Mike Pence Used To Think Presidential Morality Mattered
There was a time when Mike Pence believed that a President's personality morality and trustworthiness mattered. He clearly doesn't believe that anymore.
Back before he became a Congressman, Governor, or Vice-President, Mike Pence used to have a very strict opinion about Presidential morality:
Vice President Mike Pence once argued the president of the United States should be held to the highest moral standards to determine whether he should resign or be removed from office.
Pence made the argument in two columns in the late 1990s, where he wrote that then-President Bill Clinton’s admission of an affair with a White
House intern and prior lies to the public about the matter, possibly under oath, meant Clinton should be removed from office.
Yet Pence also moved beyond the specifics of the Clinton case: He made a far-reaching argument about the importance of morality and integrity to the office of the presidency.
Pence wrote the columns in the late 1990s when he was a local Indiana radio host and prominent conservative voice in the state arguing Clinton had lost his moral authority to lead the country. One of the columns, “The Two Schools of Thought on Clinton,” was posted on his now-defunct website for his radio talk show. Another column, ”Why Clinton Must Resign or Be Impeached,” was posted on his congressional campaign website. Both columns were archived by the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. The columns ran in various Indiana newspapers at the time but did not get national attention.
Dismissing the idea that the president is “just the like the rest of us,” Pence wrote, “If you and I fall into bad moral habits, we can harm our families, our employers and our friends. The President of the United States can incinerate the planet. Seriously, the very idea that we ought to have at or less than the same moral demands placed on the Chief Executive that we place on our next door neighbor is ludicrous and dangerous.
“Throughout our history, we have seen the presidency as the repository of all of our highest hopes and ideals and values. To demand less is to do an injustice to the blood that bought our freedoms.”
In addition to the moral argument Pence makes in the columns, he focused on the fact that Clinton was in office when his affair took place and that he “very likely” committed perjury when he denied in a deposition having a “sexual relationship” with Monica Lewinsky. The allegations against Trump all took place before he stepped into public office, and Trump has not testified about the alleged affairs and therefore does not face any allegations he lied under oath about them. But Pence was not exclusively concerned about Clinton’s misstatements under oath, also arguing that Clinton’s public statements about Lewinsky damaged the institution of the presidency.
The Vice President’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the columns.
Here’s the relevant part of the first column, titled “The Two Schools Of Thought On Clinton,” which was written shortly after President Clinton had acknowledged publicly that he had lied to the public and under oath regarding his relationship with Monica Lewinsky:
On the first count, the President has admitted to having taken advantage of a college intern working at the White House (that’s a public building) who was on the White House Staff (that’s public employment) on many occasion in and around the Oval Office (again a public building). Also, the President lied about the affair in public and (very likely) under oath in Jones vs Clinton. He also may have used the power of his PUBLIC office to cover up the whole sordid matter. This was not a private matter and cannot legitimately be argued as such. A truly private matter in this realm might be an affair between the President and a friend not working in the White House for whom no favors were granted and no cover-up attempted. That, it seems to me, could be argued as part of one’s (immoral) private life. Ms. Lewinski is a part of the President’s public life not his private life.
On the second count, that the President is ‘just like the rest of us’, he is the most powerful man in the world. If you and I fall into bad moral habits, we can harm our families, our employers and our friends. The President of the United States can incinerate the planet. Seriously, the very idea that we ought to have at or less than the same moral demands placed on the Chief Executive that we place on our next door neighbor is ludicrous and dangerous. Throughout our history, we have seen the presidency as the repository of all of our highest hopes and ideals and values. To demand less is to do an injustice to the blood that bought our freedoms.
Pence goes into more detail in the second column, titled “Why Clinton Must Resign Or Be Impeached”:
Despite his absurd assertions to the contrary, President Clinton’s admission to a sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky stands in diametric opposition to his sworn testimony in the Jones vs. Clinton case. The President’s responsibility to faithfully execute the laws of the land begins in his own administration. The President committed perjury. Perjury is a crime. President’s who commit crimes should resign or be impeached. Further, the Presidents repeated lies to the American people in this matter compound the case against him as they demonstrate his failure to protect the institution of the presidency as the ‘inspiring supreme symbol of all that is highest in our American ideals’. Leaders affect the lives of families far beyond their own ‘private life’. In the Bible story of Esther we are told of a king who was charged to put right his own household because there would be “no end of disrespect and discord” among the families of the kingdom if he failed to do so. In a day when reckless extramarital sexual activity is manifesting itself in our staggering rates of illegitimacy and divorce, now more than ever, America needs to be able to look to her First Family as role models of all that we have been and can be again.
The challenge for the Republican Congress lies in the fact that the polls may be right. The American people may deeply wish to move on and put this unpleasantness behind us. Regrettably, the Constitution does not permit such a national denial. If the President does not resign, the Republican Congress must impeach him even if it costs them their majority because the laws of this republic charge them with the duty to so act. Absent an uncharacteristic act of selflessness by the President, it is left to the Republicans to live up to their label and defend the laws and institutions of this Republic. If our leaders flinch at this responsibility, they would do well to heed the Proverb “if a ruler listens to lies, all his officials become wicked”. Our leaders must either act to restore the luster and dignity of the institution of the Presidency or we can be certain that this is only the beginning of an even more difficult time for our land. For the nation to move on, the President must move out.
As we sit here some twenty years later, all of this is, of course, extremely ironic. While he was denouncing President Clinton for having an extramarital affair and lying about it both in public and under oath, Vice-President Pence does not appear to have any problem at all with serving under someone who is, based on Pence’s own moral standards, objectively worse than Bill Clinton when it comes to personal morality and trustworthiness.
On the personal behavior level, of course, the evidence is overwhelming. Donald Trump is, after all, the man who was recorded on the now infamous Access Hollywood tape describing how he takes advantage of women even to the point of committing what can only be described as sexual assault against them. Shortly after that tape became public, nearly two dozen women came forward to say that Trump had sexually harassed or even assaulted them in the past. Despite these revelations, Pence, like the evangelical Christians who consider him their biggest advocate in the Administration, remained faithful to his running mate and did not speak out against him even as many Republicans did at the time. Of course, the fact that Pence had even agreed to become Trump’s running mater given his campaign history of making disgusting remarks regarding Mexicans and Muslims, disabled people, women such as Megyn Kelly and Carly Fiorina and when he encouraged his supporters to engage in violence against counter-demonstrators. Pence has also been quiet in the wake of the revelations over the past year that the President had affairs with a Playboy model and a porn star while his wife was pregnant with his fifth son and even now that it has been revealed that Trump was involved in efforts to pay for the silence of both Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels regarding those affairs.
In addition to these examples of Trump’s personal behavior, it has also been apparent that Trump is what can only be described as a congenital liar who is either incapable of telling the truth or unwilling to do so for one reason or another. As I noted last week, The Washington Post’s fact-checkers Trump has lied more than 4,000 times since taking office, a rate that puts him on pace to have told more than 11,000 lies by the time his first term ends, and more than 22,000 at the end of a hypothetical second term. Compared to Trump, Bill Clinton and nearly all the other men who have served as President before January 20, 2017, are paragons of virtue when it comes to the truth. Based on Pence’s own standard from 20 years ago, Trump should be impeached and removed from office but, of course, neither Pence nor anyone else on the so-called religious right is speaking out against him. Indeed, as I noted some time ago, the evangelicals that mirror Pence’s worldview have a bizarrely messianic view of Trump notwithstanding his obvious moral failings:
One prominent example of this can be seen in the person of Franklin Graham, the son of the late Rev. Billy Graham who has largely ignored his father’s practice of refraining from being overtly partisan in either direction who once said that God himself and put Trump in office, Rather than condemning President Trump, Graham has said that his affair with adult film star Stormy Daniels is “nobody’s business.” This is the same person who questioned former President Obama’s Christianity and in 1998 said that “Clinton’s sins aren’t private.” At that time, Graham wrote “If he will lie to or mislead his wife and daughter, those with whom he is most intimate, what will prevent him from doing the same to the American public?”” Indeed.
Another prominent evangelical supporter of the President is Jerry Falwell, Jr., the son of the founder of the so-called “Moral Majority” who has taken over his father’s role at his church in Lynchburg, Virginia and as the head of Liberty University, the school that the elder Falwell founded in 1971 but which really began talking off in the 1980s as the elder Falwell sought to expand his influence. While Trump was a candidate, Falwell invited Trump to speak to Liberty University students in what was essentially a mandatory must-attend event. Shortly after this Falwell became among the first leaders on the religious right to endorse Trump’s candidacy. During the campaign, he was among one of the President’s most vocal supporters on the religious right, and that has continued throughout Trump’s campaign and his Presidency notwithstanding everything that we’ve learned about him. Like Graham, in the past Falwell Jr. questioned President Obama’s Christianity and joined in the attacks on Bill Clinton. With Trump, though, he sings a far different tune and even defended him in the wake of the President’s remarks after the Charlottesville incident. He’s also said that Trump is “the Churchillian figure we need.”
As a final example. we have Tony Perkins, the head of the Family Research Council. who said that the President should get a “mulligan” for his affair with Stormy Daniels. During President Obama’s time in office, Perkins repeatedly attacked the President not only on policy matters but also in other ways. Like Graham, for example, he openly questioned the former President’s Christianity and said that the former President “seems to be advancing the idea of the Islamic religion.” Additionally, as with Graham, Perkins was among the harshest critics of Bill Clinton in the 1990s.
One suspects that Graham, Falwell, Perkins, and Pence would all be singing a different tune if Trump were a Democrat. Because he’s a Republican, though, and in Pence’s case because he obviously thinks that being perceived as Trump’s loyal lapdog will enhance his political fortune beyond the time he is serving as Vice-President to a man that, based on his own standards, does not belong in office. That’s the very definition of partisan hypocrisy.