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Mike Pence's memoir is more image rehab than bold truth-telling

Apparently the Lincoln Project is more to blame for Jan. 6 than Trump's lies? Sure, why not.

I learned Wednesday that former Vice President Mike Pence has a memoir coming out next week. I learned this because an excerpt from said memoir was adapted into an op-ed that ran in The Wall Street Journal. And in reading that excerpt, I learned that Pence cares more about selling copies of his memoir and burnishing his image ahead of a potential presidential run than actually atoning for any role he played in former President Donald Trump’s attack on American democracy.

I’ve written before about the problem with labeling Pence a “hero” for doing the right thing on Jan. 6, 2021, and refusing to buy into the theories that Trump’s lawyers were floating. To his credit, Pence has never said he believed that he could singlehandedly change the 2020 election’s outcome. But in his new op-ed, Pence emphasizes that he told Trump in mid-December 2020 that he “had fully supported the legal challenges to the election and would continue to do so.”

What were the “legal challenges” Pence was referring to, though?

That exchange came up, in Pence’s telling, because of an “irresponsible TV ad” from the Lincoln Project that claimed Pence would put “the final nail in the coffin” of Trump’s lies about the election come Jan. 6. “To my knowledge, it was the first time anyone implied I might be able to change the outcome,” Pence writes.

As many have already noted, that would imply that the theory behind the pressure campaign on Pence was born not in the head of John Eastman or any of his fellow Trump attorneys but with the Lincoln Project. That … makes very little sense if you actually watch the ad, which doesn’t suggest that Pence could choose to invalidate the election results:

What were the “legal challenges” Pence was referring to, though? The op-ed conveniently skirts the 59 election challenges the Trump-Pence campaign unsuccessfully filed in various courts, which were filled with flimsy evidence, unsubstantiated claims and, eventually, outright lies that were known to be false. Did he “fully support” them? What about the attempt to get the Supreme Court to intervene, details of which are still being revealed? Was he on board with that effort?

Pence doesn’t say. Instead, he focuses on the challenges to the electoral vote count in Congress, which he would preside over on Jan. 6. Pence writes that he “welcomed” Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., co-sponsoring objections from House Republicans “because it meant we would have a substantive debate,” adding, “Without a senator’s support, I would have been required to dismiss House objections without debate, something I didn’t want to do.”

You see, Pence tries to have his cake and eat it, too. He says he supported “debate” around the “concerns” about the election — but doesn’t actually address the substance of those concerns or the purpose of the debate. Hawley may have avoided endorsing any of the conspiracies Trump was spreading directly, but he also had to know that Trump was the source of the vast majority of the concerns in question. It was all an exercise in self-promotion, not an attempt to clarify the record, and Pence should know that.

The back half of his essay recounts the actual events of Jan. 6, and it does include some interesting details, including Pence’s telling his daughter that the then-peaceful protesters outside the Capitol were “gonna be so disappointed.” The rest is mostly dedicated to Pence’s describing just how cool he was under pressure as the rioters ransacked the building.

Mostly, that is, except for a few attempts to humanize Trump and show the former president’s remorse for what had occurred. Which is surprising considering Trump has spent every chance he could since then loudly repeating the lies that sparked the attack in the first place. (And honestly, let’s not even touch on the conversation with Trump that Pence recounts at the end of the op-ed, except to say that I haven’t read an epilogue that self-indulgent since the seventh “Harry Potter” book.)

Pence spent weeks after the 2020 election silently letting his boss cast doubt on the results, acting only when he was forced into a corner.

It’s not that I object to Pence’s recounting his side of the story. It’s that I’m annoyed that he’s yet another Trump administration official who chose to sell a book months or years later rather than speak out when it matters. Pence spent weeks after the 2020 election silently letting his boss cast doubt on the results, acting only when he was forced into a corner. Now he wants to become a bestselling author off that venality.

Moreover, it’s not like there aren’t several investigations into the attack that would love to hear from Pence about what he saw and heard. If Mike Pence really wants to show America that he understands the gravity of what happened in his last days in office, he should be telling what he knows to the Justice Department or the Jan. 6 committee. If he really wants, he can plug his book while testifying under oath.