I write this column as the Republican National Convention that will coronate Donald Trump as its nominee for President, gets underway in Cleveland, Ohio. Tonight’s theme is “Keep America Safe.” To present this theme, he has on the program his wife and former NYC Mayor Rudolph Guiliani.
The Donald had just named his VP pick: Indiana Governor Mike Pence, cheering disgruntled Tea Party right-wingers who distrusted Trump’s bonafides as a rabid regressive.
The problem many GOPers have with Trump (and what led to an opening gavel protest) isn’t his racism, misogyny, his adoration for despicable despots like Putin, Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong Un, or even his deceit, his cheating of veterans, small businessowners, investors and failures as a businessman (Trump’s supposed advantage) – it is that Trump isn’t dependably anti-civil rights and anti-human rights – that is, not sufficiently and dependably a Christian conservative, that he can’t be counted on to strip women of their reproductive freedom, or to deny LGBT their rights and dignity. What is more, he has had the audacity to break with the Corporatists who own the Republican party in challenging trade agreements and the TPP.
But in picking Indiana Governor Mike Pence (over the bullying criminal Chris Christie or Newt Gingrich), they have a calmer, more politically astute, more solidly and dependably anti-woman, anti-immigrant, anti-gay autocrat who has already proved his bonafides by shutting down the government in order to extort the repeal of Obamacare.
According to Pence, Trump’s main attribute is that he has tapped into the frustration of Americans “like no other since Reagan.” Add to that “fear” and “anger” and you have the complete package. But while Trump has been able to corral the so-called “angry [white] voter by casting himself as the anti-establishment, outside-Washington guy (all non-National electeds do that), a businessman, not a politician, he tapped in Pence the poster boy for why voters feel so angry and frustrated, alienated and cynical over the dysfunction of government. When 66% of Americans say the country is on the “wrong track” for a sizeable proportion of the “wrong trackers,” it’s not because of what Obama has done, but what Republicans have obstructed.
Pence, who spent six terms in Congress and was a central figure in the Tea Party, supported the government shut down, holding the entire nation hostage to Tea Party extortion to repeal Obamacare. The Tea Party would rather destroy the US economy, see people lose their jobs, homes, retirement, rather than support a woman’s right to choose or every Americans’ right to life-saving health care. He is part and parcel of the ruling elite responsible for stagnant wages, massive college debt, who voted for the Iraq War that contributed to the rise of ISIS (the list goes on and on).
Pence may be more reserved, more dignified, dare I say, more presidential in his demeanor that his boss, The Don, but his policies and rabid ideology are more venal.
The difference is that while Trump sounds like a bumbling, stumbling fool when he attempts to express any idea beyond bombastic sloganeering – and there are people who dismiss his most radical ideas saying “he doesn’t really mean it”, Pence not only speaks in controlled complete sentences, is effective at using political dodges, but has a record.
He is particularly abominable on Women’s Reproductive Rights. In his 12 years in the House of Representatives, Pence cosponsored legislation that would make abortion illegal nationwide in almost all cases and ban some of the most common forms of contraception; in 2006. He led the fight to defund Planned Parenthood, even bringing the federal government to the brink of a shutdown. He voted for the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, a law to give separate legal status to an embryo or a fetus and voted to impose a new, impossibly complex national patchwork of parental-notification mandates on doctors and young women. In 2011, he co-sponsored a bill that allowed hospitals to refuse to perform an abortion on a woman who needed one to live and co-sponsored a federal personhood amendment, the “Life At Conception” Act.
He shut down the only HIV testing center in Scott County, Indiana — in the name of preventing HIV/AIDS. That county later experienced what the press called “an exploding HIV outbreak.”
Last year, Pence proudly signed the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” essentially making it legal for businesses in Indiana to discriminate against LGBTQ individuals and families.
He supports voucherizing Medicare, raising the eligibility age and privatizing Social Security.
He thinks climate change is a hoax. “Global warming is a myth. The global warming treaty is a disaster. There, I said it.”
An advocate for gun rights, Pence voted to loosen restrictions on guns purchased across state lines; voted to keep victims from holding firearm manufacturers financially responsible for crimes committed at gunpoint; allowed guns to be brought onto school property; and at the NRA’s 2016 Leadership Forum, championed looser conceal carry regulations.
He’s been a consistent opponent of comprehensive immigration reform; in 2010, he opposed a pathway to citizenship; in 2009, he supported revoking birthright citizenship for children of immigrants; and in 2006, advanced an immigration proposal to deport millions of immigrant families.
All of these policies have been codified in the most regressive GOP platform ever proposed.
Supports Trump’s Call to Expand Torture
In Congress, Pence derived those who opposed torture by saying that it was a “somewhat absurd thought that you could move people who have masterminded the death of 3,000 Americans by Oprah Winfrey methods.”
In his first interview after being named Trump’s VP, he told Leslie Stahl on “60 Minutes,” (www.cbsnews.com/news/60-minutes-trump-pence-republican-ticket ), he doubled down to make it clear he agreed with Trump’s policy to expand the use of torture, saying, “What I’m OK with– what I’m OK with is protecting the American people. …what I can tell you is enhanced information gleaned information that saved American lives and, I was informed, prevented incoming terrorist attacks on this country from being successful. The American people expect the president of the United States to be prepared to support action to protect the people of this nation, and I know Donald Trump will.”
But getting back to the theme of the RNC’s first night, making America Safe (again), restoring law and order – there is nothing that Trump or Pence have proposed that would actually accomplish that, or that either one have a clue – beyond the force of Trump’s strongman personality.
We got a taste of that during Lesley Stahl’s interview with Trump/Pence on “60 Minutes” (www.cbsnews.com/news/60-minutes-trump-pence-republican-ticket/):
Pointing to the Nice terror attack, the Dallas and Baton Route police shootings – the world “spinning apart” (in Trump’s words), Stahl asks, “Are you ready for this world that we are facing today?”
Trump replies, “We’re both ready. I’ve no doubt. We need toughness. We need strength. Obama’s weak, Hillary’s weak. And part of it is that, a big part of it. We need law and order. We need strong borders.”
But when pressed about what that would actually mean – does he propose sending more American troops into the fight? How would “strength” have prevented the Nice terror attack, or the failed coup in Turkey?
“Well, as a president, I’m going to be– you know, they’ve been an ally and I stay with our allies. They have been an ally. But that was a quick coup. I was actually surprised to see how well it was handled. And you know who really handled it? The people. So, I mean, we can say what we want, but the people handled it. When they surrounded the army tanks and without the people, you would’ve never had it. The military would’ve taken over.” (No comment about how Turkey President Erdogan is using the coup to cement anti-democratic, autocratic control or how he is pushing to make Turkey an Islamic, not a secular, state.)
To which Pence chimes in, “But I truly do believe that the larger issue here is declining American power in the world. I truly do believe that history teaches that weakness arouses evil and whether it be the horrific attack in France, the inspired attacks here in the United States, the instability in Turkey that led to a coup. I think that is all a result of a foreign policy of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama that has led from behind and that has sent an inexact, unclear message about American resolve. One of the reasons why I said yes in a heartbeat to run with this man, is because he embodies American strength, and I know that he will provide that kind of broad-shouldered American strength on the global stage as well.”
Since “Keeping America Safe” is the essence, really, of the Trump hate-filled campaign, it is really curious how the evening’s speakers did not cast an iota of detail how Trump/Pence would actually accomplish that, short of throwing around wounding sound bites. Indeed, most of the night was devoted to accusing Hillary Clinton of various crimes (Benghazi), but all the accusations were based on outright lies. And even Melania Trump’s speech was plagiarized from Michelle Obama’s 2008 speech to the Democratic National Convention (the part she intended about Donald’s values and trustworthiness), rather than reveal anything real about her husband’s qualities to be president, or shed any light on the need for comprehensive immigration reform.
–Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features
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