Tepid Two-step

A mild-mannered governor almost takes a stand

Later that day, George F. Will, columnist and media pundit, described the  governor’s understated behavior as “tardy, timid, late and inconsequential.”

Earlier, Indiana governor Mike Pence had been at the microphone of WIBC in Indianapolis. A lack of excitement in the governor’s statement that afternoon, unfortunately, is typical; standard fare for Hoosiers hearing pronouncements from their mild-mannered chief executive.

“Well, this is a very exciting time for Indiana…” he sighed, dispassionately.

Ostensibly, Governor Pence went on air to tell the residents of his state which presidential candidate in the Republican Party he would support. That is, almost.

“I like and respect all three of the Republican candidates in the field…” He opened by heaping praise upon Donald Trump. “I particularly want to commend Donald Trump, who has given voice to the frustration of millions of working Americans… and I’m also particularly grateful that Donald Trump has taken a strong stand for Hoosier jobs… I’m grateful
for his voice in the national debate…” He acknowledged his admiration for neighboring Ohio governor John Kasich, but was really grateful for Trump. Then Governor Pence admitted who he would vote for; matter-of-factly, as if an afterthought.

“I’ve come to my decision about who I’m supporting and I’m not against anybody, but I will be voting for Ted Cruz.”

When I viewed the video coverage from the WIBC studio, I discerned no appreciable change in expression on the governor’s face; just the same concerned look he always wears; no enthusiasm.

Pence went on, in the course of the radio interview, to praise Ted Cruz for his unwavering stands on principle and “the courage of his convictions.” The same conservative principles, Pence said, that drew him to “the party” so many years ago.

One would get the impression, however, if one listened while preoccupied, that Governor Pence was actually supporting Donald Trump for the Republican nominee. After the time spent lauding Trump versus the time he used to highlight the case for Cruz, it would be an obvious conclusion.

“I respect the views of every Hoosier… I urge every Hoosier to make up their own mind… I wanted to make my decision known.” He offered to support “our party’s nominee, whoever that might be.” When prompted, “Who can beat Hillary Clinton?” Pence responded, “I’m for anybody.”

Contrast the lukewarm behavior of Governor Pence regarding Ted Cruz and the genuine enthusiasm of Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, toward the same candidate, and the difference is stark. When Governor Walker used the word “endorse” it was emphatic, no explanation necessary. Pence, however, never intended to use it.

Indiana’s primary election on May 3, at least in the presidential sense, may very well decide the “presumptive” nominee in the Republican Party’s presidential race. And this is the level of excitement a sitting
Republican governor of that state exhibits?

Governor Pence reminds me of the old, Cold War Potemkin Village concept so favored by the masters of the once-enslaved Eastern Europeans; presentable frontage, but when you peer behind the façade there’s
little structure; sometimes none at all.

His failures to take “Alamo” positions on critical issues over the last four years (Common Core, natural marriage, the RFRA, and this session, the SO/GI debacle) exemplify his reticence toward endorsement… or a tepid non-endorsement. But then, he did say, “I’m not against anybody.”

Originally Published May 2, 2016.

 

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