Friday, July 22, 2016

Pensive Pence

On July 7th I tweeted this: My pick for GOP veep is Newt, since he’s the only one whose career won’t be ruined, since it’s already ruined. A lot of commentators were picking Newt, right up to a few days before The Donald picked Mike Pence, my governor. I have been living in Indiana for over three decades and have seen a number of governors come and go. A couple of times I have even been down in the Governor’s Mansion in Indianapolis, back when Evan Bayh was governor. Never met him, but I did speak with his wife. It was an arts in Indiana gathering.

Now Bayh is running for the open Senate seat, vacated soon by Dan Coats, who won it when Evan skedaddled for the greener pastures of lobbying. Now he wants back in. I’m all for him, given the Republican competition.

But, it was Mitch Daniels’ two terms as governor that most upset me. Mitch sold (“leased”) the Indiana Toll Road, I-80, America’s Main Street, thereby reaping monies for him to lavish on his cronies and favorite projects, however ill-advised. I wrote about all this in 2006. I drove the length of the Toll Road in early June this year and admired, a decade later, its ruins, the closed highway “Travel Plazas,” now looking like sets from Mad Max movies, the road itself so pockmarked that repairs can no longer be put off.

Daniels is a lot like Paul Ryan, elevated as a Republican intellectual regardless of all the evidence to the contrary. Currently, Daniels now heads Purdue University, hoping to privatize as much of public education as he is able, repeating there his experience as governor. Daniels led Indiana to be one of the first Right to Work states while championing school vouchers. The only luck for the population is that he won’t be returning to national politics anytime soon, given the controversies surrounding his marriage have left Mitch in a matrimonial ditch.

Now we have Mike Pence, who is Mitch Daniels with fewer brains. The litany of Pence’s many missteps as governor (the Religious Freedom Restoration Act anyone?) has been covered by the media, more or less, since he was selected as Trump’s veep. Since looks, appearances, are important to Trump, I presume he thought Pence passed muster - Trump evidently didn’t want to be paired with either Newt or Christie, two overweight court jesters. Pence has always seemed to me as if he was beamed down from the Mothership, someone who could easily be cast in Star Wars, a few strands of DNA away from android.

But Pence does fit the double-mask Janus candidacy that Trump wants to run, though, in fairness to Janus, this campaign is more a comedy/tragedy masquerade: Pick which one applies to Pence. Whichever, Pence is on the ticket to “shore up” the GOP base, all those rabid evangelicals and anti-abortion zealots. Pence is nothing but a Republican talking points machine, now augmented by lines about how great Donald Trump is and how he hears the heartbeat of the American public.

So, who is Hillary going to pick? Her choices aren’t much more appetizing than Trump’s. I had always favored Sherrod Brown, but no one wants to lose a Senate seat from Ohio, where the convention no-show GOP governor would name a replacement. Tim Kaine, though, is also a Senator, but Virginia has a Democratic governor. Kaine is a favorite of many, though, in the Trump mode, lookism being supreme, Kaine is too much of a feminized male, soft in aspect, not the sort of masculine image Hillary Clinton may need at her side. He’s definite second husband material. She’s doubtless tired of alpha-type males, but who she picks will matter. She needs younger, but experienced, though Pence has certainly lowered the veep-debate-ready bar.

And speaking of Indiana vice presidents, Dan Quayle has taken too much blame for his sorry service to George H. W. Bush. Quayle contributed to H.W.’s second term loss to Bill Clinton. Recall that Bush was having health problems toward the end of his first term, which brought on fears of Quayle being able to ascend during Bush’s second term, if he secured one.

But, I have always held that Quayle all along was a brainchild of 41. George senior wanted to prepare the way for his sons, one or the other, George or Jeb, neither of whom went off to Vietnam. He went with Quayle, knowing that someone of the Vietnam generation had to go through the crucible of public opinion about that issue, and Quayle’s time in the National Guard protecting the golf courses of Indiana would provide the precedent. And Quayle did survive the fire of that debate. But, of course, what Bush senior did not foresee was that the career he ironically protected was that of the draft-dodger Bill Clinton, though Bush had no idea he would be running against the guy when he ran in 1988.

But when George W. finally came along he did escape the Vietnam-service gauntlet, barely. He “beat” a man who actually served in Vietnam, Al Gore. I don’t think Hillary will play the veteran card for her veep pick, since the most likely veterans available would have served in a war she supported and her base abhors.

The July 19th version on the Huffington Post can be found here.

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