How About Pledging Not to Make Stupid Pledges?
Republicans have already compromised more than enough dignity for Donald Trump.
Last Wednesday, Republican presidential candidate Mike Pence appeared on Clay Travis’s radio show. Unsurprisingly, the topic of Donald Trump’s 37-count indictment came up, and Travis posed a strange (but increasingly popular) question about it to the former Vice President. He asked whether Pence would pledge to pardon Trump, if Trump is convicted and Pence becomes president.
Pence wasn’t onboard.
“Well, first off, these are serious charges,” he told Travis. “And as I said, I can’t defend what’s been alleged, but the president does deserve to make his defense. And I would say to each one of you, look, I’ve been a former governor. I’ve actually granted pardons to people and I take the pardon authority very seriously. It’s an enormously important power of someone in an executive position. And I just think it’s premature to have any conversation about that right now.”
Travis didn’t like Pence’s answer. The right-wing radio host argued that because “allowing Donald Trump to be put in prison” would be terrible for the country, Republican presidential candidates should pledge now to pardon him.
“What I’m hearing is you’re fine with Donald Trump being put in prison, sir,” Travis added. “And that to me, since you were his vice president, feels pretty disrespectful.”
There may certainly come a time for a serious debate about whether it’s in the best interest of our nation for a convicted former-president to serve prison time. But I can think of few political arguments more breathtakingly stupid than the notion that Mike Pence owes Donald Trump the basic “respect” of a get-out-of-jail-free card (over treating our national security secrets like a personal baseball-card collection), because Pence was his vice president.
I mean, if the concern is disrespect, I can think of something else that’s perhaps a bit more disrespectful. You know, like sitting in your office and doing absolutely nothing for three hours while rioters, threatening to “hang” your vice president, beat up police officers as they storm a government building that he and hundreds of lawmakers are holed up in.
Also disrespectful: telling advisors during that time that you think your vice president (whose security detail is calling their families out of fear of never seeing them again) actually deserves what is happening to him.
Then there’s that matter of creating the entire situation in the first place by lying for two months about an election being stolen, then convincing your enraged followers that your vice president, at a specific place and on a specific day, could have corrected the injustice… but chose not to.
But according to Travis, Pence is the disrespectful one in that relationship. He owes Trump a solid.
You simply can’t make up such idiocy… or more accurately, sycophancy.
Still, two presidential candidates have already taken the very pledge Travis described: Vivek Ramaswamy and Perry Johnson. Going a step further, Ramaswamy is loudly calling on the entire Republican field to join them, arguing that the charges against Trump are outrageous.
There have even been a couple of reports that Trump himself has been pushing the same initiative behind the scenes. If true, it would certainly make political sense. If Trump could build a public consensus among the field that the charges against him are so weak and political that they are preemptively worthy of a pardon, it would only strengthen his campaign. And in the unlikely event that he loses the primary, he’d perhaps have a legal ace in the hole down the road.
Unsurprisingly, the two Republican presidential candidates most strongly opposed to the pledge are the same two who’ve been speaking out against another pledge: a requirement by the Republican National Committee, for participation in the upcoming primary debates, that candidates must support the eventual nominee.
Both Asa Hutchinson and Chris Christie have scoffed at the pledge, with Hutchinson arguing that it would potentially have him supporting a “convicted felon,” and Christie pointing out that Trump reneged on the same pledge eight years earlier, without facing any consequences from the RNC. Neither man seems to have any problem with ultimately supporting any non-Trump nominee.
There’s an obvious common thread with these pledges: they both offer aid and comfort to Donald Trump, without any expectation of Trump having to offer anything in return. No one believes for a second that Trump would support a nominee other than himself, not even a nominee who would pledge today to pardon him if he’s convicted. Loyalty has only ever gone one direction with Trump. Likewise, party rules have never applied to him.
So, why should any Republican candidate, or any Republican voter for that matter, take any of this stuff seriously? I have no idea.
I’m all for pledging action to the American people. I’m especially high on pledging loyalty to the Constitution and allegiance to the flag. But to the party? To the field?
If the respect that most of the GOP demands for Donald Trump isn’t reciprocal — and it never is — what’s the point?