Photo of Mike Pence by Gage Skidmore, amended by The Progressive
In 2004, just five days after former Ronald Reagan's death from Alzheimer's disease, then U.S. Representative Mike Pence spoke at a forum event hosted by Phyllis Schlafly, called The Future of Conservatism.
A young woman stood up during the question and answer portion and worried aloud that Reagan's legacy might become perverted "when there is no longer anyone around that lived with him and during his time" and asked Pence, "what can we do for future generations, so that they remember Ronald Reagan as such a wonderful president, like we do now?"
Schlafly, couldn't stop herself, stepped in front of Pence, and crowed, "The problem is all these tenured history professors are going to write the wrong history." Then she returned the podium to Pence, bellowing, "What are we gonna do?"
Pence nodded approvingly with a somber Clint Eastwood squint and then growled, "Continue the work. The greatest tribute we can do. Demonstrate the same courage. Stand for the same things."
Then, with index finger wagging, Pence strangely pivoted and attacked none other than Ronald Reagan's newly minted widow, Nancy Reagan, for invoking the president's name in her support of using fetal tissue in stem cell research to find cures for many diseases, including Alzheimers.
"I pray for the family. I've buried parents. I've buried people I love, but those that would erode the sanctity of human life in the law, by advancing embryonic stem cell research in the name of Ronald Reagan, would do more than desecrate his memory than I can possibly imagine. He was devoted to the sanctity of human life and we need to continue within our party and within our country to courageously advance those same ideals that he advanced. And that's the greatest tribute we can make."
There you have it. The typical Republican politician who waves the Ronald Reagan flag to pass the far rightwing religious agenda. (And, of course, like most in the Reagan cult, using a quite historically inaccurate take—while it's true that Reagan was anti-choice as president, despite, going two-for-three on appointing pro-choice judges to the U.S. Supreme Court, he did legalize abortion in California as governor, six years prior to Roe v Wade. In fact, at the time, Reagan complained that the "humanitarian" measure exempted small hospitals and didn't mandate all California hospitals to provide abortions.)
And, of course, it makes perfect sense that Mike Pence—who met Reagan for 50 seconds once—would know better where the president stood on an issue than a woman who was married to the guy for over 50 years.
Later, in the same Schlafly forum, Pence refers to himself in the third person saying that, like Reagan, "all you need to know about Mike Pence is that he's a Christian first, a conservative second and a Republican third."
That's probably why Trump chose him: To get someone reasonably competent, who would not be a distraction, and to soothe the conservative base that worries that Trump is some sort of liberal Trojan horse.
However, Pence's self-appraisal isn't quite right. This is also the guy who was one of Bush/Cheney's biggest cheerleaders for the invasion of Iraq. Someone who repeatedly fought for and voted for bad trade deals. And someone who loved DC so much that when he got elected to Congress he bought a house and moved his family out there.
He also loves the Koch brothers almost as much as they love him. Back in 2014, Politico speculated that Pence (referred to as the "Koch brand") would be the Kochs' pick for president because, after all, he embodies all the Kochs want when it comes to implementing "political vision into a strategy intended to win elections."
Translation: Win elections on wedge issues and then be the Kochs' henchman and quietly give the lower and middle class wedgies.
So maybe all you need to know about Pence is that he's a Koch brand first, a Republican second and a Christian third.
No word yet on where being an American or a human being fits into his list, but if agreeing to be Trump's VP is any indication, it's somewhere after his Netflix membership.
Jud Lounsbury is a frequent contributor to The Progressive.