Mike Pence

Mike Pence’s Fugue State

Indiana Governor Mike Pence appears to have been walking around in a fugue state for the last week. Somewhere between my empathy and my thirst for comeuppance lies a certain curiosity about what it must be like to be in his shoes these days. His world – or at least his political world – has turned upside down and back again in record time.

Between his bumbling appearance on This Week with George Stephanopoulos and his wheezing press conference the following day, the governor has received more national attention than he has ever dreamed of having, most of which has been exceedingly negative.

Pence is certainly no political neophyte. Far from it. He is what most observers would refer to as a seasoned politician. So why, then, has he appeared to be at such a loss for a solution to his (and Indiana’s) mounting public relations nightmare?

The most logical hypothesis is that he has managed to surround himself for years with people who either agree with his positions or who are politic enough not to challenge them too sharply.

The positions he has taken and the values he has held have generally fallen on the spectrum somewhere between conservative and off-the-charts right wing. This is particularly evident when you review his record on LGBT issues.

  • In 2006, he voted in favor of a federal constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage
  • In 2007, he voted No on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act while in Congress
  • In 2010, he voted No on President Obama’s proposed repeal of DADT, arguing that “unit cohesion” would be affected.

It’s not just LGBT issues where he’s taken the most right-leaning positions. He’s voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and he opposed a similar state act in Indiana.

While there may have been viewpoints expressed that were different from his own, Pence pretty much skated by both in Congress and as Governor without having too much opposition aimed directly at him.

Suddenly this week, Pence faced genuine pushback – both in Indiana and across the country – the likes of which he’s never experienced after signing the state’s so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act, surrounded by a gaggle of nuns and his most devotedly anti-LGBT cronies. To say that he reacted to that pushback like a deer in the headlights drastically underestimates headlights.

He first denied that the bill had anything to do with discrimination, and then spun on his heels almost immediately to request that the law be changed.  On Thursday of this week, Pence signed the hastily cobbled-together amended version of the RFRA, under an even more secret veil of secrecy than he had signed the original version.

It remains to be seen how much additional blowback he’ll face and how much more political capital he’ll lose. But one thing is certain: even if he regains his equilibrium, his political world will never be quite the same.

Main Street vs. Bain Street

When President Obama, speaking today in Chicago at the NATO Summit, was asked about Cory Booker’s comments on Meet the Press on Sunday, he used the opportunity to question the applicability of Mitt Romney’s record and experience at Bain Capital.

The President sums it up:

“When you’re President, as opposed to the head of a private equity firm, then your job is not simply to maximize profits. Your job is to figure out how everybody in the country has a fair shot.”

I’ve been harping on this for a while now.

There is no logic that I can think of that justifies Romney’s assertion that experience managing a private equity firm is the skill set needed to be President of the United States. Are there significant components related to finance that are part of a president’s job? Of course. But if one makes the same decisions as a president that one would as a private equity firm manager, one excludes most of America from the mix.

On the campaign trail, Romney is hiding from his record as Governor of Massachusetts so, if anything, the single-focus of business experience that Romney is touting as his primary selling point only proves how well rounded he isn’t.

Virtually lost in today’s hubbub about Cory Booker’s statements and President Obama’s response to them is the fact that the President was addressing a NATO summit.  Although this barely got reported on today, he spoke of strengthening the commitment of our NATO partners with regard to Afghanistan, he reminded us of the U.S. and NATO role in helping to overthrow Gaddhafi and to get Libya farther down the road to peace and prosperity, and he addressed the subject of European missile defense and the role that it plays in combating terrorism.

Considering the import of the issues being discussed at that conference, could a more stark contrast be drawn with the myopic campaign tactics of Mitt Romney?

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