Vice President Mike Pence was in Germany over the weekend, speaking at the Munich Security Conference, one of the Western world's leading gatherings for international affairs. The Indiana Republican began his remarks by telling attendees that he was there on behalf of a "champion of freedom and of a strong national defense."
Pence quickly added, "I bring greetings from the 45th president of the United States of America, President Donald Trump."
He then paused for applause. In fact, the prepared text explicitly included an "applause" note. But the American vice president's comments were met with a lengthy and awkward silence.
"I was there," Sen Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) wrote via Twitter. "The silence was deafening."
Later, in the same remarks, Pence declared with conviction, "The time has come from our European partners to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal and join us as we bring the economic and diplomatic pressure necessary to give the Iranian people, the region, and the world the peace, security, and freedom they deserve."
He again paused to allow the audience -- made up of many U.S. allies -- to offer some kind of approval. Again, the Republican heard silence.
It's not that attendees to the conference were unusually reticent. Consider, for example, the leader who spoke immediately before Pence. The New York Times reported:
Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany delivered a strong rejoinder on Saturday to American demands that European allies pull out of the Iran nuclear deal and gave a spirited defense of multilateral institutions in a world increasingly marked by great-power rivalry.
In an uncharacteristically passionate speech, Ms. Merkel said the nuclear deal was the best way of influencing Iranian behavior on a range of non-nuclear issues, from missile development to terrorism.
Without mentioning President Trump or the United States by name in what may be her last speech to this major security conference, Ms. Merkel criticized other unilateral moves, such as Mr. Trump's decision to pull American troops out of Syria, a suggestion that he would withdraw quickly from Afghanistan and his decision to suspend the Intermediate Range Missile Treaty with Russia, which directly affects European security.
Merkel received a standing ovation. (Ivanka Trump, who attended the event for reasons I can't explain, remained seated.)