Two days after Election Day 2016, then-Vice President Joe Biden welcomed then-Vice President-elect Mike Pence to the Naval Observatory. It was a gracious, though entirely normal gesture: the Delaware Democrat was eager to congratulate the Republican Hoosier, offer support, and pledge to assist in creating a smooth transition.
Nearly four years and three months later, Pence picked up the phone to call his successor. The New York Times reported today:
Vice President Mike Pence telephoned Vice President-elect Kamala Harris Thursday to congratulate her and offer his assistance ahead of next week's swearing-in, the latest indication that Mr. Pence is filling the leadership role all but abdicated by President Trump. The conversation, which was relayed by two officials briefed on the call, was described as gracious and pleasant.
The article added that the discussion -- the first between the two since last fall's debate -- may be a precursor to the Pences welcoming Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff, to the vice-presidential residence before next week's inauguration.
NBC News has confirmed that the call occurred, characterizing the conversation as "cordial and pleasant."
On the surface, it's a heartening development. Indeed, Pence will very likely receive plaudits for this and related steps: the vice president ignored Trump's demands for illegally rejecting the electoral college results; he agreed to attend the Biden/Harris inauguration; he personally thanked National Guard troops guarding the U.S. Capitol from feared pro-Trump attacks; and now he's reached out to his successor to pledge a (relatively) smooth transition.
But let's not lose sight of the circumstances we find ourselves in. For one thing, Pence is just now doing what his vice presidential predecessors have done for generations, which shouldn't be cause for celebration.
For another, now seems like the ideal time to note that if Trump were willing to do what Pence has now done, our entire democratic society might be a little more stable.
But even putting these relevant details aside, there's the calendar to consider: Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were declared the winners in early November. Mike Pence waited until now to pick up the phone -- less than a week before Inauguration Day.
I'm glad Pence is being more responsible than Trump, but that's clearing the lowest of low bars.