Mike Pence: He’s not throwing away his shot
That’s what Hamilton: An American Musical is really all about. It’s the story of Alexander Hamilton, one of our famous Founding Fathers. He was the first Secretary of the Treasury. His picture is on the ten dollar bill. He was brilliant.
The musical is easily the best musical or play I have ever seen, and along with the Super Bowl, is the only mega-hyped event that can actually live up to it. Hamilton actually is better than the hype, if that’s possible. After months of waiting, my wife and I finally got to see it this week in Chicago.
“My Shot” is one of the first songs in the play and sets the tone of young Hamilton’s ambition. The chorus of the song has the young legend chanting to the crowd: “I’m not throwing away my shot! I’m not throwing away my shot!” Download the song immediately. It rocks.
Art imitates life. I remember where I was last summer when word got out that Donald Trump had picked Mike Pence to be his running mate. I also remember a few interviews I gave later that summer when I was asked if I was surprised that Pence said “yes” to the invite. Those were hilarious questions then and they still are. There is no one in politics more ambitious than Mike Pence. No one.
He was not throwing away his shot.
I have not been kind to Pence in my columns. He has some flaws that his time as governor exposed that I have documented in painstaking detail. He is not a manager of government. He is awful at it. There is nothing flattering on his resume that would indicate otherwise. He is a bad judge of character, which sometimes leads to him choosing “his people” poorly. That’s not why he is in politics.
He’s there because of his ambition. Oh sure, he will talk about his faith and his conservatism whenever possible. He will give low taxes and smaller government banter with the best of them. The bobble head act is predictable now, with the insertion of his go-to words of “humility” and “resolve” whenever he can work them into a speech. He’s unflappable on the stump.
But the faith and conservatism bit got stretched to the limit during the campaign. In October, the lewd recorded conversation that Trump had with Billy Bush pushed Pence to the limit. Here in Indiana, many of us wondered if he could tolerate being partners with someone so faithless, so anti-conservative. How could Pence reconcile all of this? How? With ambition.
He was not throwing away his shot.
Pence took a couple of days to reflect and decided to stay the course. But this was a tipping point for him. He sold his soul. There was a no refund policy on that deal.
Trump’s presidency so far features plenty of highlights, or lowlights, and his complete disregard for protocol might lead to his demise. Respect for our institutions and the knowledge of their purpose is what Pence was supposed to bring to the team. Of course, that was all nonsense from the start. While he is no manager of government, he is no student of it either.
The travel bans have flopped in court. The healthcare bill has been more successful at jeopardizing House members reelection prospects than changing American’s lives. But nothing has been more exposing than Pence’s role as the leader of the Trump transition.
Pence wants Americans to believe that he did not know that Michael Flynn was under investigation by the Department of Justice for Flynn’s own baggage prior to his appointment as the National Security Adviser. Pence has proclaimed his ignorance publicly and continues to stand by it. His ambitious reason for the proclamation is that he doesn’t want Americans to think he is dirty. In the process, he is confirming that he is incompetent.
The transition team was notified by Flynn himself, and by a November 18, 2016 letter from Rep. Elijah Cummings of the DOJ investigation. But Pence is trying to convince us he didn’t know anything. I can’t decide if knowledge of the dirt or his ignorance of it is more damaging to his brand.
It’s as if the one recognizable role that is distinctly his is that he is the designated one the real team lies to and then sends out to repeat it. And he’s good at it. He doesn’t veer from the lie. Ever. Of course we already know that here in Indiana. It’s his biggest flaw. He is unable to admit a mistake or wrongdoing. Ever. This flaw will bite him this time, but I don’t see it affecting his unrelenting ambition.
Unlike Alexander Hamilton’s, nothing remarkable or historically endearing will come from Pence’s ambition.
But he’s still not throwing away his shot. And it really is a great song.