On Joe Biden's most recent birthday, Barack Obama playfully teased his former deputy on Twitter and posted a touching tribute in his honor. Well, Thursday was Vice President Mike Pence's birthday, and President Trump wished him a happy one...by copying verbatim a post that Ivanka Trump had sent Pence earlier in the day.
"Happy Birthday to our Vice President Mike Pence!" Ivanka Trump posted on Twitter early Wednesday morning alongside a photo of her, her father, and the vice president. "It is an honor to serve with such an exemplary leader. Cheers!"
"HAPPY BIRTHDAY @VP!!#Repost @ivankatrump," the president wrote on Instagram hours later, alongside the exact same photo. He then posted his daughter's message from earlier: "Happy Birthday to our Vice President Mike Pence! It is an honor to serve with such an exemplary leader. Cheers!"
To his credit, Donald did take at least some time to wish Pence a happy birthday (although he didn't do so on his Twitter account, which has far more followers than his Instagram), and he did acknowledge, via hashtag, that it was a repost. It's still a far cry from how Obama rang in Biden's 75th birthday in November 2017, and highlights the very different relationships that the two most recent presidents have had with their deputies.
"Happy birthday to
@JoeBiden, my brother and the best vice president anybody could have," Obama wrote in 2017. He posted an amusing photo of Biden smirking behind him during a State of the Union address, and prefaced the whole thing with the following:
ME: Joe, about halfway through the speech, I’m gonna wish you a happy birth--
BIDEN: IT’S MY BIRTHDAY!
This was, in part, Obama riffing on a tried-and-true meme about his friendship with Biden. But on a deeper level, Obama was paying tribute to the genuine affection he and Biden have for each other, which has been documented at length in various places and continues to endear them to their supporters. The two men became genuine friends in the White House, and by all indications, they remain so even after leaving office.
Trump and Pence's relationship, by contrast, appears different. In his bestselling book Fire and Fury, Michael Wolff reported that Pence is "almost absurdly happy to be Donald Trump's vice president, happy to play the role of exactly the kind of vice president that would not ruffle Trump's feathers" and in many cases, "barely seeming to exist in the shadow of Donald Trump." On a professional level, the two appear to function just fine.
But do they like each other as people? That's not nearly as clear. The Atlantic reported that prior to becoming running mates, Trump found Pence to be "prudish, stiff, and embarrassingly poor." According to The New Yorker, Trump mocks Pence's religiosity to White House guests ("did Mike make you pray?"), and once criticized his vice president in front of others for "wast[ing] all this time and energy" trying to repeal Roe v. Wade when "it’s not going to end abortion anyway."
Axios reported in April that Pence sometimes makes fun of himself for being so poor in Trump's presence in order to in order to entertain the president, and that "Trump loves that."
Although nobody but Trump and Pence themselves can truly know what their relationship is like, it doesn't appear to be based on the kind of mutual respect and adoration that Obama and Biden clearly had. It seems like more of a functional professional arrangement — one with a massive power imbalance, to be sure, but one that's functional nonetheless.
Trump's birthday is just one week after Pence's, and in all likelihood, the vice president won't just copy and paste a happy birthday message from his daughter.