How do you deal with someone attacking you as a religious bigot? “I think Pete’s quarrel is with the First Amendment,” Vice President Mike Pence tells CNN’s Dana Bash after she asked about Pete Buttigieg’s recent attacks on him. “I’m a Bible-believing Christian,” Pence says, expressing bewilderment at why the mayor of South Bend seems intent on attacking his faith.
So it’s sauce for the gander, then:
In an exclusive interview, Vice President Pence tells @DanaBashCNN that South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg's "quarrel is with the First Amendment. All of us in this country have the right to our religious beliefs. I'm a Bible-believing Christian." https://t.co/Po0M9nxq7N pic.twitter.com/8plApMNiHN
— CNN (@CNN) April 12, 2019
Pence and Buttigieg “worked very closely together when I was (Indiana’s) governor, and I considered him a friend,” Pence told CNN’s Dana Bash in an exclusive interview. “And he knows I don’t have a problem with him.”
When Bash asked Pence whether he agreed with Buttigieg’s assertion that God made him gay, Pence replied, “all of us have our own religious convictions. Pete has his convictions, I have mine.”
“I hope that Pete will offer more to the American people than attacks on my Christian faith or attacks on the President as he seeks the highest office in the land,” Pence said, later adding, “he’d do well to reflect on the importance of respecting the freedom of religion of every American.” …
When pressed on his stance on Buttigieg’s comments, Pence said, “I think Pete’s quarrel is with the First Amendment. All of us in this country have the right to our religious beliefs. I’m a Bible-believing Christian.”
Contrived? Well, sure, but so is Buttigieg’s strategy of attacking Pence’s religious beliefs. What’s more, everyone knows it’s contrived. Buttigieg only began scolding Pence when he needed to raise his profile for the presidential primaries, and he knew that attacking Pence over his own sexual orientation would be catnip to the media. And it’s working, at least for the moment.
Pence alludes to that contrivance less directly than his wife did this week, but Pence still makes it clear that he thinks Buttigieg is being deceitful. “He knows I don’t have a problem with him,” Pence gently rebukes, but then also calls Buttigieg out for his singular focus on Pence’s religion. Pence’s is that all you’ve got is a shot across the bow for a one-note, dark-horse candidate. The feud with Pence might be media crack for Buttigieg, but the high is not going to last long, especially when Joe Biden jumps into the race and sucks the attention away from Buttigieg’s crusade.
On other issues, Pence tells Bash that the Trump administration will not bring back family separation policies at the border, where the interview took place. He also tried walking back Donald Trump’s previous expressed admiration for Wikileaks in the wake of Julian Assange’s arrest in London, saying that it was just Trump’s appreciation for more “information. But,” Pence pivots, “that was in no way an endorsement of an organization that we now understand was involved in disseminating classified information by the United States of America.” Well, actually it was at the time, but Pence isn’t the only person pivoting over the last couple of days.