By John Rolfe / Red Hook, N.Y.
More than two years after the dark events of January 6, I remain astounded that Mike Pence, by refusing to block certification of the Electoral College count, actually threw a wrench into the gears of Donald Trump’s plot to overturn the 2020 election. I feel much like I did after my beloved New York Giants won their first Super Bowl after 23 years of futility and often comical ineptitude: “Did that really happen?”
It did. But the fact that Pence is now being forced by a federal judge to testify before a grand jury about what he knew of Trump’s plot qualifies him as one of America’s legendary political weenies. That’s really saying something in this Golden Age of cowards, hypocrites and phonies.
You’d think that Trump leaving him at the mercy of an angry, violent mob chanting “Hang Mike Pence!” and forcing him to hide in the bowels of the Capitol while fearing for his family’s safety would inspire the then-Vice President to roundly condemn his former boss. But with his own presidential aspirations to protect, Pence declined to speak to the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack and has contested a grand jury subpoena from Special Counsel Jack Smith.
Instead, Pence wrote in his recent book So Help Me God (an ironically apt title) about how he had tried to persuade Trump to follow responsible legal counsel and let the Constitution decide the matter of the election’s result. He has said he is content to let Trump be judged by history. This after being insulted by Trump (witnesses say he called Pence a “wimp” and a “p---y”) who also egged on the mob by tweeting during the riot that Pence “didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done.”
Pence now claims to be “pleased” by the judge’s order to testify and that he has nothing to hide, but would nevertheless speak to his attorneys first. That left open the possibility of appealing the order. Even if he has nothing to hide, avoiding taking the stand will allow Pence to play both sides from a nebulous middle. In the meantime, he is avidly courting the Trump base by declaring the indictment of Trump in the Stormy Daniels hush money case “an outrage.”
This is yet another example of how terrified Republicans are of Trump’s MAGA base of extremists, which is too large to cut loose when the party needs every vote it can get, yet too small to win national elections. The GOP’s only hope is to somehow convince enough moderate and independent voters that their own narrow self-interests are more important than the wider issue of what this all means for our democracy and what it says about us as a nation.
Are we really willing to embrace and defend abject liars, phonies, philanderers, and even criminals for the sake of cheap gasoline, the illusions of a closed southern border, and “rights” that limit other people’s reproductive choice, ability to vote, education, and freedom to be and love whomever they wish?
A proud member of the religious right, Pence, in all his plastic pious sanctimony tries to present himself as a pillar of rectitude. But everything about him screams “empty suit politician!”
The horrible reality for so many voters (myself among them) who are starved for thoughtful leaders who prioritize the well-being of citizens and advance thoughtful, constructive legislation is that the GOP has potential first-rate candidates such as former governors Larry Hogan (Maryland) and Charlie Baker (Massachusetts) as well as Vermont’s current governor, Phil Scott.
But people like them have no chance when the only way to secure a nomination is sucking up to the party’s rabid base. So we are all stuck with the likes of Trump, Ron DeSantis and Pence.
There are more, but I’m blocking at the moment.
If Pence testifies before the grand jury, he can decline to answer questions about his own behavior on Jan. 6. I fully expect him to plead the Fifth Amendment (as Trump did more than 400 times during a tax fraud deposition last summer) when asked about his conversations with the President. That way he can say he didn’t sell out the MAGA movement to a witch hunt by woke Democrats.
His political career clearly comes before efforts to ensure accountability for trying to illegally overturn the 2020 election and that another Jan. 6 never happens again.
Of course, I could be utterly surprised. My Giants won another Super Bowl four years after their first and went on to win two more. Anything can happen. But you just never know with someone like Pence.
John Rolfe is a former senior editor for Sports Illustrated for Kids, a longtime columnist for the Poughkeepsie Journal/USA Today Network, and author of The Goose in the Bathroom: Stirring Tales of Family Life. His school bus drivin’ blog “Hellions, Mayhem and Brake Failure” is parked on his website Celestialchuckle.com (https://celestialchuckle.com) with the meter running.