Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence waits for the start of the third U.S. presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on Oct. 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nev. 
Photo by Win McNamee/Getty

Mike Pence pulls off expensive public-relations stunt at NFL game

Updated

Nearly half of Donald Trump’s cabinet is under scrutiny for wasteful, taxpayer-financed travel – a controversy that’s already forced one high-profile member of the president’s team to resign. With this in mind, it’s hard to imagine what the White House was thinking when it planned yesterday’s public-relations stunt at an NFL game.

Vice President Mike Pence’s decision to walk out of a National Football League game on Sunday when some players knelt during the National Anthem was planned ahead of time, a senior Pence official said Sunday night.

Pence, a former governor of Indiana, flew to Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis so he could watch a ceremony honoring Indianapolis Colts legend Peyton Manning. But he left the arena after about 12 members of the San Francisco 49ers knelt on one knee as the anthem played.

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Let me get this straight. Pence was in Nevada before he flew to Indianapolis for the Colts game. The vice president, like everyone else, knew in advance that there would be football players on the field engaging in a civil-rights protest, and when Pence saw some athletes take a knee, it apparently hurt his feelings.

He then insisted that this display of protesting racism “disrespects our soldiers” – I’m still not clear on how that formulation makes sense – ahead of Pence’s plan to fly west again, this time to California.

All of this, by the White House’s own admission, was planned in advance. In fact, when Pence arrived at the stadium before the game, reporters were told to stay in the van in anticipation of “an early departure.”

Apparently pleased with the efficacy of the stunt, Donald Trump made sure his vice president was seen as little more than a pawn in the White House’s latest culture-war skirmish. The president said Pence was simply following Trump’s request, adding this morning that the VP’s stunt “was long planned.”

First, for an administration already under fire for wasteful, taxpayer-financed travel, this was obviously unwise. These trips aren’t cheap – the costs of the flight, the security, and the personnel adds up – and there are more cost-effective ways for Trump World to rebuke people protesting racial injustices.

Second, if Mike Pence is sincere about walking out on those who “disrespect our soldiers,” he might want to consider boycotting his next meeting with Donald Trump – who, among other things, mocked John McCain’s military service, said he likes soldiers who “weren’t captured,” and refused to apologize.

If the vice president finds this less offensive than kneeling, I’d love to hear why.

Donald Trump, Mike Pence, NFL and Sports

Mike Pence pulls off expensive public-relations stunt at NFL game

Updated