Strangely competent VP Mike Pence finds his 9/11 moment in coronavirus crisis

Who would have thought????

Compared to his boss, Mike Pence assumes genius like qualities and becomes a Mainstream Media favorite as a figure of recitude and calmness.

The Guardian 3.21.2020

Critics flagged up his anti-science background and questionable record as governor but the vice-president has won praise as the Covid-19 taskforce head

His past record made him seem an odd choice. He remains as servile to Donald Trump as ever. But Mike Pence, the US vice-president, is said to be having “a good war” against the coronavirus outbreak.

When Trump named him chair of the White House coronavirus taskforce, it led some to wonder whether the president, facing a tough election in November, was looking for an easy scapegoat if everything went wrong.

However, Pence, 60, earned early plaudits for his cool head and assured performances in the cacophony of the White House briefing room – probably benefiting from comparison with his volatile boss and two divisive press secretaries. Indeed, this week Trump has reasserted himself as the face of the administration as if to ensure Pence does not claim too much of the limelight.

Pence II 3.21.2020

Trump’s decision to put Pence in charge of the coronavirus effort triggered an outcry. Critics noted that Pence once wrote an article that claimed “despite the hysteria from the political class and the media, smoking doesn’t kill”. More recently, as governor of Indiana, he failed to act swiftly as HIV spread among drug users, and he has been reluctant to accept the evidence for the climate crisis.

But D’Antonio, who wrote a column headlined “Mike Pence is exactly the wrong guy for this job”, has been pleasantly surprised. “I thought maybe Trump was using him as the fall guy, but it could be that Mike learned something from those previous experiences in Indiana. They were formative, especially the issue around the HIV outbreak.

“He’s not so cold and detached that he can’t imagine people contracted HIV in the time he dithered. This may be a way for him to redeem himself. I think he has the capacity for redemption; I’m not sure the president does.”

More than a year since the last formal press briefing, Pence, a former talk radio host, has been welcomed as a steady presence at the lectern along with scientists and experts.

Jack Shafer, a media columnist at the Politico website, wrote that he “acted less like the ‘coronavirus czar’ and more like a good old-fashioned White House press secretary. He was calm. He was direct. He was polite in face of shouted, competing questions.”

David Axelrod, former chief strategist for Barack Obama, tweeted this week: “Other than the incessant fawning, the @VP is a far better briefer than his boss. Tries to stick to facts.”

This week, for example, as Trump continued to offer upbeat assessments, Pence delivered a dose of realism: “There will be many thousands of Americans that contract the coronavirus,” he told National Public Radio. “We fully expect that we will be dealing with the coronavirus in the United States for months.”

Pence’s past experience as a former governor reassured some state governors currently at the frontline of the crisis. He was able to build bridges with Jay Inslee, the governor of Washington state, even as Trump dismissed Inslee as a “snake”.

D’Antonio added: “He’s done very well. He’s felt very confident in the president’s support because he laid so much of the foundation of praise for Trump in the past. He’s established he’s always going to give the spotlight to Trump and he’s always willing to accept the blame if necessary.

“He’s had his chin out and he’s willing to take a knock if one is coming. He’s hung in there and let himself be used, and now he’s of use. You still cringe as you hear him be so unctuous but you’ll notice others are doing it too.”

Whatever happens in November, Pence is seen as a likely contender for the Republican nomination in 2024. D’Antonio believes he has boosted his chances. “If things go poorly for Trump, Pence stands as the more serious and inspirational leader right now. If people had a problem with Pence, it’s often over the idea that he’s anti-science. This is doing a lot to counter that.

The vice-president’s constant praise for Trump, however, incessantly peppering his remarks with the phrase “the president”, is likely to win him few friends among Democrats and independents, however.

Jeff Greenfield, a political analyst and author, tweeted on Wednesday: “Have some sympathy for Mike Pence. I’ve learned that there is an electrified belt around his waist and if he speaks for more than 7 seconds without praising the President, a White House aide presses a button and Pence suffers a painful shock.”