By Alan Resnick
Judging by the amount of television coverage and the number of Facebook memes, I, like millions of Americans, was transfixed by the fly perched on Vice President Mike Pence’s snow-white hair during last night’s debate. During the approximately two minutes (according to those who felt it important to time this), the cameras focused on the fly inspecting Pence’s scalp, I experienced a revelation: I hate Mike Pence. Even more than I abhor Donald Trump.
To be clear, that’s an extremely high bar that Pence had to clear. Given the events of the last week with the President and Melania testing positive for COVID-19, Trump being airlifted to Walter Reed Medical Center, the obfuscations of his doctors and chief of staff, his triumphant return to the White House, his long walk up to the Truman Balcony, and his glowering and wheezing visage after theatrically ripping off his face mask, I don’t believe I’m alone in admitting that my best wishes for the President have been uttered through clenched teeth. My hope has been that he recovers from this horrible illness, but preferably through an extended convalescence culminating in his being led in shackles from the White House, and subsequently indicted in state district court for tax evasion. However, Trump was on television this morning (October 8), stating that he has been completely cured, so there goes another fantasy.
Trump is clearly an arrogant, ignorant, compulsively lying sociopath, who scares the shit out of me. But, c’mon, ‘fess up, he is mesmerizing, extremely entertaining, and his television appearances are must-see TV. I watch them like I do an extremely violent movie – with a hand over one eye but not entirely able to look away. There is both a morbid fascination for what others see in him and a curiosity about what twisted logic will dribble out of his mouth.
Since testing positive, Trump has argued that, since he, as President, contracted the coronavirus, it just goes to demonstrate that anyone can get it, thereby implying that masks and social distancing are not effective. The fact that he rarely wears a mask and hosted a soirée in the Rose Garden for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, where hundreds sat shoulder-to-shoulder is conveniently omitted from this narrative.
It also takes quite a pair of cojones to argue that contracting the coronavirus is actually a sign of strength, and that your opponents is somehow weak or deficient because he has yet to get sick. What a sap Joe Biden has been for following the advice of Dr. Anthony Fauci, our nation’s top infectious disease official, and Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)!
So, for me, Trump, in a perverse way, is honest in his complete dishonesty, hucksterism, and falsification. I respect the fact that there’s no artifice; he cares only about himself. The packaging is clear cellophane.
Mike Pence is an entirely different animal. When I watch Trump on the tube, I reach for the popcorn, but when Pence comes on, I go for the disinfectant wipes. He offers himself as a slow-talking, sincere, “aw shucks” kind of guy. But beneath that Midwestern farm-boy veneer lurks an obsequious, brown-nosing, dissembling dullard. It was first evident to me back in 2016 when Tim Kaine (I have to admit that I had to google who ran with Hillary Clinton) debated Mike Pence.
Kaine kept bringing up the various disparaging comments that Trump had made about women, including the famous “Access Hollywood” interview with Billy Bush. Pence sat there, head cocked to the side slightly, with a slight smile on his lips and responded, “He didn’t say that.” Well, yeah, he did.
Last night’s debate was no different. Kamala Harris referenced quotes from Bob Woodward’s new book or statements made by Trump about John McCain, and Pence had that same look on his face. But this time, Pence’s go-to lines were, “That’s not true,” or “You have a right to your opinion, but not your own facts.” This was rather ironic, given the infamous assertion of Kellyanne Conway (she also tested positive for COVID-19, as did her daughter) that there are “alternative facts.” Conway also said this with a straight face. And then Pence went on to falsify Trump’s accomplishments and the President’s deep caring for each and every American.
Whenever I listen to Pence speak, I feel like an appliance salesman is trying to sell me an extended warranty on my $79 microwave: “For only $89, you and the little lady can have the peace of mind of knowing that your purchase is protected for three years.”
About 15 years ago, my wife and I were on a cruise to the Bahamas that she won as a sales incentive. One evening, we decided to go to the main showroom and watch what was billed as a “Las Vegas style” stage show. Passengers were encouraged to get there early, as seats would be available on a first-come, first-served basis. So we got there about 30 minutes before show time.
I do not remember the exact name of the production, but it was some sort of celebration of America. As the curtain went up, the cast came out and I spotted the woman who had shown me how to put on my life jacket, now on stage in spangled stars-and-stripes hot pants. I saw other members of the crew appearing as cast members as well.
The cast was earnest, if not overly talented. But the emcee was memorable, offering up lame patter (“Hey, who out there is from Kansas?”), lamer jokes, and cheesy double entendres. Whenever the show seemed to lag, which was often, he would attempt to pump up the crowd with chat designed to pull at our patriotic heartstrings (“Don’t we live in a beautiful country?”).
The show ended with a “Stars and Stripes” tribute. On our way out, we were given a card which asked us to provide our comments on the show. To this day, I remember what I wrote about the emcee : "He was smarmy and reeked of insincerity."
Perhaps there is a future for Mike Pence after this election.
Alan Resnick is an industrial psychologist with over 40 years of professional experience. He and his wife are sheltering at home in Farmington Hills, Michigan. He is passing the time by cooking, exercising, catching up on friends’ recommendations of must-see TV and writing.