Vice President Mike Pence and President Donald Trump during the inaugural on Friday.
Friday, January 20, 2017 12:26 PM
By BRIAN A. HOWEY
– From the Hoosier perspective, here in the 2016 Center of the
Political Universe, the notion that Vice President Mike Pence is now
just a heartbeat away from the American presidency is not surprising.
For a political generation, Pence has presented remarkable ambition. At
noon today, he reached the penultimate goal of his life.
has produced other ambitious modern men like Birch and Evan Bayh, Dan
Quayle, Richard Lugar and Mitch Daniels, all possessing the 1600 fever
at some point. With Sen. Birch Bayh, Quayle, Lugar and Daniels, there
were significant to epic policy achievements that lent to the narrative
that the White House was a logical final step. Birch Bayh wrote two
constitutional amendments and Title IX. Quayle developed into a defense
and national security stalwart. Lugar authored the Nunn-Lugar
Cooperative Reduction Act, convinced President Reagan to oppose
apartheid, and helped end the rule of a Philippine despot. Daniels
became the innovative governor.
Evan Bayh and Pence used the
Indiana governorship to burnish their resumes primed for a national
ticket. The policy decisions they made over the 12 years in office
always seem to come through the political prism. In Congress,
Pence rose rapidly to leadership. He was a spokesman for the
conservative and evangelical cause. He was always in loyal opposition,
even under President George W. Bush. He was the sunny bomb thrower,
ready to pick a fight or draw the red line. And in 12 years, he never
sponsored a bill that got that Bush or Obama signature.
Indiana perspective on Gov. Pence is one where he inherited the robust
Daniels mantle and became the classic caretaker. His greatest policy
achievement was built on the Healthy Indiana Plan that Pence evolved in
the era of Obamacare into HIP 2.0. Daniels created the Indiana Economic
Development Corporation and Pence used it to make dozens of jobs and
investment announcements. Daniels created Major Moves and Pence presided
over the next generation of ribbon cuttings.
So there were some silent head shaking and eye rolling when
Pence anted up for the Trump ticket, while dozens of other Republicans
took a pass. When the nomination flickered on July 14, Pence boldly
secured the nod. When Trump picked fights and created Twitter flares,
Pence interpreted and made it all seem better. When his party
establishment doubted, Pence exhorted them to “come home.” While Trump
won an Electoral College victory, he lost the popular vote by 3 million.
Trump and Pence believe they have a “mandate.”
The notion that
Pence is now the “heartbeat away” prompts “who’d a thunk it” responses
throughout Indiana today. This politician played his cards right and has
arrived. But the circumstances are far, far different than when George
H.W. Bush brought on Dan Quayle. Bush41 was as seasoned as anyone could
be for the presidency, having the perfect credentials.
And President Trump? Conservative
New York Times columnist David Brooks observed on Inauguration Day,
“We’ve never had a major national leader as professionally unprepared,
intellectually ill informed, morally compromised and temperamentally
unfit as the man taking the oath on Friday.