This would be like Joe Biden criticizing a Republican for using straw men in his speeches. How hard it is it to refrain from throwing stones when your house is obviously glassier than the other guy’s?
Here’s Hugh Hewitt asking Pence about Obama referring to Trump as a “demagogue” on Wednesday night. Pence’s distaste for name-calling in politics isn’t new: He wrote about it in 1993, describing it as the hallmark of a political “crank.” Twenty-three years later, he’s Trump’s right-hand man.
HH: So you dismiss the demagogue?
MP: But I’ve found him to be, well, you know, I don’t think name calling has any place in public life, and I thought that was unfortunate that the president of the United States would use a term like that, let alone laced into a sentence like that. But I just don’t see it. I see, I think what I have found in Donald Trump is this is a man of enormous accomplishment, obviously someone who has achieved great things in his life. But he’s really got a heart for the American people, and I think it comes from the fact that he’s a builder. You know, like me, he’s the grandson of an immigrant. He’s the son of a self-made man. And he built on his father’s success far and beyond anything that his family could imagine. And yet he’s done that shoulder to shoulder with the people that lay the bricks, and that, you know, that cut the 2 X 4’s and build those structures up. And to see him among the people, not just on the campaign trail, that’s exciting to be out and to see the enthusiasm that Americans of every stripe and every background have for this good man, but to see him as I have among the people who work with him and work for him, to see their respect for his high standard, but their fondness for him, convinces me this good man is going to be a great president of the United States.
That’s as good an answer as you can give on Trump’s behalf. Hypocrite or not, the guy’s a pro. Although I’m struck by him referring to Trump more than once as “this good man,” something he’s done repeatedly since joining the ticket a few weeks ago. With any other nominee that would be pure boilerplate but one of the things that makes Trump’s success fascinating is that “goodness” seems besides the point. If anything, it’s his lack of concern with “goodness” that inspires his fans’ confidence in him: Trump’s not going to let any politically correct ideas about what’s “good” and what’s “evil” impede him from doing what’s right for America. Analyses involving Nietzsche are doomed to seem overwrought but there really is something to the idea that Trump succeeds because he cares more about strength and victory than he does about right and wrong. That’s not an entirely bad trait in a political leader — within limits — but it makes “goodness” as germane to his candidacy as, say, Obama’s political experience was to his circa 2008. If you thought O’s fans cared about that, you were missing the entire point of the phenomenon; if anything, it was his lack of experience that convinced them he’d be effective. Same with Trump and “goodness.” I wonder if Pence senses all of that and is trying to make the hard sell here to evangelicals or if, through sheer force of repetition, he’s trying to persuade himself.
By the way, Pence isn’t the only Republican throwing stones at Trump’s enemies from the porch of his glass house in the last 24 hours. If you can believe it, the RNC issued this press release last night when Doug Elmets, a #NeverTrump Republican, spoke in favor of Hillary at the Democratic convention:
Doug Elmet Claims He’s A Republican For Clinton, But He Has Given A Number Of Campaign Contributions To Democrats Over The Last 12 Years
Donating to Democrats is the hallmark of a phony Republican, is it?
RNC hitting a Republican for giving $2200 to Democrats. SMH. pic.twitter.com/ABwgJpaCI5
— Rory Cooper (@rorycooper) July 29, 2016
Elmets gave a grand total of $2,200 to various Democratic candidates over the years. The Republican nominee, who used to be a Democrat and is now backed to the hilt by the RNC, gave more than that to Sen. Hillary Clinton alone. Given how exposed Trump is on this score, why would the RNC attack Elmets this way? Is it self-sabotage by RNC staffers, knowing the backlash they’d get for chiding other Republicans about their heretical donations? Or is it collective brain damage?