Opinion | Mike Pence did a service to democracy on Jan. 6. Why is he trying to undo it now? – The Washington Post
No one understands better than former vice president Mike Pence the corrosive forces of disinformation that led to the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6.
Pence’s refusal that day to bend to President Donald Trump’s demands that he make an unconstitutional effort to overturn a fair election stands as his most significant service to the nation during the four years he spent in its second-highest office.
So how to explain the comment Pence made Monday night during an interview with Sean Hannity on Fox News?
“I know the media wants to distract from the Biden administration’s failed agenda by focusing on one day in January,” Pence said. “They want to use that one day to try and demean the character and intentions of 74 million Americans who believed we could be strong again and prosperous again and supported our administration in 2016 and 2020.”
“That one day” — the day when Pence, in his duties as vice president, was to preside over certifying the official count of electoral votes — some 800 rioters breached the Capitol. Some roamed the halls screaming “Hang Mike Pence!” and “Where is Pence? Find him!” Secret Service agents had to whisk Pence out of the Senate chamber.
The Trump supporters who fought their way into the Capitol directed their rage at Pence because Trump claimed — falsely — that his vice president had the power to reject electors submitted by the states. “All Mike Pence has to do is send them back to the States, AND WE WIN,” Trump tweeted that morning. “Do it Mike, this is a time for extreme courage!”
New details have come to light about the intensity of the pressure Trump put on Pence, the unscrupulous means that Trump and his allies proposed, and Pence’s own torment as he reached the decision that he had no choice but to do the right thing. These and other backstage dramas were revealed in “Peril,” a chronicle of the turbulent transition from Trump to President Biden, written by The Post’s Bob Woodward and Robert Costa.
Pence knows what’s right. “There is almost no idea more un-American than the notion that any one person could choose the American president,” Pence said during a June speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. “And I will always be proud that we did our part on that tragic day to reconvene the Congress and fulfilled our duty under the Constitution.”
But his comments during his interview with Hannity suggest that the toadying and servility Pence engaged in nearly every day as Trump’s vice president are difficult to shake.
His suggestion that the horror of Jan. 6 was simply a media creation plays into two unhinged story lines that have taken root in the GOP. The first is the lie that Trump actually won the election, which poll after poll has shown most Republicans still believe. The second is that the violent insurrection was no big deal. That shows up in surveys such as one CBS and YouGov conducted in July, which found that a quarter of Republicans said they approved of the thugs who trashed the Capitol.
Video: How the Capitol attack unfolded, from inside Trump’s rally to the riot
This type of pandering, by the way, is unlikely to rehabilitate Pence in the eyes of Trump’s most ardent supporters, or rekindle his prospects as a potential presidential contender in a party that still genuflects at Trump’s behest. In June, the former vice president was greeted with boos when he took the stage at a Florida gathering of the Faith & Freedom Coalition, an organization of conservative evangelical Christian activists. As security cleared the room of hecklers, someone shouted: “Traitor!”
What Pence now describes as “one day” was the culmination of a disgraceful campaign by Trump and his allies to undermine public trust in the electoral system, one that continues in Washington and in state capitals across the country.
Robert Kagan: Our constitutional crisis is already here
Jan. 6 was not a media confection. More than 600 people have been charged for their alleged unlawful actions. The select House committee that is investigating the insurrection has also issued subpoenas to top Trump officials and organizers of a rally that preceded the attack on the Capitol.
During his interview with Hannity, Pence called Jan. 6 “a tragic day in the history of our Capitol building.” But as Pence surely knows, it was also a tragic day for people who were there — including those who lost their lives, the police officers who were assaulted, and the lawmakers and staffers who were terrorized. History will record that Pence played a heroic role that day. It is confounding that he would sully his own legacy this way.
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