Vice Squad

Will Republican vice-presidential nominee Mike Pence also flake out this Tuesday night?

I wouldn’t be surprised if the hyper-conservative Indiana Governor makes a Trump-sized fool of himself at the VP debate, which will be held at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia. Pence is perhaps the least intellectually gifted Republican ever chosen to be number two on a GOP ticket–and yes, that includes Dan Quayle and Sarah Palin.

As an example of Pence’s limited intellect, recall his disastrous effort to promote blatant falsehoods about the American Clean Energy and Security Act in 2009–and his incoherence when confronted on his lies by MSNBC’s Chris Matthews:

Speaking of incoherence, Pence can’t even seem to stick to the campaign script:

Donald Trump and his running mate appeared to be on different pages Tuesday on whether climate change is man made.

Roughly an hour after Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said the real estate mogul does not believe global warming is a man-made phenomenon, GOP vice presidential nominee Mike Pence appeared to take the opposite view.

“Well, look, there’s no question that the activities that take place in this country and in countries around the world have some impact on the environment and some impact on climate,” Pence said during an appearance with host Chris Cuomo on CNN’s “New Day.”

But during her own appearance on the program earlier Tuesday morning, Conway said Trump “believes that global warming is naturally occurring,” and confirmed the candidate does not believe it is man made.

One wonders if Democratic vice-presidential nominee Tim Kaine will embrace Hillary Clinton’s give-him-enough-rope-and-he’ll-hang-himself approach with Pence. The Indiana ignoramus will inevitably confuse and confound viewers with his efforts to defend Trump’s indefensible actions, rhetoric and positions.

From a certain perspective, Pence has lost the debate even before it has begun. On the same stage with the warm and charismatic Kaine, the stiff and awkward-mannered Pence will remind viewers of the famous line from the 1983 Styx song “Mr. Roboto”: You’re wondering who I am…Machine or mannequin…

Once Pence flatlines, viewers will wonder why Trump made this odd choice. Common sense would dictate that Trump would try to find a running mate who could come across as a personable, semi-normal figure, not a sour-tempered hack. Granted, such figures are, like common sense, in very short supply in the GOP–but it appears that Team Trump didn’t put that much effort into making their VP pick.

Hopefully, Elaine Quijano will do a much better job of moderating this debate than Lester Holt did last week, and will press Pence on facts when he inevitably starts lying. If Quijano turns in a Holt-style performance, it will represent nothing short of a betrayal of democracy; it is a moderator’s job to insist upon facts, to prevent bald-faced balderdash from going unchallenged, to demand that candidates tell the whole truth and nothing but. If Quijano allows herself to be intimidated by pro-Trump activists, she will deserve history’s scorn.

However, if Quijano does her job, then Pence will be the only one bearing the brunt of history’s hostility. He will whine loudly when Kaine presses him on his denial of the risks of smoking, his years of gay-bashing, his alliance with the Koch Brothers. He will shamelessly demonize Kaine and Hillary Clinton. He will come across as a man who is every bit as obnoxious, every bit as irritating, every bit as dishonest as the demagogue who tops the GOP ticket. In other words, he will lose.

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.