Thirteen months ago, not at the end of the news day on a dreary Friday in February 2022.
Former Vice President Mike Pence’s belated declaration, made in front of the Federalist Society on Friday, that “President Trump is wrong.” Despite the fact that “I had no right to overturn the election,” some have hailed him as a hero.
“Bravo, Mike Pence,” George Conway immediately tweeted. Conway is the husband of Kellyanne Conway, who is about to make a fortune from a book about her years fluffing Trump. Mr. Conway was a key figure in the petty and partisan effort to impeach President Bill Clinton for, well, you know what. But he became a Never Trumper, and I admire him for it, but I’m concerned that Never Trumpers are becoming Maybe Pencers… and that would be a mistake. It was Pence’s “finest hour,” according to the Wall Street Journal editorial page.
“Look, I understand how disappointed many people were with the last election. Pence joked on Friday, “I was on the ballot.”
“But, whatever happens in the future, I know we did our job that day.”
A few hours earlier, the Republican National Committee voted not only to censure Representatives Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger (both of whom voted to impeach Trump following the January 6 insurgency and joined the House Select Committee to investigate the scandal), but also to label the insurgency “legitimate political discourse.”
That’s why Pence’s 13-month-late weak-sauce rebuke to Trump was both brave and pitiful. Nonetheless, it drew praise from pundits, Never Trumpers, and even some supposed Democrats—but most importantly, it fueled speculation about whether Republicans are finally, belatedly, or just-in-time pulling away from Trump and going… home. Perhaps Pence is at home?
The anti-choice movement Nobody’s idea of a solid home should be a slinky-spined theocrat, let alone someone who hopes to occupy the Oval Office. Whether or not he did something good on Friday, he is terrible. According to records compiled by the House January 6 Select Committee and many journalists, Pence was aware of nearly everything Trump was planning—and said nothing about the treason he witnessed at the time. And even less after that, when he was in direct danger.
True, Trump recently raised the stakes in a speech to supporters. Trump claimed that a bipartisan group of members of Congress is attempting to clean up the messed-up 1887 Electoral Count Act in order to essentially prove he won in 2020. “What they are saying is that Mike Pence did have the authority to change the outcome, and they now want to take that authority away from him.” Regrettably, he did not use that power. He had the power to overturn the election!” The Electoral Count Act says nothing of the sort, despite its clumsy wording.
Trump quickly issued a rebuke to Pence. “I was correct, and everyone is aware of it.” If there was fraud or large-scale irregularities, it would have been appropriate to return the votes to the legislatures to be investigated,” the delusional former president said.
These writers and news organizations are not inventing these stories. There is always evidence that some Republicans, like desperate hostages, are attempting to flee their sadistic captor. Just this weekend, GOP financier Eric Levin chastised RNC Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel, accusing her of undermining GOP House-taking efforts.
But then there are senators like Iowa’s Chuck Grassley. God bless him—at 87, you’d think he’d have the freedom not to run, or to run in any way he wants. Grassley, on the other hand, is clinging to Trump: “I may have been born at night, but I wasn’t born last night,” he said during a recent Iowa appearance with Trump. “So I wouldn’t be very smart if I didn’t accept the endorsement of someone who has the support of 91 percent of Republican voters in Iowa.”
Pence is acting and traveling around the country like a presidential candidate. In the unlikely event that Trump does not run, it is clear that he will not support Pence. Pence’s moves are worth watching because of institutional players like the Federalist Society and the WSJ editorial board. In 2024, someone will lead the Republican ticket. As Pence himself said Friday, “Kamala Harris will have no right to overturn the election when we beat them in 2024.” That was his biggest applause line, but he neglected to clarify who he meant by “we.”