Who is Gov. Mike Pence? (Behind the Rhetoric)

After the debate last Tuesday and leading into Trump’s second debate, I was inspired by Pence’s performance, somebody who I’ve always been critical of on policy, because of his calm and poetic way with words; he also came across as a genuinely nice and fair guy. I wanted to do a quick piece, not as a profile but rather some of the more striking, both good and bad, policies and positions he has taken over the years.

As a graduate of McKinney School of Law, Pence considered and referred to himself as “a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order.” He was a member of the Tea Party Caucus, and Governor of Indiana from 2013, known for his strict position on Tax, as well as his support of the coal industry. There is no doubt that Pence is an old fashioned guy, maybe in some of his positions this bleeds through but as Governor of Indiana, he managed to maintain its triple A credit rating (although unemployment rates only fell about the same as the national average ). He is an avid supporter of school choice, voucher programs and Charter schools.

As you may have seen in the debate, Pence is a smooth talker, an ex radio talk show host whose rallies, in my opinion, liken to that of Ronald Reagan, and whatever you think of his policies, he could certainly teach Trump a thing or two about rhetoric. Some of his best lines include, “it seems like there’s no aspect of our lives too small for this present administration to supervise, no provision of the constitution too large for them to ignore,” and similar to Reagan’s A Time for Choosing in 1964, Pence talks of how “strength does not give comfort to the adversaries of the United States of America, weakness does,” (Ohio rally, 2016). In many ways he gives the poetry to Trump’s policy, and you can see more of these lines in the tribute video I created, a link for which can be found at the bottom of the page.

Pence however is no stranger to controversy, and in some cases I believe it’s justified, but others maybe not so much. Many of this stems from his religious views, as a Catholic, and most famously drew fire after signing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or the RFRA. Dominico Montenaro at NPR wrote an interesting piece on this that I would suggest you check out, but to sum it up, the act was about protecting the religious freedoms of certain institutions but fell under attack by people suggesting that it would not protect the rights of the LGBT from suffering from discrimination. Pence stated that if he “saw a restaurant owner refuse to serve a gay couple, [he] wouldn’t eat there anymore,” and revised the law in 2015 to help amend this criticism, however he does stand firm that, as an example, if a service decides that they do not want to do business for a same-sex marriage they should not be forced to. Personally, I happen to agree with this, only because the consequence of “picking and choosing” as far as this is concerned should, and will, be the loss of custom. If they are a private company they reserve that right, even if it’s damaging to their own business. A good example is in Walkerton, where protesters boycotted Memories Pizza, giving it low reviews, although in this case it had enough support that the business did not suffer too badly from its decision. In this vein, I’m partial to ensuring the protection of religious views under law for private companies, as Pence protested again regarding Obama’s Mathew Shepard Hate Crime Act. I don’t personally see any of this as an example of Pence being anti-gay, however there’s a rumour around that Pence was an advocate of conversion therapy, some even go as far to say shock therapy, and that worse, he funds it. Well this all came from a message on his campaign website when he was running for congress in 2000 which stated that;

“Congress should support the reauthorization of the Ryan White Care Act [a 1990 funding HIV/Aids treatment for patients unable to do so on their own] only after completion of an audit to ensure that federal dollars were no longer being given to organizations that celebrate and encourage the types of behaviors that facilitate the spreading of the HIV virus. Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.”

Many have interpreted this to mean “conversion therapy”, and maybe they’re right but the issue does seem to have been blown out of proportion.

Pence is pro-tobacco, and arguably on the wrong position when it comes to safe sex, only by claiming that condoms are “poor protection” against STIs (which, at least according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is not seen to be the case). Although it should be noted this was in reference to a speech by Colin Powell and he wasn’t suggesting any form of abolition for contraceptives as some media have portrayed this as. Ironically, Pence wanted to run his own news network called “JustIn” but people considered it a “ludicrous idea,” condemning “the notion of elected officials presenting material that will inevitably have a pro-administration point of view… antithetical to the idea of an independent press.” Well, thank God the media kept their integrity.

On abortion, Pence drew fire once again for advocating the H.B. 1337, that banned abortions if the reasons were based on race, gender, or disability. In other words, he was against what could be argued as the original motive of Planned Parenthood under Margaret Sanger (who believed that “coloured people are like human weeds and are to be exterminated”); the “eugenics” motive. The law would also require that all foetus remains be buried or cremated.

Mike Pence seemed an odd pick at first by Trump for VP, mostly because of their difference in views, something which I think not only shows Trump’s desire for contrary opinions but also helps to reassure anyone strongly against some of Pence’s views that Trump is not picking him for compatibility. I think these issues should be raised if Trump loses this election and Pence decides to run for president as a republican in the future (which may happen as well if Trump wins). He should not be regarded as a “Trump” candidate, consider that a warning or a reassurance. First, Mike Pence supports free trade agreements, an advocate of both NAFTA and the TPP, both of which Donald Trump vehemently opposes. Pence stated in December 2015 that “calls to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. are offensive and unconstitutional,” although (and he’s wrong about it being unconstitutional), this may be explained away by the politics of the election cycle, given he was a supporter of Cruz before he was of Trump. Recently, however, after the media’s somewhat stretched attack on a private conversation Trump had in 2005, Pence cancelled his event and stated that he did not “condone [Trump’s] remarks and cannot defend them”, although is still standing strong as VP.

Pence is a long time advocate and supporter of Israel, despite opposition to his own policies from American-Jewish communities. According to the Jewish Press, “The man [Trump] chose as his vice presidential pick, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, is a strong pro-Israel politician,” who, “signed a bill this year divesting Indians from local businesses that participate in the anti-Israel Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement.” Pence has also stated that “if the world knows nothing else, it will know this: America stands with Israel.” This combined with Trump’s very pro-Israel stance could lead to the most pro-Jewish administration perhaps in all of America’s history.

I think the future looks bright for Pence, whatever I disagree with him on, and I think it’s an uphill battle if he ever wants LGBT support, but I do think it’s important that people are aware that he is not just another Trumpist, and if he does eventually run for office himself, to look into his views separate from this campaign. As Tom Rose said, as published in The Jerusalem Post, Pence “certainly stands on the verge of becoming one of the most important and consequential vice presidents in recent memory,” and remember too that Reagan was a governor, whose famous Time for Choosing speech was an endorsement of the then Republican candidate.

(Image by Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America (Mike Pence) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons)