Mike Pence
Credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

To most political observers, VP Dick Cheney was pretty much in charge during the Bush administration – at least until 2006 when Poppy Bush’s crew staged a bit of a takeover. That’s one of the reasons why this statement from Mike Pence over the weekend was so significant.

GOP vice presidential candidate Mike Pence said his role model for the number two spot is the last Republican to hold the job — Dick Cheney.

“I frankly hold Dick Cheney in really high regard in his role as vice president and as an American,” Pence said on ABC’s “This Week.”

Pence said that, like Cheney, he hoped to be “a very active vice president.”

As Steve Benen notes, it is helpful to keep in mind that “Cheney left office with a 13% approval rating – roughly half the support Richard Nixon enjoyed at the height of Watergate.” So it’s definitely not Cheney’s appeal that Pence wants to replicate.

To understand what is going on here it is helpful to go back to how Paul Manafort described what Trump sees as the role of president.

The vice presidential pick will also be part of the process of proving he’s ready for the White House, Manafort said. “He needs an experienced person to do the part of the job he doesn’t want to do. He seems himself more as the chairman of the board, than even the CEO, let alone the COO.”

Josh Voorhees breaks that one down.

For those of you don’t speak MBA, the chief executive is a company’s top decision-maker while the chief operating officer or president typically handles the day-to-day operation. (POTUS is probably best thought of as a combination of the two, though his or her chief of staff also has some COO-like duties.) A company’s chairman of the board takes a significantly broader view of long-term strategy and stays out of the daily grind all together.

It is very likely that Trump offered Pence the same deal he pitched to John Kasich.

…according to the Kasich adviser (who spoke only under the condition that he not be named), Donald Jr. wanted to make him an offer nonetheless: Did he have any interest in being the most powerful vice president in history?

When Kasich’s adviser asked how this would be the case, Donald Jr. explained that his father’s vice president would be in charge of domestic and foreign policy.

Then what, the adviser asked, would Trump be in charge of?

“Making America great again” was the casual reply.

IOW, Trump doesn’t really want the job (as in…responsibilities that come with the job). So what does Trump actually want? Garrison Keillor nailed it.

The fans in the arenas are wild about you, and Sean Hannity is as loyal as they come, but Rudy and Christie and Newt are reassuring in that stilted way of hospital visitors. And The New York Times treats you like the village idiot. This is painful for a Queens boy trying to win respect in Manhattan where the Times is the Supreme Liberal Jewish Anglican Arbiter of Who Has The Smarts and What Goes Where…To the Times, Queens is Cleveland. Bush league. You are Queens. The casinos were totally Queens, the gold faucets in your triplex, the bragging, the insults, but you wanted to be liked by Those People. You wanted Mike Bloomberg to invite you to dinner at his townhouse. You wanted the Times to run a three-part story about you, that you meditate and are a passionate kayaker and collect 14th-century Islamic mosaics. You wish you were that person but you didn’t have the time.

Running for president is your last bid for the respect of Manhattan. If you were to win election, they couldn’t ridicule you anymore. They could be horrified, but there is nothing ridiculous about being Leader of the Free World. You have B-52 bombers at your command. When you go places, a battalion of security guys comb the environs. You attract really really good speechwriters who give you Churchillian cadences and toss in quotes from Emerson and Aeschylus and Ecclesiastes.

That’s the Trump fantasy. But as Keillor points out – when this is all over, he’ll have nothing that he wants.

Meanwhile, Mike Pence’s fantasy is that he’ll get to run the country…just like Dick Cheney.

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Nancy LeTourneau

Follow Nancy on Twitter @Smartypants60.