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Friday, June 16, 2017

The King's loyal manservant

by digby

You've heard by now that Pence had to lawyer up. And I immediately guessed that Trumpie wasn't happy at the news which he would naturally see as Pence being self-serving. Hence this tweet.

This piece in the Washington Post should soothe King Joffrey:

But one senior White House official cautioned against the “toxic brew of a vice president who’s happy to be the No. 2.”

“One of his greatest strengths is that he never says no — but it’s important that he not be a ‘yes’ man,” this official added, speaking anonymously to offer a more candid assessment.

Pence suffered two high-profile embarrassments that have served to define his role in the administration’s early months: First, when he was misled about former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s contacts with the Russians, and again last month when Trump publicly contradicted him about the reasons for firing Comey.

One Pence loyalist described himself as at his “wits’ end,” adding, “There are some organizational gaps.”

One senior White House adviser said Pence was exasperated with the West Wing communications shop, which sent him out with a half-baked talking point to explain Comey’s ouster. But Pence’s office argues that Trump never undermined Pence with his public comments suggesting he fired Comey over the Russia probe; the president, the Pence team said, was simply adding more context to his decision and that it is not the vice president’s place to explain Trump’s decision-making process.

“The vice president stands by his comments and enjoys a great working relationship with all departments within the White House,” said Jarrod Agen, a Pence spokesman.

Although Trump and Pence enjoy a warm personal relationship, Pence allies say he faces two stark challenges. First, in a West Wing filled with competing factions vying for supremacy, the best interests of the vice president sometimes get lost. Perhaps more importantly, they say, Pence is simply too loyal and willing to parrot the White House message, even at his own potential peril.

One former Pence adviser described the vice president’s role within the White House as more of a “super senior staffer” than an empowered executive. Pence, who has an office in both the West Wing and the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, is often seen floating in the hallways that connect to the Oval Office, not unlike other staffers. Another former aide mentioned Pence’s almost “military-style orientation toward authority.”

Faced with the revelation that Flynn had misled him over contacts with Russians, for instance, Pence had to be urged by staff to forcefully voice his frustrations with Flynn to the president, according to two people with knowledge of the incident.

And while aides said Pence does give Trump his honest and unvarnished counsel in one-on-one meetings, some Pence allies privately wish he would be bolder in asserting his opinions in the group debates the president enjoys.

The flip-side, of course, is that by publicly keeping his opinions close, the vice president — who, for instance, urged the president to withdraw from the Paris climate accord but did not crow about his victory — has not only engendered good will with Trump, but also managed to often steer clear of the sniping and power struggles that plague the administration.

“Pence has found a way to execute the balance between having enormous influence and being an honest broker, which is a hard thing to pull off,” said Ralph Reed, founder of the Faith and Freedom Coalition.

[Shadow president or mere shadow? Pence seeks to reassure allies unnerved by Trump]

The vice president — who routinely tamps down talk of a future “President Pence” — raised suspicions among Trump loyalists when he launched his leadership PAC, “Great America Committee” in mid-May, just a week after Trump fired Comey and during a moment of particular political danger for the president. Though the group had been long-planned and approved at the highest levels of the White House — the outside group can, for instance, help pay for travel expenses related to campaigning — the timing was inauspicious.

Some in the West Wing wondered if the vice president was trying to position himself at the expense of Trump, and Roger Stone, a longtime confidant of the president, took to Twitter. “No Vice President in modern history had their own PAC less than 6 months into the President’s first term,” Stone wrote. “Hmmmm.”

Pence’s leadership PAC team had originally planned a bigger rollout, which they quickly scrapped, and both Ayers and Obst stressed to Trump aides that the group had been in the works for several months and was intended solely to help the vice president push the administration’s agenda across the country.

[...]Trump initially chose Pence, in part, because he looked like a vice president out of central casting — a sort of generically handsome politician, with a close-cropped helmet of white hair and a compact physique that seemed to recall an iconic, Republican male from a bygone era.

But under Trump, Pence, who heaps plaudits on Trump and frequently refers to his “broad-shouldered leadership,” has in some ways become a parody of a deferential vice president — a servant in waiting, eager to serve his master’s whims.

One Republican operative remembers a meeting with business leaders in the Roosevelt Room, to which Pence arrived late. Though there was an open seat at the table reserved for Pence near Trump, the operative recalled, the vice president stood on the outskirts of the room like a staffer before waiting for a break in the conversation to take his seat.

Others say differences in background and temperament have also prevented Pence from ever becoming a true Trump confidant. The president, after all, habitually evaluates others based on their personal wealth, and Pence — who joked on the campaign trail that he and Trump were separated by “a whole bunch of zeros” — can never compete with Trump’s mogul friends.

People familiar with the interactions between the two men say the president often finds ways to remind Pence who is the ultimate boss. He jokingly yet repeatedly ribs Pence for, as Indiana governor, endorsing Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) over him in the state’s primary and often teases Pence about his far smaller crowd sizes — a quip Pence himself has deployed.

One person recalled that sometimes, when Pence speaks in a meeting, the president offers him a verbal pat on the head. “Wasn’t he a great pick?” Trump will say, with the tone of a dad whose kid finally said something useful.

Joel Goldstein, a vice presidential expert and law professor at St. Louis University, noted that Pence seems to enjoy significant face time with Trump and serves as a liaison to Capitol Hill, but added that he can come off as “sort of a sycophant-in-chief.”

“He runs a real risk in that so often his celebration of Trump is focused on how great Trump is, and not on the substance of the specific policies he’s trying to sell, and so I think that can end up making him look like he’s just sort of weak and not presidential and not dignified,” Goldstein said.
During a frenzied day when it looked like Trump might withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement, Pence served as a conduit to the business community, many whose members called to voice their alarm. “I hear you,” he told the worried executives. “I’ll be right back to you.”

And once Trump had decided to remain in the trade agreement, Pence again reported back, telling them matter-of-factly, “It’s been taken care of.” Pence, one Republican operative noted, never tried to claim any credit for the president’s reversal.
He wouldn't want to make the King angry, would he?