In his performance in the one and only vice-presidential debate, former Indiana Gov. Mike Pence attempted mightily to defend Donald Trump’s actions and outrageous statements made over the course of the campaign.

He denied Trump’s spoken and recorded words repeatedly. Fact-checkers had more than a field day. Pence’s rebuttals were repetitive and consistently false.

Being the one chosen by the Great One to justify his dismal words and sleazy deeds is no honor, but merely a thankless task. That became particularly apparent when lewd tapes, showing Trump to be a serial womanizer, appeared for all to see and hear.

The American electorate, and millions who do not vote, learned that Donald Trump, the crude boor who seeks the presidency, prefers Tic Tacs to other brands of breath freshener. He brags that he likes to pop them into his mouth before assaulting attractive women.

He rationalizes that being a “star” gives him license to behave not only outrageously, but illegally. It is all on tape, and it is hard to deny what he has said. Pence accepts his boss’ pathetic argument that it is merely “locker room banter.” Pence, like Sen. Richard Burr, rationalizes that since Trump has apologized he must automatically be forgiven. They overlook the obvious fact that Trump is not a 19-year-old jock, but merely a pathetic, over-the hill groper.

Throughout Trump’s gauche campaign, the pattern has been to make wild claims, insult people, and then deny it ever happened. It seemed to work well for months and months, but the latest brouhaha has gone beyond the pale.

The GOP leadership in Congress and the Republican National Committee are forced to recognize that too many GOP congressmen, particularly those in tight races, face defeat by being tarred by Trump’s foul brush. House Speaker Paul Ryan now says, “I will not defend Donald Trump.”

Former presidential candidate and Vietnam War hero John McCain, who had grudgingly endorsed Trump in spite of listening to his insulting comments about prisoners of war, has withdrawn his never-enthusiastic endorsement. He did so only after listening to Trump brag about his prowess in attacking unwilling women, and married women at that. “I can do anything I want” the sophomoric candidate boasted.

McCain knows right from wrong, unlike Mike Pence, who feels obligated to defend the indefensible. In the long run, Pence’s ethically challenged stance may permanently cripple his high political ambitions.

After joining the Trump ticket and long before the Tic Tac revelations, Pence had been in a politically difficult situation in Indiana, with polls showing him to be increasingly unpopular, particularly among women voters. That lack of confidence flowed from his aggressive crusade against abortion access and LGBT rights.

Pence pushed for the passage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which provided businesses a legal defense to deny gay people services usually available to all Americans. But the stunner to most Indianans was a bizarre Pence law that mandated that aborted fetuses require what amounts to a funeral. (A federal judge blocked it.)

Mike Pence’s record as congressman and governor is virtually unknown to those who live outside the Hoosier State. He has voted against raising the minimum wage and against expanding health coverage for low-income kids.

He has refused to comply with federal rules aimed at reducing prison rape. He supports deporting undocumented children and sick people, and also favors building a fence along the border.

He would eliminate automatic citizenship for children born to undocumented parents. He has favored detention of undocumented immigrants seeking hospital treatment. He has signed a law that holds doctors legally liable for wrongful death, if it is found they had performed an abortion motivated by race, gender or disability of the fetus. (A federal judge has blocked this law from going into effect.)

He has slashed funding for Planned Parenthood in Indiana, and stated that “homosexuality is incompatible with military service.” He favors a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and programs that favor discredited conversion therapy. He was one of the most reactionary members of Congress and surely the most conservative governor in the nation.

Trump, known for a raunchy sex life and history of marital infidelity, put Pence on the ticket mainly to assuage Christian fundamentalists’ concerns about his immoral past. In vivid contrast to a thrice-married, formerly pro-choice, ideologically flexible Trump, the theory was that Pence could mollify skeptics into believing that The Donald shares Spence’s conservative values. The released Tic Tac tapes (with perhaps more of them to come) make that a forlorn hope.

When the smoke clears on election eve, Mike Pence may have to go back to being a second-rate talk show host. That was his career back in the ’90s, when he hosted “The Mike Pence Show,” which he described as “Rush Limbaugh on Decaf!”

 

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