“The president has been clear on this tragedy,” Mike Pence said at a presser in Chile earlier today, “and so have I.” But with which version of Donald Trump’s comments does the Vice President stand? Pence employs the time-honored political maneuver of answering the question a politician wants to answer, rather than specifically what he was asked:
“What happened in Charlottesville was a tragedy, and the president has been clear on this tragedy and so have I,” Pence told reporters on Wednesday. “I spoke at length about this heartbreaking situation on Sunday night in Colombia, and I stand with the president and I stand by those words.”
Pence was responding to a reporter’s question about Trump’s remarks on Charlottesville, where white nationalists held a rally and were met by counterprotesters. The reporter also asked Pence about Trump’s claim that there were “fine people” on both sides.
Pence added that his family is praying for Heather Heyer, the 32-year-old woman who was killed in Charlottesville, and for the country.
Note that Pence manages to evade the very specific questions asked by the reporter — whether Pence thinks that some “fine people” took part in a neo-Nazi march, for one thing. Defenders of the president have suggested that this demonstration was organized to protest the removal of Confederate statues for historical reasons. The flyer for the event is, well, somewhat problematic for that narrative:
Anyone who goes to a rally that was advertised like this is not a good person. pic.twitter.com/JekUTnUeIm
— Doug Mataconis (@dmataconis) August 16, 2017
Even if it’s true that some “fine people” initially turned out for the event, when the Nazi flags and the “Blood and Soil” chants began, the “fine people” who just expected a protest about statues should have exited immediately, as Ronna Romney McDaniel said earlier today. With flyers like this being published, though, it’s easy to see why some “fine people” would have shown up as counter-protesters to oppose neo-Nazis and their racist and anti-Semitic agenda. That includes Heather Heyer, who got killed in the melee and whom Pence does a good job of honoring in this statement. That’s why the moral-equivalency and “all sides” arguments don’t apply here.
Pence’s implicit approach here is to take all of Trump’s statements as a whole. Add them up, and you still have the explicit denunciations of white supremacists, along with a lot of “all sides” twaddle that Pence clearly doesn’t believe or want to defend. Pence stands with the totality of Trump’s statements. Just don’t ask him about the timing. Or much of anything else specifically.
Pence has cut his Latin America trip short, as Allahpundit noted earlier. CBS reports that Pence has been recalled to deal with foreign policy elsewhere:
Vice President Pence will return to the United States early from his visit to South America, according to Pence’s communications director Jarrod Agen.
Pence will cut his trip short by one night in order to meet with President Trump and the National Security Team at Camp David on Friday. The group plans “to discuss the South Asia strategy,” according to White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
Pence was originally set to leave Panama Friday morning, but instead will leave at 8 p.m. Thursday evening, arriving back in the United States in the early morning.
He’s not returning immediately, only trimming a few hours off the itinerary, so it’s not due to any emergency. Pence could take the extra time to work with Trump on media management and communication strategies, but who’s kidding whom? It’s going to fall on deaf ears anyway.