Really, Mr. Pence?

USAToday, following the venerable New England Journal of Medicine and a number of other entities and groups, has broken its long history of neutrality in elections to endorse Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. The lengthy endorsement document explains why in compelling detail. https://bit.ly/3jhaszG I will not repeat its key elements here – I urge you to read it and share it with anyone who is still “undecided” in this race to save the nation.

USAToday gave the White House a heads-up on its plan to endorse Biden-Harris and an opportunity for an Opposing View. Mike Pence was the chosen vehicle. I will address some of the Vice President’s remarks.

The remarkable central premise of Pence’s argument is that Trump has kept the promises he made when campaigning, framed as a “movement to restore the promise of America” by undermining the “permanent Washington political class and their allies in the mainstream media.” In his standard googley-eyed adulation of Trump, Pence proclaims Trump has delivered “record-breaking results for all Americans,” unlike all the failed presidents from both parties over many decades, a truly super-human achievement despite “unprecedented attacks.”

Naturally, the details start with tax cuts because that’s what Republican mythology relies upon as its core premise: pay less and get more. How does this magic work? Simple, it’s always simple: roll back “burdensome federal regulations.” You know, the ones that protect the national parks from commercial exploitation. And the ones that protect the streams and rivers from rampant pollution from “unleashed” energy sector players. And the shibboleth of “free and fair trade” that Trump tried to achieve by imposing tariffs that raised the cost of goods to Americans while reducing demand for their products. Trump covered this catastrophic error by diverting other monies to subsidize farmers adversely affected, but, of course, not enough to fully compensate them. So while Trump may argue he “fought” for free and fair trade,” his efforts were a disaster for many American economic sectors.

Pence then turns to the “first three years,” during which Trump benefited from the on-going massive recovery engineered by Barack Obama following the disastrous collapse of the economy during the Bush presidency. But Pence pretends Obama didn’t exist because, of course, mentioning Obama in any positive light would send Trump into an emotional meltdown. Pence quickly pivots to the victimization trope – the global pandemic undermined Trump’s “America-First” plan but, no worries, “America is on track to bounce back bigger and better than ever before.” You know, like magic, the same magic that Trump expressly relied upon in telling America that the virus would, one fine day, just disappear.

Always careful never to engage in thinking independently of his idol, Pence repeats Trump’s favorite excuses and flaunts his remedy: suspending travel from China. THIS IS A LIE. Trump suspended a portion of travel from China, but many thousands of Americans were allowed to return unimpeded from China during the so-called China travel ban. More importantly, the virus was already in Europe and, most likely based on the latest scientific data, also already in the United States. Trump knew the virus was here in February, but, as documented in Bob Woodward’s book, Rage, and supported by tape recordings, TRUMP DECIDED TO DELIBERATELY DOWNPLAY THE VIRUS. That decision, to which  Trump adhered through many agonizing “press briefings” in which he muzzled and embarrassed the nation’s medical experts, led to the deaths and major organ damage of way over 215,000 Americans. And the virus is now spreading rampantly in states that have followed Trump’s ignorant lead.

Pence claims credit for the stimulus payments that Congress, with grudging Republican support, passed. Trump always claims credit but “No, I take no responsibility at all” when it comes to his failed pandemic policy.

Pence, never one to be embarrassed by the preposterous proclamations of his master, asserts that, despite the contrary advice of most credible health experts, “our country is on track to have a safe and effective vaccination by year’s end.” This is MORE MAGICAL THINKING. Indeed, based on reliable polling, it’s clear that Trump has successfully undermined public confidence in the nation’s health policy institutions like the CDC and FDA.

Pence then turns to the oft-repeated, but never proved, claim that the American military was “depleted” before Trump was elected and that “America’s standing as the leader of the free world was threatened.”   Pence says American “dominance” was restored by Trump, but the REALITY is that AMERICA’S INTERNATIONAL STANDING HAS BEEN UNDERMINED AROUND THE GLOBE BY TRUMP’S HAM-HANDED, UNINFORMED AND ARROGANT MISHANDLING OF DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS WITH U.S. ALLIES. Trump’s sucking up to dictators and authoritarians in Russia, the Philippines, Turkey, China and North Korea has met with enthusiastic acceptance from the Republican Party that was once considered a bastion of resistance to authoritarian ambitions against American interests.

Admiral William McRaven, who led the mission that killed Osama bin Laden, recently had this to say about Trump’s impact on US standing around the world:

Now, the world no longer looks up to America. They have been witness to our dismissiveness, our lack of respect and our transactional approach to global issues. They have seen us tear up our treaties, leave our allies on the battlefield and cozy up to despots and dictators. They have seen our incompetence in handling the pandemic and the wildfires. They have seen us struggle with social injustice. They no longer think we can lead, because they have seen an ineptness and a disdain for civility that is beyond anything in their memory. But, without American leadership the world will indeed be transformed, just not in the way we hope. https://on.msnbc.com/3dNODGT

Pence sees no inconsistency in claims that Trump funded up a broken-down military force with the denigration of America’s responsibilities in NATO and other international organizations with peace-keeping responsibilities, but Admiral McRaven see it clearly. And he is just one of hundreds of military and diplomatic veterans of American service who have condemned Trump’s brazen and haphazard destruction of American influence abroad.

Pence loves to repeat sound bites that Trump favors, like the claim that President Obama inappropriately sent money to Iran, when in fact the money was Iranian property. The end result of Trump’s undermining of the Iran Nuclear Agreement is that Iran is now free to resume, and likely is, developing the very nuclear capability that the INA was designed to prevent. Trump is making America less safe, not more, but is too ignorant to understand WHAT HE HAS DONE.

PENCE FLAT OUT LIES ABOUT JOE BIDEN’S POSITION ON FUNDING POLICE. And he fails to address the use of military against civilian protesters, not to mention emboldening white supremacy Nazi groups and so-called “militias” to take the law into their own hands. For a party that supposedly stands for “law and order,” the Trump administration violates more laws and undermines more order than any federal leadership in modern history.

Pence is right about one thing: “2020 has been a time of unprecedented challenges.” Some were unexpected and others are self-inflicted by an incompetent, corrupt and ignorant leader who has terrorized his adopted political party so much that no one will stand up to him for fear he will tweet about them. Think about that for a minute. Tweet aversion is the new Republican cowardice.

For all his preening about religious sanctity, Pence has chosen to align himself with a monster. Early in Woodward’s book, Rage, he reports Trump’s calling his generals “p*ssies” because they were more interested in international alliances than in Trump’s trade deals. Dozens of people who have worked closely with Trump, not to mention family members who have managed to escape his control, have characterized him as unhinged, stupid, moronic and worse. Trump’s principal skill seems to be inventing offensive nicknames for his many adversaries, the behavior of a schoolyard bully rather than a president.

I well understand that the Trump base is unlikely to change their subjection to his venomous personality. The rest of the electorate, however, surely must recognize Trump for the shallow empty shell that he is and that he represents a genuine threat to the very existence of the democratic republic we call the United States.

The good people vastly outnumber those who are hypnotized by Trump. If you know any of those good people, and I know you do, be sure they vote. In addition to his other crimes, Trump is dead set on preventing Democratic votes from being cast or counted. The margin of victory must be huge so that his phony claims of voter fraud have no semblance of plausibility. Not only has Trump refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses, but he has demanded that the Justice Department open investigations of Joe Biden and his family prior to the election. Trump and his Republican enablers have turned the United States into a banana republic. It’s up to us to save it.

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