From the opening of their Convention on Monday, Republicans are spreading a huge lie about the coronavirus pandemic. Amy Ford, a nurse from West Virginia, got the ball rolling when she said: “As a medical professional, I can tell you without hesitation that the quick action and leadership of Donald Trump has saved lives. thousands of lives for COVID-19. Carefully edited videos and other testimony have been used to reinforce this false narrative, but the ultimate rewrite of the story has been left to Vice President Mike Pence, including Wednesday night’s speech from Fort McHenry, Baltimore, amounted to a travesty of the truth.
Much of Pence’s speech was devoted to the exaggerated attacks on Joe Biden, whom he described as “a Trojan horse for the radical left,” a supporter of “open borders” and “a cheerleader for the Communist China ”. But he also defended Trump’s response to the coronavirus, saying he oversaw “the biggest national mobilization since World War II”. According to Pence’s account, “President Trump mobilized all the resources of our federal government from the start. He called on us to forge an unwavering partnership with governors across America from both political parties. Under his leadership, the Administration reinvented testing, coordinated the delivery of billions of personal protective equipment, and “enacted an economic bailout that saved fifty million American jobs.”
The great irony and outrage of Pence’s speech is that, as the leader of the White House Coronavirus Task Force since February, he had a unique and close view of Trump’s actual response to the pandemic. The constant depreciation of the threat of the virus; claims that it would go away on its own; quack remedies, including injecting disinfectant into stricken patients; the quarrels with the governors, even republicans, who denounce the insufficiency of its actions; urging states to reopen their economies even though they did not abide by the guidelines that the Pence task force had established; the months of provocative refusal to wear a mask; and, at the end of the day, the decision to give up pretty much it all and move on.
Pence didn’t mention any of those things, of course. He focused on the one major policy decision Trump made early on: ban travel from China. Of course, the vice president didn’t stress that the ban was only partial – more than 40,000 people subsequently entered the United States on flights from China. And the first confirmed cases in New York, where the virus has killed more than 32,000 people, arrived from Europe, not Asia. Nonetheless, throughout his speech, Pence has portrayed Trump as everything he is not: committed, diligent, and dedicated solely to acting in the best interests of the American people. “In a city known for its talkative people, President Trump is a man of action,” he said with an incredibly straight face. “Few presidents have brought more independence, energy or determination to this position.”
With a national toll approaching 180,000, it seems unlikely that Pence’s speech will have much of an impact on public opinion. Americans can see reality with their own eyes. A poll released earlier this week showed Trump’s approval rating for his handling of the pandemic had fallen to thirty-one percent. Yet Wednesday’s speech will go down in history as a memorable example of how establishment Republicans like Pence completely surrendered to Trump, degrading themselves and their party in the process, and, ultimately, betraying themselves. the country, which, in its hour of crisis, deserved honesty rather than the pro-Trump spin.
Unfortunately, Pence’s performance was predictable. Behind the scenes of the White House, according to a widely reported article that Politico published on Wednesday, he has at times been “a force of moderation and factual decision-making” on the coronavirus. In mid-March, for example, he and other members of the task force visited Trump’s house in the Oval Office and urged him to approve national guidelines for social distancing. However, the Politico article also detailed how Pence slowed down the administration’s response, allowing officials with no health expertise to play a role in the task force’s deliberations, and how he “felt the pressure to do so.” ‘appease Trump’. “Mike is the quintessential best soldier,” said an administration official. “He’s not going to bang his fist on the table to demand changes. . . . It’s not Mike Pence.
In public, Pence continued to extol Trump even as it became clear that a public health catastrophe was unfolding. “Sir. Mr. President, with your leadership, the American people are starting to move forward, ”he said at a ceremony at the White House in April. In June, as the number of cases increased in California, Florida and Texas, he claimed in “Face the Nation” that the country was “in a much better place to respond” because of “the leadership that President Trump provided”. Last week, as the death toll rose to one hundred and seventy thousand, he told “Good Morning America”: “I could not be more proud of the leadership President Trump has provided since the early days of the war. coronavirus pandemic. ”
Wednesday night’s speech was just a continuation of that theme. After repeatedly praising Trump’s leadership, Pence rejected Biden’s statement last week that there was no miracle in sight to end the pandemic. “America is a nation of miracles,” Pence said. “We are on track to have the world’s first safe and effective coronavirus vaccine by the end of this year. After all the sacrifice of this year like no other – all the trials – we find our way.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Pence tilting and scratching in front of Trump is that he seems to revel in it. In an interview with the Time, his chief of staff, Marc Short, said that Pence had studied previous vice presidencies, and that he “exemplifies servant leadership.” Even in these twisted days, when Trump’s takeover of the GOP seems nearly complete, not all elected Republicans would want to make the history books as the 45th President’s most loyal and obsequious servant. . As he demonstrated on Wednesday night, when he acted like Trump’s lickspittle again, Pence seems to fill the role naturally.