Republican vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence might just be the loneliest man in politics. Sure, he's the second-half of his party's presidential ticket, which is normally a distinct honor and a credibility-enhancer. And yet, he's got no safe space to occupy, no political terrain he can stake out as his own that can't be immediately upended by his wild-eyed running mate, presidential nominee Donald J. Trump. Case in point: On Friday, Pence condemned name-calling in politics, because of what... wait for it... President Obama said during his hugely well-received address to the Democratic National Convention.
That's right, Pence is coming out swinging against President Obama on the grounds that he was just a little too rhetorically aggressive, a little too prone to pin a derogatory label to one of his political rivals. And if that weren't delicious enough on its own, he was saying so in defense of, you guessed it, his notoriously belligerent new boss.
Pence made the remark to conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt during his Friday show, criticizing Obama for calling Trump a "homegrown demagogue" in his Wednesday night address (although he didn't actually use Trump's name, the meaning was very clear). Hewitt asked him how he felt about that characterization, and here's what he said ― it's worth noting that Hewitt's show is widely known for providing the best word-for-word transcripts in the business:
I don’t think name calling has any place in public life, and I thought that was unfortunate that the president of the United States would use a term like that, let alone laced into a sentence like that.
The part about "laced into a sentence" refers to who else Obama called out in that portion of his remarks: "fascists," "communists," and "jihadists." It was a rhetorical device intended to show just how gravely he views the threat Trump poses to America.
The awkwardness of Pence's complaint is obvious. Throughout his campaign, Trump has regularly derided his opponents with demeaning nicknames, from the childish to the bigoted. You've got your Lyin' Teds, your Low Energy Jebs, your Crooked Hillarys, and of course, his racist moniker for Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, "Pocahontas." He also has a long record of sexist verbal attacks against different high-profile women, including comedian Rosie O'Donnell, Fox News host Megyn Kelly, and NBC News reporter Katy Tur.
Oh, and he's also proposed (temporarily, he says) banning Muslims from entering the United States, which is maybe a little more concerning than name-calling. In fact, it was concerning enough that Pence denounced it at the time, calling it "offensive" and "unconstitutional."
It just goes to show that Pence is constantly being thrown into the tightest of all political spots, on one issue after another ― you really only need to watch his and Trump's joint 60 Minutes interview to see how excruciating and uncomfortable the "chemistry" is between them. Whatever rationalizations and justifications Pence made with himself when he decided to take the job, on days like this you have to wonder if he ever wants to leave it all behind.
Image: 60 Minutes/CBS News