The Shadow President
The Vice President appears to be at odds with the Commander In Chief. The burgeoning dynamic inside the Trump White House is unorthodox, when juxtaposed to previous administrations of both parties. Vice President Mike Pence appears to be taking on the more traditional rhetorical responsibilities expected of the President of the United States. Typically, the Vice President is a conduit for the President’s message. Taking it to places and people the president is unable to reach in that moment as he grapples with the abstruse responsibility of running the federal government. In this new administration, the Vice President and President have taken positions antithetical to the other’s statements, as several public outings over the last weeks have shown.
The president has been objectively consistent in his opinion our allies should be required to pay their fair share to engender our military protection. Throughout the campaign, he described NATO as obsolete and suggested the United States was being taken advantage of. During a speech in April of last year, from Racine Wisconsin, Mr. Trump stated, “They’re ripping off the United States”. He also went on to say, “Either they pay up, including for past deficiencies, or they have to get out. And if it breaks up NATO, it breaks up NATO.” Accepting the totality of Mr. Trump’s comments directly concerning NATO, it could be surmised our commitment to the treaty organization (which is the world’s most successful check on Russian aggression) is by no means unwavering. Our support for our allies can no longer be viewed as inherent when analyzing the new president’s statements on the matter, however; Vice President Pence’s comments differ from the President’s on this issue.
On February 18th, Vice President Pence spoke to the Munich Security Conference where it was clear his interpretation of the administration’s foreign policy was in stark contrast to the President’s vision. Mr. Pence stated the United States supports NATO and the United States would have “unwavering” support for the organization. Donald Trump’s support for NATO has consistently waivered since the 2016 Republican primary.
Mr. Pence and Mr. Trump differ on substance as well as tone. During a press conference on February 16th, Mr. Trump was asked by Jewish reporter Jake Turx about, “The uptick in anti-Semitism and how the government is planning to take care of it.” Mr. Turx was told to sit down by the President and admonished for not asking a “simple, easy” question. The response was not the typical conciliatory message from a sitting president when faced with questions of discrimination and persecution of a minority group.
On Wednesday, February 22nd, Vice President Mike Pence visited a Jewish Cemetery in Missouri which was recently vandalized. He stated, “There is no place in America for hatred or acts of prejudice or violence or anti-Semitism.” Mr. Pence went on to assist with cleaning up the grounds. This emerging shadow presidency may have been foreshadowed long before Mr. Trump was inaugurated.
As reported in the New York Times, in July of last year, prior to Pence being offered the job of Vice President, Donald Trump Jr. contacted an aide to Ohio governor John Kasich and offered the governor the position. Don Jr. reportedly advised the aide Mr. Kasich could run all domestic and foreign policy, while the president made America great again. The offer was declined. The story was later refuted by the Trump campaign. It is too early to ascertain which vision or policy will drive this new White House. Will it be the president’s rhetoric or the stayed governance of a shadow president Pence?