As former Vice President Mike Pence continues to make the rounds ahead of a likely national campaign, the Indiana Republican was in Charlottesville this week for an appearance at the University of Virginia. Pence’s trip served as a reminder of a record he’ll never be able to escape.
For example, the former vice president stopped on Tuesday at a memorial for Heather Heyer, who was killed in 2017 while participating in an anti-racism demonstration as white supremacists hosted a rally in her area. To be sure, there was nothing wrong with Pence visiting the memorial, but as The Washington Post noted, it wasn’t long before the Republican’s past returned to the fore.
Donald Trump’s characterization of the deadly gathering became one of the enduring flash points of his presidency. In its aftermath, he asserted that there were good people among the white supremacist demonstrators, and that there was blame on “both sides.” Pence, who has sought in recent months to distance himself in some respects from Trump as he weighs his own presidential bid, was derided on social media overnight by those who saw his visit to Heyer’s memorial as too little, too late.
Asked at the time about Trump’s scandalous rhetoric, Pence simply couldn’t muster the courage to reject the then-president’s line. Instead, he told reporters he stood with the president.
In other words, while trying to make a nice gesture in Charlottesville, the former president was immediately reminded of a past he can’t shake.
The rest of Pence’s visit wasn’t much better. Newsweek added:
Speaking at a Young America’s Foundation at the University of Virginia on Tuesday, Pence also praised Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky for his “courageous” and “inspiring” stand. “I’ve also met Vladimir Putin. I stood toe to toe with him and I’ve told him things he didn’t want to hear,” Pence said.
First, the idea that Pence bravely “stood toe to toe” with Putin and gave the Russian dictator a piece of his mind is difficult to take seriously.
Second, the more the former vice president tries to push this line, the more we’re reminded that Trump spent four years in the White House kowtowing to Putin — during which time Pence did nothing but smile and nod.
Whether he realizes this or not, this will continue to happen to Pence — as part of every appearance, on every issue, in response to every boast. His service in the Trump administration is an anchor that he will drag for the remainder of his time in public life.