We’ve often discussed the mainstream media’s failure to adequately adjust the way it covers politics in response to an openly corrupt president who lies all the time and is manifestly incapable of handling even the easier parts of his job, such as pardoning turkeys or giving thanks for The Troops instead of himself on Thanksgiving.
The Trump administration is a surreal shit-show, and I’m glad it’s not my full-time job to cover it. But beyond the immediate danger Trump poses is the prospect that he will permanently lower the bar on political coverage. This column in The Post by Josh Rogin, which analyzes Pence’s performance at a summit in Asia this week, is a handy example of that danger. In it, Rogin recounts Pence’s alleged confrontation with Putin:
“So I looked at him and I said, ‘We know what happened in 2016,’ ” Pence told me in an interview. “And I said, ‘As the president has told you, we’re not having it.’ ”
Putin denied that Russia had done anything wrong, but Pence stuck to his guns.
“And I said, ‘Mr. President, I’m very aware of what you’ve said about that, but I’m telling you we’re not having it,’ ” Pence said. “I wanted to reiterate what the president has said. I thought it was important he hear that from the vice president, too.”
Ooo, Vlad is shaking in his boots for sure. But a careful columnist might have pointed out that we ARE “having it,” since his own paper covered Russian efforts to subvert the 2018 election, unmolested by the current administration.
According to Rogin, Pence wasn’t done dispensing the Blue Steel; after directing a resolute pout at Putin, he allegedly put China on notice:
Li told Pence to remember that China is a “developing nation,” meaning it should get special treatment on trade. “And we got down to the corner, and we just stopped for a minute, and I just looked at him and said, ‘Things have got to change,’ ” Pence told me.
Li was taken aback, with a look of surprise on his face. Pence then delivered the same message he had told me at the start of the trip: that the G-20 was China’s best (if not last) chance to come to the table with a real offer to end its unfair trade and industrial practices.
A little skepticism on the part of the analyst would also be warranted here. Would anyone in the Chinese delegation really be “taken aback” by Pence delivering in quiet-yet-resolute tones the same vague assertion Trump bellows daily?
Also, this is clearly Pence’s account of the encounters, and honestly, it sounds like one of those tall tales in a RedState comments section where a wingnut self-reports his confrontation with dirty hippies on a subway who dissed The Troops. But Rogin wasn’t skeptical, nor was a colleague at Bloomberg:
“Pence did what President Donald Trump rarely does: stay on message, calm nervous security partners and clearly lay out a vision for American foreign policy,” wrote Bloomberg’s Toluse Olorunnipa. “While Asian leaders listened closely to Pence, many were waiting to see if Trump would do something to contradict him.”
Everybody talking to Pence understood that he represented only what Trump’s position was that day and that Trump could change his mind the following day for any reason. There’s a level of Trump’s unpredictability that even Pence’s Spartan-like discipline can never overcome.
But don’t believe reports that world leaders were upset Trump wasn’t there. They were fine dealing with Pence, and Pence was in his element. Trump sees the boring work of diplomacy as a nuisance. Perhaps sending Pence in his place is a win-win arrangement for both of them — and the country as well.
If Rogin described a diplomatic coup in that column, I missed it. Pence, the most obsequious of toadies, delivered the message he always does, which is, “What Boss Trump said.”
Rogin seems so desperate to write a standard analysis that doesn’t include Trump’s weird dictator fetish or bizarre compulsion to belittle allies that he’s ready to laud Pence as the modern day Talleyrand. That impulse will be dangerous in the post-Trump era.
I was in a hipster coffee shop in Beijing and everyone there was talking about Mike Pence’s steely resolve.
I was just reading Rogin’s piece in the WaPo, Betty. I read it with an automatic discount that nobody takes Pence seriously. Last week, there was a video of Pence and Bolton talking to Putin, maybe at that same interaction, and Pence just stands to the side like a dunce. He’s ahead of Dolt 45 in that he can memorize talking points and repeat them reliably, but he’s got nothing of his own to contribute.
I have a bit of sympathy for the reporters, although Rogin usually does a better job than he did here. We all desperately want to get back to a place where we can interpret these interactions as being between international actors who know what they’re doing and behave at least semi-rationally. And, by and large, everyone but the Americans is in that category.
I wonder what would happen if all of the foreign delegations that Pence was supposed to meet suddenly became all female. I would pay good money to see the videos.
Spartan-like discipline. As long as Mother is nearby.
The Gravitas in that man Pence, it underwhelms….
It’s the forehead implant that makes him seem so steely.
Technically true. in the same way that Bonnie knew what Clyde was doing.
BONNIE, not BUNNY, Donald. Down boy.
Are they trying to fluff Pence’s reputation in advance of his taking over as President? Although how they expect Trump to go down without taking Pence with him is a big question.
Mai Naem mobile
Mike Pence’s daughter has a book out. She had an interview on CSPAN about it. I didn’t watch it,it was on one of those upcoming preview blurbs. She honestly looks too young to have accomplished much. Wtf is she getting paid to write a book on. Probably getting an advance from Rupert Murdoch’s publishing house.
Hey, if only I could feel assured that political reporters would phone it in like this when we have a Democratic President and VP, I would feel a little better about it. As it is, we know that VP Harris, O’Rourke, Gillibrand, Booker could slice Putin’s head off and hand it to him, and this same reporter would be meeping about “incivility” or “manifest lack of resolve” or some such.
I’m starting to feel quite stabby about our political stenographer’s pool, have you noticed? >:<
It’s the kind of faux tough guy talk from someone who has watched John Wayne movies too many times.
So it turns out Putin weighs 400 pounds and lives in his bedroom?
Is that what was freaking them out about the negotiations with Canada? Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and her mixed gender negotiation team? Or was handing out popsicles to sweltering reporters A Bridge Too Far?
@Matt McIrvin: And see, if I were Supreme Leader of the Party I would ban all hipster outbreaks like they were SARS. That’s how tough I am.
The problem the political Media have is that they – want – to cover everything like they’re reviewing an episode of The West Wing, but the channel keeps flicking between The Sopranos and The Americans. After a while even the most dedicated professional just can’t make those plot-lines harmonise without looking like a total suck-up.
Mike in NC
Here’s hoping that Putin has plenty of Kompromat on fake tough guy Mike Dense.
Nothing to offer? Then what do you call that little head shake with a slight smile Pence does when he’s steadfastly denying something Trump is about to admit to? That’s gotta be worth something!
@MattF: A Pence is only as loyal as his options.
I must disagree. That title belongs to the press.
@Corner Stone: That and $5 will get you a cup of coffee. I’m even being generous here.
Look! Lost in the clouds! It’s Holdmebackjesusman.
The Spartans weren’t ONLY unpleasant, you know.
@Doug R: I had not heard about popsicle-gate before. I wonder how some people manage to get through the day, being (nearly) too stupid to breathe.
Were the Spartans the ones in the short skirts, or am I thinking of someone else? My lack of education in the Classics is showing through at the moment.
@Jerzy Russian: “Spartan-like” discipline is such a silly phrase. The Spartans were disciplined because that’s how their whole society was structured. If you didn’t fit into the cogs of war you were useless and either cast out (if lucky) or killed. Spartan discipline was enforced by the state, not as some steely resolve on the part of the citizenry.
Yes but how did your Uber driver feel about him?
This may seem oblique but bear with me: Industry rumor was that Clive Davis had a staff meeting one day
and said, “We need a white boy to become a saxophone star. What about that kid in Jeff Lobber’s band?
(Kenneth Goerlick – who became Kenny G.) He’s got the LOOK!” <Editor: and little else…>
Mike Pence is the Kenny G. of politics. He’s got the LOOK.
This implies that there will be a post-Trump era. The worst case scenario is not that Trump will become dictator for life, but that he will be succeeded by a worse Republican who sees that lying and corruption can be a winning combination. We are also seeing more businessmen run for state and local offices and refuse to eliminate conflicts of interest or show their tax returns.
Trump is not violating norms. He is becoming the new normal.
Great post, Betty, and I sadly endorse much of your argument, but I don’t just blame the media. I don’t see very many people in any profession adequately dealing with Trump. Instead, they try to give him a presidential benefit of the doubt. I recently listened to an interview with historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. Her interview did not ask whether Trump was corrupt or a terrible president, nor did Goodwin do much to really assess Trump’s character or to entertain whether he might be a danger to the Republic.
The Bloomberg piece is nuts, but touches on key issues:
Trump’s position has been clear from the beginning. As posters here note, Trump’s foreign policy and his domestic policy is all about forcing nations to be “fair” as Trump defines it. This has been his consistent drumbeat. And because the United States is still important, world leaders cannot brush him off, despite their attempts to lecture him.
Pence is Trump’s errand boy, and the entire GOP leadership are his toadies.
Also, the writer is confusing Pence looking constipated with his being steely and disciplined. But some reporters love anything that they can assert is an “adult in the room.”
@Tony Jay: Trump was asked yesterday what he was thankful for. His own accomplishments, he said.
I suspect when trump is informed of the Rogin piece he will begin finding ways to belittle Pence and make sure Pence cannot have a center stage in the future. Even Pence’s manly glare in the photo will set trump off. Maybe it’s a good thing the press wants to make the VP look good.
Probably. Isn’t going to do much for the court stenographers, though. Pence is just as guilty as the rest of the traitors. He headed the transition team. He knows everything. Why was Manafort so determined to get Pence on the ticket as VP?
Don’t worry, Betty, that credulousness won’t linger.
Reporters are instantly cured of it, as soon as Democrats have any power.
“In today’s news, Speaker Pelosi alleged that the sky is blue. Our reporters grilled her about this false claim.”
Lauding a narrow, self-defined sense of superiority over the helots?
I can’t imagine Trump would let anyone even think this. Trump has hinted more than once he wants more than two terms.
If only we could get Time to put Pence on the cover with a crown on his head and a title like, “King in Waiting”.
This is me. How they think that Dolt45 will go down without taking errrbody with him?
Adam L Silverman
@Yutsano: And that discipline included forced bisexuality.
Reminder that Pence is such a toady he can’t even make his own decisions about what to do with his water bottle.
Shouldn’t this be reported more, that Pence is an empty suit? Especially since he is VP and heir presumptive should Trump be re-elected in 2020.
The idiocy of the UK government (and the opposition) with respect to BREXIT seriously undermines the idea of international actors who know what they are doing. We can also throw in the weak objections to Putin apparently having people murdered on British soil without serious repercussions. And the continuing rise of right wing populists in Europe suggests that it will be some time before we return to the world of rational actors, if indeed we ever lived in such happy times.
Sounds like a crossed-out Dee Snider lyric.
Adam L Silverman
Fixed it for you!
Steve in the ATL
@delk: well played
“He headed the transition team. He knows everything.”
But understands nothing.
@BroD: Won’t matter.
Good morning BJ or should I say Good almost afternoon.
Hope everyone had a better Thanksgiving than I did.
Life can be truly short. Don’t keep pushing off seeing that one loved one you been meaning to see for awhile…because they could be gone in an instant.
To my Auntie C. I love you and I’m sorry I didn’t reach out as much as I should have.
@lamh36: Oh no. So sorry to hear that. Sounds like a tough Thanksgiving for your family.
@Yarrow: We also have to remember we don’t know what Manafort has told Mueller. It’s entirely possible he’s laid out every single piece that has happened with both the campaign and the transition. We already know he was involved even after he was dismissed. Why was he still lurking about if he had been fired from his (supposed*) unpaid job?
*It’s clear as dirt Paulie doesn’t do anything without the bread. So he was making some kind of kickback somewhere.
Oh my goodness I am so sorry sweetie! So much love and healing light to you and your family.
??? Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) ??
Do you think the recent midterms in the United States show that we’re less susceptible to right-wing populism, or that we’re beginning to come out of this slide? Is there anything we can do, assuming Dems win the trifecta, to stop this global trend?
@Yutsano: I often think of the iceberg meme that has “what we know” above the water and the much, much larger “What Mueller knows” below the water. Pence is toast even if he doesn’t yet know it.
Oh man, if I only had a dollar for everything that should be reported more! It’s really hard to prioritize, with all Trump’s antics.
@Ajabu: Now you made me go google Kenny G. I mean, I remember who he is, I was just wondering if he’s still around. He is! The Miracles and Holiday Hits Tour coming to a town near you, possibly, if you live near Northfield, Ohio.
Sure looks like it to me.
There is very little reporting on Pence’s involvement in the whole Russia thing, as well as the fact he is keeping a very low profile, which may inoculate him in the court of public opinion from Trump.
Lord knows the media is dying to normalize someone in this Administration as being a non-corrupt idiot. They tried with Trump and realized it was a losing battle.
So they will double down on protecting and propping up Pence, just in case.
I know how you feel. My aunt, my mother’s sister, passed away very recently after a short, sudden illness.
Wishing you and your family peace.
@Adam L Silverman: erk?
I am sorry. And thank you for the suggestion that we love our loved ones when and while we can.
@lamh36: so sorry, lamh. Hugs to you.
So sorry to read this. I know how regrets suck.
OT–In case anyone was wondering, my neighbor’s cats seemed back to normal this morning (I’m cat sitting). They ate part of the wet food and then wandered off disinterestedly as usual. I think they’re fine.
@debbie: Egrets? B Crack has shot a few recently.
@Adam L Silverman: Adam, did you see this?
@??? Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) ??:
No. The battle continues. Democrats took the house, but some key state governorships and senate races went to Republicans. The country is still split.
Also, I read that millions more Democrats voted in the midterms, but because of gerrymandering, there are many safe Republican districts. And the GOP will work hard to maintain this advantage.
Also read a story that 75 percent of white women voted for the Republican candidate for governor in Georgia over Ms Abrams. This is just sad.
I don’t assume that the Democrats will take back the government in 2020. And it is impossible to predict the future. I thought that Angela Merkel was secure in Germany, but she has been wobbled by the rising right wing in her country, and will not stand for re-election.
@??? Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) ??: I think it’s going to take a global economic recession with right-wing populists clearly in control. So far we really haven’t had that–that was what ultimately brought down Bush’s form of conservatism in the US, but the recession went on and got pinned on Obama. In Europe the right-wing demagogues portrayed themselves as the alternative to centrist austerian governments. But they haven’t had an economic collapse that can be blamed on them yet.
@Mai Naem mobile: I think that’s the children’s book about the Pence family bunny. Somebody at Comedy Central wrote a parody of it where the bunny is gay. The CC version outsold the Pence version.
I can’t wait to hear Trump explain this one away.
Press release from Greater Wingnuttia: “Boycott Aetna!!!”
??? Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) ??
Mostly because of gerrymandering/voter suppression and I believe if the R’s were facing 2020’s Senate map in 2018, they would have lost control of that as well.
I agree it’s impossible to predict the future with any degree of precision. I was just wondering what actions we could take to mitigate or suppress these far-right movements and what their reactions would be to our interference.
West of the Rockies
Well said. Cyber hug coming your way.
There was an overwhelming sense of incompetence and after no WMD’s and then especially after Katrina, no one had any faith that the Bush admin knew how to do anything about the looming financial crisis.
@trollhattan: Mass influx of RWNJs burning their insurance cards and posting the videos to YouTube.
Oh, my dear lamh, I’m so very sorry for your sudden loss. Hugs and all sympathies to you and her family.
But please, please don’t beat yourself up about what you think you should or shouldn’t have done. I guarantee your Auntie C. loved you unreservedly.
Wishing your aunt a peaceful rest, and you the comfort of good memories.
Every time I refresh the page I get to see trc.taboola.com in a life and death struggle with AdBlock. Taboola is ultimately defeated but only after losing a few regiments of annoyingly unstoppable ad videos.
??? Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) ??
It’s kind of sad that is what it will probably take.
Just remember, Pence is the only person in this administration whom Trump cannot fire. Sure, Trump can decline to put him on the 2020 ticket but he is VP until January 2021 (barring impeachment) whether Trump likes it or not.
Excellent point. Also an important part of any sternly worded letter.
@Gretchen: John Oliver wrote the parody bunny book. Credit where credit is due.
It’s funny – Pence looks like the typical “straight from central casting” GOP leader – their dream leader, really – in that he’s got the generic white guy hair (pure white, to boot!), the generic squint, the loving wife and evangelical background, AND the empty, generic lines about telling bad guys how it’s gonna be. And yet Trump will still probably dump his ass for Joni Ernst this time next year.
@lamh36: My condolences. Peace and comfort to you and your family. Losing a loved one around the holidays can forever taint the celebrations.
CNN just informed me that Jerome Corsi says he is in plea negotiations with Mueller’s team.
I loathe Corsi, but if his testimony can get us closer to taking down the big guys, I’m happy to have him bargain and negotiate all he wants.
I’m kind of hoping that Corsi’s plea negotiation involves something for which Mueller can’t keep him out of jail.
@lamh36: My condolences on your loss. A loss is bad at any time; certainly moreso around the holidays. Do what you can to take care of yourself, and feel free to vent here as needed.
@Amir Khalid: Agreed. Though I’d also be fine with the press describing him as a felon or “noted criminal Jerome Corsi that collaborated with another nation to attack our elections” whenever he tries to start shit. Or just shorthand that to “traitor who ratted out on his buddies to escape prison”.
@lamh36: Oh, I’m so sorry to that news.
J R in WV
It’s always morning somewhere!
So sorry for your loss, lamh, I’m glad you have lots of family to be with and hold each other close. Those little ones will love being hugged, even as they don’t really know why. Go hug everyone, and know we’re all the jackals hugging you too.
@gene108: This has been the Pence approach from the very beginning. Remember when the tape dropped during the campaign? Pence magically disappeared so we could not ask him what he thought about the morality of his running mate.
@lamh36: Oh, so sorry. Holding you in the light.
@Eljai: There used to be a band in the Bay Area called “The Dead Kenny G’s.”
lamh36: Sorry for your loss, and you’re so right, it’s important to let people know when you love them.
When I read this, I was thinking about the actual internal reactions of the people Pence confronted. Mostly, I figure, they were wondering if Pence would believe the serious expressions they were assuming.
1. Race Bannon is up to his eyeballs in the Russia mess.
2. He headed the transition.
3. He was Manafort’s choice for VP
4. Eerrrrything Flynn has him involved.
5. He is stupid enough to lie to the FBI.
No wonder Trump is pissed with Pence. Vlad complained.
I wonder if Trump’s contemplating firing Pence.
@debbie: Isn’t he kind of stuck with Pence? As in, “can’t fire”? I mean, sure he could pick another running mate for 2020, but I am hoping against hope that that will be a moot point by then…
I wonder if anyone has had to try to explain to him yet that he can’t just fire Pence? And if so, how many times?
Since when has “can’t fire” stopped Trump? //
Ella in New Mexico
It’s official: He’s running.
This explains all the news stories where Trump is wondering if Squeaky Clean Mike is “loyal”: news flash, Donald. He’s loyal to you until it’s no longer necessary, which is coming up in the rear-view at about 100mph.
Pence knows. He knows all the dirty secrets of the campaign, the transition, the early weeks of the Administration. He knows what Trump has done and continues to do everyday. He knows how incompetent he is, how mentally unbalanced he is, how distracted he is. He also knows exactly how to soothe his childlike ego to keep himself safe.
He’s pretty sure the Mueller thing is going to bring him down–heck, for all we know he’s going to secretly help him so as to avoid his own charges–and he’s getting ready to step right into those Big Man’s shoes should the opportunity present itself. So are his dark monied Republican financiers.
Mistake is he thinks he’s EVER going to get elected to that or any office, ever again.
Mother might help Pence get the nomination, if she’s the Mother Of Sighs, the Mother Of Tears, or the Mother Of Darkness.
If she can’t dance, that eliminates one of the above possibilities.
@Ella in New Mexico: Pence wasn’t going to get reelected to Governor of Indiana. If they didn’t want him for another go around why should the entire country?