President Donald Trump speaks with Vice President Mike Pence as they arrive for a Fox News Channel virtual town hall, at the White House, Tuesday, March 24, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
If you look up the word, “humble” in the dictionary, you see Vice
President Mike Pence’s picture next to it, especially when compared to the pugnacious and loquacious President Donald J. Trump, formerly entertainment mogul and real estate titan.
As most political groupies know, the job of Vice President doesn’t really come with a lot of power or responsibility. Even the Constitutionally directed duty of presiding over the Senate has been long diluted by Senate rules.
John Nance Garner, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Vice President from 1933 to 1941, famously described the vice presidency as being “not worth a bucket of warm piss”. Interestingly, in the interests of public decorum the phrase was often changed to, “not worth a bucket of warm spit,” which to my way of thinking, is actually more properly descriptive.
For such a position, it would seem that such a self effacing guy like Mike Pence would be perfect for the job. He is. He understands that he is there to advance the President’s agenda and make sure that the glory for successes accrue to him, while he, the VP, stays in the background. The role of the Vice Presidency has rarely if ever deviated from that, despite the occasional vows of a “co-Presidency” during the first Clinton-Gore campaign. To no one’s surprise, shortly after inauguration, newly minted Vice President Gore was immediately shunted off to the side, hardly ever in for a one-on-one with President Clinton thereafter.
Keeping Vice Presidents out of the loop is not at all unusual. Harry Truman as Roosevelt’s 4th term Vice President, only found out about the Atomic Bomb and was fully briefed, 12 days after Roosevelt had died at Warm Springs, GA. On occasion however, the Vice President can be given some high profile job which has significant Presidential interest, but for which he does not have time to devote. Once such instance, is the space program in the John F. Kennedy administration. Kennedy gave his Vice President, Lyndon B. Johnson “point man” authority over the nascent U. S. space Program.
More recently, President Trump has appointed Vice President Pence to quarterback the United States “whole of government” response to Wuhan virus threat. Of course there were some who decried the appointment of a politician to the post instead of a medical “expert.” As I explained in a previous article, that line of reasoning is foolish. Most of this effort will entail a huge logistics exercise, a government-private sector supply chains endeavor. for that, you need somebody close to the apex of the Executive Branch who can access all the appropriate levers of National Power. Absent the President, who has other things going on alongside this crisis, the Vice President is the next best thing.
There’s reason that A Vice President is a good pick for this job, but also THIS particular Vice President is such. In addition to his proximity to the ultimate decision making authority in these United States, Vice President Mike Pence has another important attribute. He is the epitome of humble. This is an important attribute for the responsibility that President Trump has dropped on his shoulders.
The American Public has a right to expect that the officials they elect and the officials they in turn appoint, have the requisite skill sets to deal with problems large and small. They really don’t care about, ”how the sausage is made,” so to speak. The bevy of experts attending the President’s daily briefings are there to help provide that aura of technical competence. However, it’s The President who is ultimately the face of the United States Government.
This is where Vice President Pence shines. When we don’t see him, he’s busily honchoing the Task Force and making things happen. However, when we do see him at the various and sundry public briefings, he is always invoking, “The President,” or “The President’s.” He knows it’s not about him. He stays on message and provides a steady and consistent presence. Above all, he lets Americans know that their President has a plan and he (Pence) and a host of others, are diligently working on the President’s plan. In over 34 years of commissioned service, I’ve had a number of Deputies, Seconds in Command, Executive Officers and the like, some better than others. I can say based on experience, President Trump has chosen wisely in Vice President Mike Pence, a humble, yet effective man.