Given all of the publicly available information, it’s hard to see the story about former Vice President Mike Pence’s documents as a genuine scandal. Though the details might change, this appears to be a situation in which the Republican inadvertently took classified materials, returned them to the authorities, and agreed to cooperate with investigators.
It seems, in other words, as if Pence and President Joe Biden did effectively the same thing. I don’t see the latter as an especially serious controversy, and I don’t see the need to get worked up about the former, either.
But there is one complicating factor: the GOP Hoosier’s initial response to the Biden story.
Pence, confident that he had the high ground, went way out on a limb, practically bragging that he, unlike his vice presidential predecessor, was a model of responsibility upon leaving public office.
Consider, for example, the comments the Republican made on the Fox Business Network on Jan. 12, the day a special counsel was appointed to review the Biden matter:
“The appointment of a special counsel in this case is right. It is proper. The handling of classified materials and the nation’s secrets is a very serious matter. And, as a former vice president of the United States, I can speak from personal experience about the attention that ought to be paid to those materials when you’re in office and after you leave office. And clearly that did not take place in this case.”
Two days earlier, the former vice president spoke to conservative media host Hugh Hewitt, who also asked about Biden’s disclosure. “[T]here’s an old saying in the Bible that what you sow, you reap,” Pence said on Jan. 10.
That, of course, was before the Republican realized there were classified documents in his own house — putting his comments about Biden in a more awkward context.
Also on Jan. 10, the former vice president told CBS News, “Our staff reviewed all of the materials in our office and in our residence to ensure that there were no classified materials that left the White House or remained in our possession. I remain confident that that was done in a thorough and careful way.”
To sure, much of Pence’s focus in recent weeks has been on his repeated complaints about a perceived “double standard” between Donald Trump’s documents scandal and the Biden story. That rhetoric was misguided: The Trump and Biden stories have generated far different responses because the controversies deal with far different facts. Pence’s repeated insistence to the contrary misled the public in unfortunate ways.
But the former vice president also took aim at Biden and the underlying missteps, which is suddenly problematic now that we know the Republican is in the same boat.