Former Vice President Mike Pence is walking a sort of unprecedented fine line — saying a bunch of stuff that’s just subtly enough at odds with Trump that he makes headlines, but not so harsh in breaking with Trump that he Cheneys himself.
At least two of his remarks today provided an excellent example of this.
There’s been plenty of reporting and speculation that Pence — who is not quite estranged but not exactly close with the former president — may have presidential ambitions of his own. And the location of his latest remarks, New Hampshire, does a bit to signal the direction he may be leaning.
During his appearance at the Eggs and Politics event in the Granite State, Pence made two remarks that were unsurprising in their statesmanship flavor — Pence has long been cast as a traditional conservative holding the line as his former boss drags the Republican Party further and further to the right — but just slightly out of step with Trump’s rhetoric. Both fueled speculation that he might be trying to create some separation between himself and Trump.
First, Pence offered that he would “consider” testifying before the House Jan. 6 Select Committee if he were asked to; a remark that on its own would likely unleash hellfire from Trump, if it weren’t followed up with an articulate caveat.
“If there was an invitation to participate, I would consider it,” he said. “I’d have to reflect on the unique role I was serving in as Vice President. It would be unprecedented in history for a VP to be summoned to testify on Capitol Hill.”
Trump likes it when people paint themselves as the victim of some sort of “unprecedented” action.
Later this afternoon, Pence made headlines once again when he called on his fellow Republicans to stop attacking the FBI in the wake of the Mar-a-Lago raid. This obviously contrasts with the rhetoric of nearly every GOPer who has been in Trump’s corner since the FBI search, with some not only calling the agency a politically weaponized arm of federal law enforcement, but with others also calling for the FBI to be defunded. In many ways, Pence’s remarks seemed to be a rather strong place for the former Veep to plant his flag and distance himself from Trump and those who have reacted to the raid with fury and calls for civil war.
But that’s only if you ignore half of his quote. Pence was specifically urging his Republican colleagues to leave the men and women out in the line of duty alone. But feel free to go after those in leadership at the Justice Department.
“I also want to remind my fellow Republicans, we can hold the attorney general accountable for the decision he made without attacking the rank-and-file law enforcement personnel at the FBI,” he said, a remark that was met with applause. “The Republican Party is the party of law and order. Our party stands with the men and women who stand on the thin blue line at the federal and state and local level, and these attacks on the FBI must stop. Calls to defund the FBI are just as wrong as calls to defund the police.”
Rep. Liz Cheney’s (R-WY) sweeping primary defeat last night illustrated just how quickly the political winds will shift if you’re a traditional conservative like Pence who dares to cross Trump. It’s a tightrope Pence will have to continue to walk strategically and subtly if he hopes to remain politically relevant.
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