John touched on this story when it first broke as part of the now imploded Colin Kaepernick standing for the Anthem news, but since that time it’s blown up in typical beltway fashion. We’re talking, of course, about Vice President Mike Pence’s trip to see the Colts play the 49ers yesterday and his decision to leave the stadium after several of the San Francisco players once again knelt during the pre-game ceremony.

This immediately had the Left up in arms, decrying the move as a “stunt” and, demonstrating a shocking new interest in fiscal responsibility, complaining about all of the tax dollars wasted on the trip. The New York Times Maggie Haberman leads the charge this morning.

While politicians from both parties concoct situations for political gain, some criticized Mr. Pence’s walkout as transparently premeditated. The vice president did not take a pool reporter traveling with him into the stadium; a member of Mr. Pence’s staff told the reporter, Vaughn Hillyard, that the vice president might be leaving the game early.

“Manipulation of faux patriotism took new turn today with VP Pence. Preplanned early exit from Colts game after 49ers kneeled, then tweets,” Norman Ornstein, a resident scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, wrote on Twitter.

Others pointed out the expense involved: Mr. Pence flew to Indianapolis from Las Vegas, where he had attended a memorial service for victims of last Sunday’s mass shooting, and was immediately flying back to Los Angeles.

That’s certainly a damning charge (assuming there’s nothing else going on in the news cycle from over the weekend). So how much credence should we give this particular spin? Offering the benefit of the doubt to the critics, both Pence and the President obviously knew this was a possibility, if not a probability, and likely discussed it ahead of time. And given Trump’s outspoken position on the National Anthem kneeling question it was probably a natural response that they wouldn’t want Pence hanging around after such a display, so… sure. While it clearly couldn’t have been an inflexible “planned event” it had to at least have been an anticipated possibility, if not opportunity in Trump’s mind.

But, as I said, it couldn’t have been set in stone. There was always the hope, however slim, that the NFL might have begun coming to their senses. Or, if not, once word got out that the Vice President would be in attendance, players from a more dignified era might have decided to temporarily set the issue aside and stand in solidarity. Unlikely, to be sure, but possible.

And what if that had happened? If none of the 49ers had taken a knee, do you really think Pence would have gotten up and walked out anyway? Obviously not.

Some of the other accusations against the turn of events are ringing rather hollow this morning as well. In terms of all that “expense” and scheduling an Air Force Two trip “just for a political stunt” talk, there are number of things to keep in mind. First of all, this trip was on the Veep’s schedule for weeks. He had been planning since at least early September to attend the Colts game and see Manning’s number retired at half time. The Associated Press regularly updates his schedule and earlier this weekend they posted it yet again.

Vice President Pence plans California fundraising visit

Pence was set to visit Los Angeles on Sunday for an evening reception. He was planning to raise money and talk about tax reform during a three-day trip in the state.

Pence was in Las Vegas on Saturday. He spoke at an afternoon prayer service honoring the 58 victims killed last Sunday in the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

The vice president was scheduled to fly to Indianapolis to attend Sunday’s Colts football game before jetting to Los Angeles for a private 6:30 p.m. reception.

You know, given that the trip to the Colts game has been public knowledge for quite some time, I can’t find any record of any of these outraged commentators complaining of the cost until last night. If you thought that the price for an Air Force Two trip, the Secret Service coverage and all the rest was too much, why not speak up before now?

Also, the Colts in particular and football in general aren’t some newfound interest of the Veep. Let’s keep in mind that before becoming the Vice President, Pence was the Governor of Indiana. Yes… the home of the Colts. He attended several of their games last year even as the campaign was grinding on. Further, though it didn’t attract a lot of attention at the time, Pence attended the Super Bowl this year, bringing a number of wounded warriors as his guests. What can we say? The guy likes football. Obviously the retirement of Manning’s number would be an event he’d want to catch if possible.

So was it a “stunt” when you take all of this into consideration? Sure… if you like. But it was also a statement of the White House’s position on a topic currently roiling the national debate. There was an opportunity there and he took it. And the money spent for the trip was already baked into the fiscal cake weeks in advance with nobody making a peep about it. If the 49ers hadn’t knelt and Pence had stayed for the halftime ceremony as planned we’d likely never have heard a word about it.