like."
     And Mike Pence is very, very good at his job. He always stands behind Trump's right shoulder with that deferential tilt pioneered by George HW Bush during the Reagan years but perfected by Pence. With the impeccable timing of an evil Bob Hope, he knows the exact moment to smile or laugh or nod seriously or with admiration or whatever the situation calls for. He's become a permanent backdrop to Trump's public appearances, the ultimate photo bomber, a white and pink presence that's as ubiquitous as the American flag or Robert Mueller's shadow.
     One can pinpoint the exact moment Mike Pence last had a working spine. It was on the evening of September 7th, 2016 at an Ohio restaurant. Pence was eating dinner with his daughter when, in an inversion of how news media is supposed to operate, Pence's entire press entourage force-fed him the news of the Access Hollywood tape in which Trump bragged about sexually assaulting women while a titillated Billy Bush giggled like Pence would learn to do in a few month's time.
     According to those present at that moment, Pence immediately got up and left the restaurant, leaving his press pool behind. By the next day, there were rumors that the uptight, caste iron Catholic was giving some serious thought to dropping off the GOP ticket just two months before the election.
     No one has seen Pence's spine since. Rumor has it he's capable of walking upright only by a two foot-long metal rod firmly shoved up his ass by his wife and three creaking, stainless steel back braces.
     It wasn't as if others in the party didn't give him enough incentive to do so- Future Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, obviously up for re-election in his native Wisconsin, immediately cancelled all future campaign appearances with Trump and, after some consideration, included Pence in the ban.
     However, after throwing a piece of straw in the air and testing the political winds, Pence decided it was worth staying on the ticket, after all. It was a win/win situation for Pence. If Trump lost, he could go back to being Governor of Indiana. But if he won...! Well, poor Pence couldn't resist the call of the tame.

Simply the Worst
In a kakistocracy unseen in the annals of human history, Mike Pence stands head and shoulders above the moral and mental palsies, lepers and quadriplegics of Trump's government. Knowing, or at least sensing the end is near, Pence is already drape-measuring in the Oval Office. For every puppy-eyed look of adoration he casts at Trump, one of those eyeballs is balefully cast on those drapes. Political pundits are savvy to these things and countless articles have already been written of Pence that he's hedging his bets and sucking up to Trump's rabid red meat base. Still smelling of white paranoia flop sweat from his keynote address at the NRA in Dallas, Pence went to Arizona just a few miles from the dying John McCain and said he felt "honored" to be in Joe Arpaio's presence.
     Perhaps McCain ought to think to extend his funeral uninvitations to Mike Pence, after all.
     Yet while George Will might have understandably given Pence the credit for being the poster boy for conservative cocksuckery, he certainly didn't invent it. The mealy-mouthed, ass-grabbing George HW Bush made a living for eight years at such political fellatio and, after him, Dan Quayle. That is the Vice President's job, to be at the big man's elbow like a suede patch, applauding everything he does or says and, if he's really lucky, to once or twice a year to cast a tie-breaking vote as president of the Senate.
     And although Trump's grasp on sanity is more problematic than climbing a greased pole in Philadelphia after a Super Bowl win, he was savvy enough to name as his running mate a man who sends shivers through everyone in the progressive community. For instance, here's a timeline going back just 15 years of Pence's hostility toward the LGBTQ community. While still Governor of the Hoosier State, Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law behind closed doors and surrounded by anti-gay lobbyists.
     And, more recently, there was Pence grandstanding by leaving the Colts-49er's game right after the national anthem so Pence could flaunt how much more principled was his blindness and tone-deafness to African Americans getting shot by police than African Americans' principled stand against the same. Then there was the last Winter Olympics in which Pence stood for just the American team and sat down when the newly-unified Korean delegation passed by the grandstand.
      While George Will may be right about Trump being "a floundering, inarticulate jumble of gnawing insecurities and not-at-all compensating vanities", Pence is much more dangerous because he understands the political process, knows not how to ruffle the feathers of warhawks and deficit hawks who will be essential to his survival and relevance as the 46th President. He would put together a kakistocracy like the Bush administration on steroids.
     And Mike Pence will be the 46th president. Do not listen to those liberal wet dreams about Mueller coming in to save the country by declaring the 2016 election null and void because of proven Russian collusion. That is not his job, his purview nor his focus. Pence will not go down with Trump and you can tell by how he grips those drapes that he's even now measuring in the Oval Office while managing to applaud Trump during his hyper-extended 15 minutes.

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