“This is serious, buddy”. How many times have we heard such an admonishment from a pitch man or woman making a point, adding emphasis to their words to try and draw someone’s undivided attention?
Admittedly it’s sometimes difficult to separate fact from farce these days, with politicians from both sides (primarily the left end of the spectrum) twisting and distorting the truth into contorted pretzels relaying a message. Was there a more perfect example than Senate Majority Leader Chucky Schumer’s rant on the upper chamber’s floor last week begging the world to believe that Fox Host Tucker Carlson’s very limited exposure of a few minutes of yet unseen January 6 surveillance video constituted the bringing down of “democracy”?
I don’t recall if Carlson uttered the words “This is serious”, but Chucky practically vapor-locked while conveying the gravity of Carlson’s supposed professional decorum breach. All that was missing was a follow-up gripe session from former Speaker Nancy Pelosi reliving her terror during the melee, as well as the outrage she felt in seeing her untidied office after the mostly peaceful mob had exited the building.
So, seriousness is in short supply at the upper echelons of American political power. Senile president Joe Biden supplements his oft-nonsensical ramblings by saying, “No joke” or “It’s a fact” or “Giving you my word as a Biden” -- as though this added verbiage convinces doubters to right themselves on the road to believability.
Likewise, mention vice president cackling Kamala Harris and any notion of “serious” flies out the window. There should be a drinking game for each Harris public appearance, where everyone pounds a shot every time Kamala giggles or guffaws at an inappropriate time. If so, afterwards you’d better provide a generous host of Uber drivers to escort inebriated partygoers home.
Then there are those pols who are serious by nature, including former vice president Mike Pence, whose calming demeanor worked in stark contrast to his much more mercurial boss, former president Donald Trump. It’s no secret Pence is contemplating a run for president this cycle, his presence in the field promising to make the upcoming GOP primary debate stages that much more… tense?
If Pence’s confrontation with Trump actually comes to pass, many will focus on the way the two men (and others) behave towards each other. Pence’s “seriousness” could be as asset. Or would it be? In a piece titled, “Can Trump’s ‘Straight Man’ Lighten Up?”, Adam Wren wrote at Politico Magazine:
“[E]ven those who are friendly with [Pence] wish he would flash more of his humor in public. ‘If Mike Pence would just be himself, and not script everything so much, instead of 7 percent in the polls, he’d be at 20 percent right now,’ says longtime friend Mike Murphy, a former Republican member of the Indiana House of Representatives.
“After years of playing the straight man in the Trump show, friends, allies and advisers want him to find a way back to ‘His Mikeness.’ They say it could help him win over jaundiced political insiders skeptical of his 2024 chances, jaded journalists and Republican primary voters.
“’He is so risk averse right now,’ Atterholt told me. ‘I hope he tears off the Band-Aid with this speech on Saturday. I certainly talk to him about letting his hair down and showing some leg.’”
Of course, Pence’s appearance at the Gridiron Club Dinner last Saturday night engendered some coverage… not really that much. CNN led with a headline “Pence says ‘history will hold Donald Trump accountable’ for January 6”, trying to squeeze every ounce of anti-Trump animosity out of a speech that seemed more appropriate as a pander to the establishment media than it did as laying the groundwork for a “serious” campaign courting conservatives.
From the quotes provided, Pence hit hard on the subject of January 6, clearly intending to play up the “seriousness” of what occurred that afternoon while also posturing as a potential Republican candidate who sides with law enforcement over those who act up under such circumstances. Back then, the establishment media portrayed Pence as a coward who was ushered away from the location by the Secret Service out of fear for his life.
Subsequent revelations from the day indicated not a single person in the mob was arrested for carrying a firearm within the building itself (and to my knowledge, only one was in violation outside the building), which makes the events and happenings little more than a disorganized crowd of temporarily trespassing Trump supporters exercising their rights of speech and assembly rather than an “insurrection” bent on overturning the government. The tumultuous scene on the west side of the capitol was much different than inside the rotunda, for example, where video showed people obeying the directives of police and taking selfies.
If stopping the Electoral Vote count was the intention of the “rioters”, they never got close to accomplishing it. So much for the “insurrection” Chucky Schumer was bellyaching over.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure that Pence plans to use January 6 to distinguish himself from Trump. This could merely be a campaign strategy, or it could be Pence seeks establishment support for his candidacy. If Mike is to lead a credible campaign, you wouldn’t expect him to gush about what a great guy Donald Trump was back then, would you?
But the establishment media loves fighting among Republicans, and here they’re attempting to use Pence as a battering ram to try and break down Trump. Good luck with that one, guys!
On the other hand, would Pence benefit from a personality makeover in his campaign? Wren’s article was full of anecdotal stories from Pence’s lighthearted past, suggesting that the former Trump #2 was anything but a glum, dour “straight man” to Trump’s always temperamental hard-charging nature. In the piece, Wren included a number of cartoons from a strip Pence drew during his law school days. Yes, indeed, Pence did have (and still does have) a sense of humor.
Yet for those Republican voters yearning for a temperamental change of pace from the eternally ready-to-boil Trump, it’d be hard advising Pence to begin tossing out wisecracks now. Should Pence show more of his funny side, it would run in the face of what most Americans have come to expect from the former Indiana governor, devoted husband, father and family man in the previous administration. Pence may have a witty side, but it doesn’t appear as though he’s ever been a stand-up comedian, either.
Of all the potential Trump competitors in the 2024 GOP primary race, Pence has perhaps the biggest challenge to establish dissimilarities with the overall poll leader. Pence was always there with Trump on the big topics – including originally being tasked with overseeing the government’s COVID response, what a disaster – which means the corporate media would be more than happy to tie Mike to anything they claim went wrong in the Trump presidency.
Or the media conceivably could go easy on Pence in the beginning, but only in scenarios where the former vice president is useful to them – namely, to discredit Trump. If, by chance, Pence gains a real foothold in the polls, the knives will come out, just as they did for Trump himself and every Republican who’s ever run for president.
Do you recall how the media loved “Maverick” John McCain for allegedly departing from the party bluebloods and standing alone on issues ranging from immigration to tax cuts? Then, once McCain won the 2008 GOP nomination, to them, he morphed into an eternally grumpy kook who had an affair with a lobbyist (blatantly false, but what does that matter to the talkers?) and whose Vietnam prisoner experience left him volatile and crazy?
One can only imagine the stories the media will drum up for Pence. Seeing as he consistently champions his pro-life and pro-traditional marriage views, how long will it be before they’ll find some woman out there who thinks Pence was coming on to her behind his wife’s back? Or how he said something forty-odd years ago that throws into question his stance on abortion?
And, if the media doesn’t find enough damaging sleaze, they’ll make it up. See Moore, Judge Roy, circa 2017.
Personally, I believe Mike Pence can be “serious” and still serve as an offset to the more spirited members of the 2024 field. Most of Donald Trump’s detractors cite his outrageous personality as the reason they can’t and won’t support him. Why not portray Pence as the one who was “calm” and “serious” and “reasonable” through all of the tough times?
Pence does have a number of excellent ideas to base a campaign on (though I’m not wild about his Ukraine stance). Talking about freedom isn’t exactly laugh inducing, but it isn’t dull, either. The former vice president would do himself a favor by becoming a little less “serious” in his public persona, but with more exposure, people will like him. What else could a candidate ask for?
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