Let me begin by saying that I am not a particular fan of George Will. I find him patronizing, occasionally dishonest, frequently petty, and given to a prose style evidently intended to remind us lesser beings that he once swallowed a thesaurus.
But I really, really loved his recent screed about Mike Pence, which he titled “Trump is no longer the worst person in government.”
Most readers of this blog have probably seen it by now–for a couple of days, it was the most widely shared column on my Facebook feed, and probably many others. (As one of my friends noted, we in Indiana have had this impression of our former governor for years; it’s nice that non-Hoosiers can share it.)
Will doesn’t waste time getting to his thesis. Here’s the opening paragraph.
Donald Trump, with his feral cunning, knew. The oleaginous Mike Pence, with his talent for toadyism and appetite for obsequiousness, could, Trump knew, become America’s most repulsive public figure. And Pence, who has reached this pinnacle by dethroning his benefactor, is augmenting the public stock of useful knowledge. Because his is the authentic voice of today’s lickspittle Republican Party, he clarifies this year’s elections: Vote Republican to ratify groveling as governing.
Oleaginous. Toadyism. Obsequiousness. Lickspittle. Ordinarily, I would be annoyed by the pretentiousness of the language, but I am compelled to admire how perfectly it fits. I do hope Mike Pence has a dictionary…
The entire column is a devastating–and accurate–takedown of Mr. Piety, and if you have somehow missed it, I encourage you to click through. What evidently set Will off was Pence’s praise of Joe Arpaio, the despicable sheriff who spent years violating the constitutional rights of people in Arizona, during a speech in Tempe.
Noting that Arpaio was in his Tempe audience, Pence, oozing unctuousness from every pore, called Arpaio “another favorite,” professed himself “honored” by Arpaio’s presence, and praised him as “a tireless champion of . . . the rule of law.” Arpaio, a grandstanding, camera-chasing bully and darling of the thuggish right, is also a criminal, convicted of contempt of court for ignoring a federal judge’s order to desist from certain illegal law enforcement practices. Pence’s performance occurred eight miles from the home of Sen. John McCain, who could teach Pence — or perhaps not — something about honor.
As those of us who have known him for years can attest, this performance was classic Pence. His “service” as governor was marked both by his constant parading of his Christian bona fides and his equally constant willingness to act in what most people would consider very unChristian ways: trying to block desperate Syrian refugees from settling in Indiana, opposing basic civil rights for LGBTQ Hoosiers, endorsing punitive anti-choice, anti-woman legislation… all while neglecting the pesky, day-to-day details of actually governing the state.
It’s hard to disagree with Will’s brutal last paragraph.
There will be negligible legislating by the next Congress, so ballots cast this November will be most important as validations or repudiations of the harmonizing voices of Trump, Pence, Arpaio and the like. Trump is what he is, a floundering, inarticulate jumble of gnawing insecurities and not-at-all compensating vanities, which is pathetic. Pence is what he has chosen to be, which is horrifying.
Florid prose or no–when the man is right, he’s right.