The New York Times’ Frank Bruni really upped his game this week. In an atrociously brutal piece, he called Vice President Mike Pence a “holy terror,” claiming he’s multiple degrees more sinister than President Trump, the otherwise most sinister person on the planet. Bruni actually warns the best case against impeaching Trump is the much greater danger of Pence.
Think about that a moment though. For all the venom and apocalyptic hysteria being spewed at everything Trump has ever said, done or probably even thought — and there is plenty there of concern — there is someone even “worse” than this president. Bruni makes Chicken Little seem measured.
So what makes Pence so evil, other than the fact that he is, as Bruni has it, “self-infatuated,” “a bigot,” a “liar” and “cruel”? Pence’s original and most damning sin is that he’s a Christian who actually believes what Christians actually believe. Imagine that.
Pence is really no different than your run-of-the-mill evangelical, like millions of Americans. He believes that God governs the affairs of men, that prayer is effectual and worth doing, that marriage and family are best when built upon a married mother and father, that life is sacred and abortion destroys life, and that God appoints our government’s leaders, even those who are hostile to Him.
Bruni adds that Pence is a greater threat to the universe than Trump because he holds, “…the conviction that he’s on a mission from God and a determination to mold the entire nation in the shape of his own faith, a regressive, repressive version of Christianity.”
Besides sliming the Blues Brothers, he fails to appreciate that he has done so to millions of simple middle-Americans who believe that seeking to serve God in one’s life and work is a profound virtue and desirable life trait. Bruni continues on this remarkable trail: Trade Trump for Pence “and you go from kleptocracy to theocracy.”
How does one even respond to such meteoric hyperbole masquerading as thoughtfulness? Every person in government who’s possessed any measure of traditional Christian conviction and has the temerity to live by it has been accused of wanting to start a theocracy. The charge has grown quite thin and it has never even come close to happening. Chicken Little again.
Bruni fails to see — as do most of his peers — that it is precisely this kind of elitist bigotry that fueled Trump’s ascendency. But they keep topping off that tank with tanker-truck after tanker-truck of high-test vitriol. Bruni knows Pence is guilty of all of this and it disqualifies him, not only as a leader of our nation, but as a sane person, because there’s a new book coming out that says so. Bruni says the book “presents an entirely damning portrait of Pence,” but rest assured, it does so in a “mostly measured tone.” Yes, he actually modifies the phrase “entirely damning portrait” with the reassuring phrase “measured tone.”
In the book’s 300-plus mostly measured pages, the author cannot come up with one salutary thing to say about our nation’s vice-president? A book that only offers sentence after sentence from first page to last of how bad a person is is called “not worth reading,” because it’s hard to take seriously. However, Bruni and the book’s author believe the book is a must-read and serves an essential national interest because, as the author explains, “People don’t understand what Pence is: a religious zealot.”
A religious zealot, in the parlance of Christian antagonists, is merely a person who strongly believes things of faith that you disagree with. It’s a very subjective word and thus makes it easy to throw around with equal parts casualness and moral superiority. But it is likely true that most people do understand that Pence is a man of serious faith, and they like him for it.
It’s interesting that when Joy Behar said on “The View” that Pence was mentally ill because he says he sometimes hears from God when he prays, she was answering the panel’s question as to whether Pence would be a worse president than Trump. (She later apologized.) She was willing to call Pence psychotic, but she would not go as far as to say he is worse than Trump, because she explained “No one could be worse than Trump.” Saying Bruni is rhetorically more extreme than Behar is certainly saying something.
Publically pronounced hatred of Evangelicals, faithful Catholics and white men are the only allowable bigotries, and that prejudice seems to be demonstrated with greater nastiness with each passing day. Bruni’s is simply the latest installment. It is sad that those who put themselves out there as those who singularly carry the burden of dividing fact from delusion not only regularly trade in such bigotry, but can’t even see it for what it is. And they wonder why their readership is declining and people continue to vote for candidates they believe are crazy.