Partners in Presidency: The Mike Pence Story

By Liam Hamilton

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore (Cropped from original)

MIKE PENCE was unveiled by Donald Trump as his running mate ahead of the US presidential election on 16th of July.

The billionaire businessman surprised the press and onlookers by choosing the relatively unknown Indiana Governor as his prospective vice-president.

Also vetted for the position were US Senator Bob Corker, of Tennessee, and Newt Gingrich, a former speaker of the US House of Representatives, who had been seen as favourites.

Trump was planning to formally announce Pence to the public at a press conference on the 15th of July on the Friday morning but rescheduled after the terror attack in Nice.

The pair formally announced their partnership the following day and gave their first joint interview to CBS show 60 Minutes. The interview was something of an internet hit after Trump stole the limelight from Pence by dominating the conversation and repeatedly interrupting his campaign colleague.

After demonstrating opposing views on the Iraq war and the integrity of Hillary Clinton and John McCain, Trump said: “It’s obvious to people that our styles are different. But I promise you, our vision is exactly the same.”

WHO IS MIKE PENCE?

PENCE was born in Columbus, Indiana, and had a Catholic Democrat upbringing. He graduated from Indiana University’s Robert H McKinney School of Law in 1986 and stated his intent to be involved in politics soon after, with unsuccessful runs for a congressional seat in1988 and 1990.

Four years later Pence pursued a career in radio presenting, hosting his own programme called The Mike Pence Show, which was broadcast on 18 stations across the state of Indiana.

Pence continued his career in radio until his election to the US House of Representatives in Indiana’s 2nd Congressional District in 2000.

He would remain in the House of Representatives until his bid to become Indiana’s 50th Governor in 2012.

He was appointed to the post in 2013, and describes himself as a “Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order”, and as a “born-again, evangelical Catholic”.

His religion, unlike his conservative views, seems ambiguous. It is an interesting mix influenced by different Christian groups, which Pence claims refuses to publicly discuss in detail.

HOW DOES HIS VIEWS MATCH UP WITH TRUMP’S?

PENCE’S track record is not as outlandish as that of the presumptive Republican presidential nominee but he has made his fair share of statements that might come back to haunt him.

He once said that smoking doesn’t kill and that climate change is a myth. He also holds right-wing views on abortion and homosexuality.

Earlier this year Pence had a bill blocked by a federal judge that proposed Indiana should not allow abortions based solely on a foetus’s disability or genetic anomaly. Judge Tanya Walton Pratt said the bill was “inconsistent with the notion of a right rooted in privacy concerns and a liberty right to make independent decisions”.

In 2000 he opposed the right of LGBT people to serve in the military, saying: “Homosexuality is incompatible with military service because the presence of homosexuals in the ranks weakens unit cohesion.”

He also called for “an audit to ensure that federal dollars were no longer being given to organisations that celebrate and encourage the types of behaviours that facilitate the spreading of the HIV virus” and instead urged that this money go towards the funding of sexual orientation conversion programmes.

Pence, however, disagreed with the blanket ban on Muslims that Trump has promised to implement if he is voted into office – something Trump his now reversed on.

In December last year Pence said: “calls to ban Muslims from entering the US are offensive and unconstitutional” yet attempted, and failed, to fight the decision to rehome Syrian refugees in Indiana in March of this year.”

In 2012, in a closed-door meeting of the House Republican Conference, he compared the Supreme Court upholding the Affordable Care Act (also know as Obamacare) to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He apologised and said: “My remarks at the Republican Conference following the Supreme Court decision were thoughtless. I certainly did not intend to minimize any tragedy our nation has faced and I apologise.”

WHAT DO THE US VOTERS THINK?

WHILE well-known in his local state, Pence is an unknown entity with the wider US electorate, which makes it even more surprising that Trump chose him over someone like Corker who has a better national reputation.

A CBS News/New York Times poll found 86 per cent of those surveyed did not know enough about him to formulate an opinion. Only seven per cent have a positive view of him, while 85 per cent had no opinion.

TELL ME MORE

PENCE originally endorsed Trump’s rival Ted Cruz for the Indiana primary election, but Trump said it was the “the weakest endorsement anyone has seen in a long time” and claimed it was more of an endorsement for himself than Cruz.

The appointment of Pence as Trump’s running mate is bound to be tactical. It may be to attract evangelical Christians to vote for Trump, or to gain access to Pence’s ties with powerful Republican donors, or both.

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