Vice-President Mike Pence has never been shy about supplicating himself to President Trump. He’s repeatedly, and obsessively, praised Trump’s “broad shoulders,” and cameras have caught him many times staring at Trump the way the president stares at an opportunity to destroy norms.
Previous reports have indicated that Pence is no less obsequious in private, taking pains to make fun of himself to please Trump, among other humiliations. Peter Nicholas adds to the scholarship on Pence’s love for Trump in his latest article in the Atlantic, which includes this demeaning quote from Kenneth Adelman, who served in the Reagan administration. “I’d like my wife to look at me just for one day the way Mike Pence looks at President Trump every day they’re together. That would be special,” Adelman said.
Nicholas describes Pence as “gushing” and frequently “taking pains to ensure that Trump has no cause to turn on him.” The VP is Trump’s No. 1 ally, even in private White House meetings, where he’s loath to disagree with his boss. Nicholas relays one incident following a meeting in which former White House chief economic adviser Gary Cohn raised objections to Trump’s comments following the 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville.
In front of the president, Pence said nothing to back up Cohn. After the meeting broke up, he climbed the flight of stairs to Cohn’s office and told him he’d been right, people familiar with the matter said. “I’m proud of you,” he told Cohn — a declaration that might have had more meaning had it been made in Trump’s presence.
Pence’s loyalty endures despite the public humiliations he’s subjected to. Most recently, he was trotted out to defend Trump’s 2016 endorsement of WikiLeaks. He did so by taking a page from Trump’s playbook and lying.
The VP’s adulation for Trump seems to be doing its job. Despite some rumblings a few months back that Trump was growing tired of Pence, he seems in little danger of losing his spot on the 2020 Republican presidential ticket.
But Trump’s recognition of Pence’s utility as vice-president doesn’t mean he respects the guy. In his article, Nichols describes Trump’s approach to the traditional one-on-one meetings between the president and vice-president:
Trump ditched that tradition. Instead he has invited to the lunches both his and Pence’s top aides. At the meals in the small dining room off the Oval Office, Trump keeps a big-screen TV tuned to cable news. Aides who have walked in have seen Trump yelling at the TV as he sits with Pence and their deputies over plates of chicken and cheeseburgers. When he sees something on the screen that he dislikes, Trump on occasion will interrupt the lunch and summon aides to discuss a response, people familiar with the lunches said.
Trump is the most important man in the world to Pence. While Pence falls somewhere below lunch, White House aides, and The Five in Trump’s pecking order.