Vice President Mike Pence is the rare servant who pays his master.
This week he visited Ireland, where he stayed at one of President Trump's properties, the Trump International Golf Links and Hotel in Doonbeg. It is roughly 125 miles from Dublin, where Pence had meetings. This arrangement, which required a commute on Air Force Two from one side of the country to the other, made no sense logistically or financially. But it was Trump's "suggestion" and therefore "logical." Pence supposedly will pick up the tab for his family's expenditures, and American taxpayers will pay for the rest.
We are paying the vice president to pay the president to humiliate him.
And Pence seems fine with it. He is fully committed to showing that he is fully committed to Trump. He does what he's told and says what his boss wants to hear, which in most cases is the opposite of the truth. After last year's Helsinki summit, in which Trump sided with Russia's dictator over U.S. intelligence agencies, Pence declared, "The world saw once again that President Donald Trump stands without apology as leader of the free world ... What the world saw and what the American people saw is that President Donald Trump will always put the prosperity and security of America first."
The world saw precisely the opposite. It was as if Pence were trying to get "Orwellian" trending on social media. From 1984: "The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command."
Pence tells other people to do the same. To the 2017 graduating class of the U.S. Naval Academy, Pence said, "Follow the chain of command without exception. Submit yourselves, as the saying goes, to the authorities that have been placed above you."
Pence practices what he preaches. His hobbies include "forgiving people," "extending grace," and genuflecting to a man who does neither. If you ask Pence for advice, he will tell you to "spend more time on your knees than on the Internet."
Speaking of which, after several San Francisco 49ers kneeled during the national anthem at an Indianapolis Colts game in 2017, Pence, rather than kneeling, walked out of the stadium. Then he got on the Internet and tweeted: "I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem."
Pence's departure was not spontaneous. Nor was it his decision. He left because the president told him to. "I asked @VP Pence to leave stadium if any players kneeled, disrespecting our country," Trump tweeted an hour later. "I am proud of him."
Not only was the whole thing planned in advance, but it wasn't cheap, either. According to documents from the Department of Homeland Security, it cost taxpayers $325,000. Pence calls himself a fiscal conservative.
If you enter the Trump administration with dignity, you're unlikely to leave with it. Pence is no exception. At a December 2017 Cabinet meeting, Pence praised Trump once every 12 seconds for three minutes straight. At a Cabinet meeting four months earlier, he said, "The greatest privilege of my life is to serve as vice president to the president who's keeping his word to the American people." Being his wife's husband and his children's father are a close second and third, presumably.
What is the point of Mike Pence? As vice president, he serves no purpose other than to inflate Trump's ego and bank account.
Trump toadyism gets you temporary power, and perhaps a Fox News gig, but at the cost of everlasting ignominy. Trump's lackeys know this and fear its repercussions. Rudy Giuliani is worried that his tombstone will say, "He lied for Trump." This would make a suitable epitaph for everyone in Trump's orbit.
Pence's political future is bleak. Unless Trump resigns, dies, or is impeached in the next year, he is never going to be president. Trump selected him in 2016 to shore up support among religious conservatives. Mission accomplished. Three years into his presidency, evangelicals are smitten with the twice-divorced serial adulterer who occupies the Oval Office.
No one is smitten with Pence. Liberals deplore his anti-gay agenda. Anti-Trump conservatives abhor his obsequiousness and hypocrisy. Trump supporters view him as a holdover from the pre-Trump era, a token of the GOP establishment, and also a very boring guy. Pence has described himself as "Rush Limbaugh on decaf." Nothing could be more accurate or less inspiring.
There are rumors that Trump will replace Pence on the ticket in 2020. This would be an ideal scenario for Pence: an act of manumission, indeed, of grace. It would allow Pence to retire from politics, return to Indiana, and spend the rest of his life not selling wedding cakes to same-sex couples.