By Janet Williams
You’ve got to be wondering what’s going through Mike Pence’s head these days.
BT — that’s Before Trump — Pence had a reputation as a decent, honest guy, at least as far as politicians go. Maybe you didn’t like his positions on abortion or LGBT issues, but you knew at his core he meant it when he said he was a Christian first.
Janet Williams, editor, TheStatehouseFile.com
BT, Pence was a marginally competent politician, but most people didn’t question his integrity. (Well, there was that time he used his campaign money to pay his personal expenses in violation of election law, but he later repented.)
That was all BT.
After a nearly year in Trump’s megalomaniacal circle, his integrity is peeling away bit by bit like the faux gold on a $10 wedding band.
Remember that it was Pence who assured Christian voters that Trump wasn’t such a bad guy after the Access Hollywood tapes last summer. The world heard what Trump really thought about women in the lewdest possible terms in a conversation with then-host Billy Bush.
OK, Pence did say he was offended by the remarks, but then he added, “I am grateful that he has expressed remorse and apologized to the American people. We pray for his family and look forward to the opportunity he has to show what is in his heart when he goes before the nation tomorrow night.”
Trump’s “apology” consisted of saying it was locker-room talk and that he was sorry if anyone was offended.
Earlier this year, Pence passed on inaccurate information that Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security advisor, had no contact with the Russians before the election. Soon after that confident assurance of Flynn’s integrity, the former general was forced to resign because of — surprise — contact with Russians before the election.
All right, Pence didn’t lie. He was lied to. Maybe we shouldn’t question his integrity over that incident.
But that was before last week when Trump abruptly fired FBI Director James Comey. I know what you’re going to say. Nobody liked him anyhow so what’s the big deal. Democrats hate him for sinking Hillary Clinton’s campaign and Republicans hate him for not charging her over keeping emails on a private server. So everybody should be happy, right?
Not exactly, but whether you’re happy with the firing or think it’s part of a bigger conspiracy, there’s no question that Indiana’s former boy scout governor got stuck in the middle.
The original story was that Comey got canned on a recommendation from the Justice Department over his handling of the Clinton email investigation last year. Maybe he did. I don’t know. But that was the official White House line and Pence went out and delivered that message like the loyal soldier he is.
Here’s what he said: “Let me be very clear that the president’s decision to accept the recommendation of the deputy attorney general and the attorney general to remove Director Comey as the head of the FBI was based solely and exclusively on his commitment to the best interests of the American people and to ensuring that the FBI has the trust and confidence of the people this nation.”
When questioned, Pence was adamant that the firing was not about the Russia investigation and said, “The president made the right decision at the right time.”
Then Trump sat down with NBC News anchor Lester Holt. In that rambling interview, Trump said that he was going to fire Comey regardless of what the Justice Department recommended.
And here is the rest of what Trump said: “And in fact when I decided to just do it I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won.’”
So, it was about Russia after all and Pence, as he stood by his man, delivered another phony story.
How many times until the other person’s lie you’re telling becomes your own? Loyalty doesn’t absolve anyone of the lies or wrongful acts. We all know plenty of examples from history to know the “I was just following orders” line doesn’t wash.
So, Mr. Pence, what is the price of a soul? Is it power or at least the proximity to power?
In your case — and with apologies to Lord Acton — we are witnessing how proximity to power corrupts. Absolutely.
Janet Williams is editor of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.