Two more defectors joined the ranks of anti-Trump Republicans who warn America against the continued misguided governance of Donald John Trump. One of the departures is Vice President Mike Pence’s former adviser on the COVID-19 task force, Olivia Troye. The other is Josh Venable, chief of staff to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
Predictably, both of these life-long Republicans were swiftly knocked down by the establishment they had served—not really central, they said, side-line players, they said, and, then came the kicker, predictably, from Mike Pence: “disgruntled.” But Pence, the chief apologist for the president, could not have had it more wrong.
No, when these two dissenters cast their lot with Joe Biden, and joined a new anti-Trump group, The Republican Political Alliance for Integrity and Reform, they were “gruntled” for the first time in a long time. (You can look it up: “gruntled,” Oxford Languages defines it, is “pleased, satisfied, and contented.”)
Troye, in particular, had reached the decision to break with the White House after nightly soul searching when she came home from work. She did so with fear, knowing that she was sabotaging her short-term career at least, if not putting herself in danger. But conscience won out.
“I put my heart and soul into this role every single day,” she said in an online statement. “But at some points I would come home at night, I would look myself in the mirror and say, are you really making a difference? Because no matter how hard you work or what you do, the president is going to do something detrimental to keeping Americans safe.”
When did Mike Pence take a courageous stance based on conscience and principle? Long-time colleagues and friends say he has enough functioning mental capacity to know that in Donald Trump he is serving a, what, bad dude, nutjob, fraud? A telling passage in Bob Woodward’s book, Rage, describes an interaction between Pence and Marsha Coats, the wife of Dan Coats, a fellow long-time Indiana Republican who was at the time the conscience-torn director of national intelligence. At a White House party, she approached Pence.
“I just looked at him, like, how are you stomaching this?” Marsha Coats said, according to Woodward. “I just looked at him like, this is horrible. I mean, we made eye contact. I think he understood. And he just whispered in my ear, ‘Stay the course.’ ”
Stay the Course, Mike! Your hallmark. When you first ran for Congress, you employed dirty tricks against your Democratic opponent, using fake ads and fake Arabs in TV ads to smear him. In Congress, you supported Big Tobacco by saying that cigarettes don’t cause cancer. As governor of Indiana, you fiddled for months while bipartisan warnings sounded out over a deadly HIV epidemic in your state; you disregarded the pleas for clemency for a black man who your own people said was innocent of any crime; you avoided helping a mini-Flint, Michigan groundwater poisoning, because what—it was in a minority, Democratic part of the state?
And now, three years into office, you spout every lie and garbage-ridden conspiracy theory babbled by the president in hopes he will not notice that you like the rest of us know he is incompetent. “Stay the Course,” Mike, in hopes you will be president one day, with desolation and deceit on the road behind you.
People, don’t give Michael Richard Pence a pass because he isn’t Donald Trump. Miserable as Trump is, Pence is worse in one way. He can see exactly what we can see: just as in the Hans Christian Andersen version told long ago, a person who knew the Trumps of this world: “He hasn’t got anything on.”
Neither do you, Mike Pence.