Hannah Arendt coined the term “the banality of evil” while watching the trial of Nazi SS officer Adolph Eichmann in 1961. Arendt, one of the most influential political philosophers of the twentieth century, saw in Eichmann not an Aryan god who represented a true “master race”, but a mediocre, over-confident petty bureaucrat just doing what he was told. The Final Solution couldn’t have happened without a literal army of bureaucrats doing the same thing Eichmann was doing. Sure, sure – there were plenty of “Good Germans” who didn’t really like what Hitler was doing to Germany (and to some Germans). But, when push came to shove (em in a gas chamber), pretty much every one of those “Good Germans” was way more German than “good”. People are who (and what) they are. And, is there a better specimen of American banality – and all its inherent evils – than Mike Pence?
For starters, in all seriousness, Mike Pence was a genius hire. The hounds have never caught up with how clever it was because the hounds – our news media – are still chasing down the “rabbit” that Mike Pence is a good, upstanding Christian who’s biggest fault is over-loyalty to Donald Trump. Just as our news media to this day scratches its head over how Trump has such a hold on the GOP, they still can’t figure out why Pence remained – until just now – so loyal to a man who tried to have him killed. If you don’t frame Donald Trump and everything about him and his presidency from a “corruption” point of view? You’re telling the story of some other guy named Trump and some other Republican Party.
The Republican Party knew even before they nominated Trump that he was 1) corrupt and 2) a national security threat. In fact, they said all this OUT LOUD – at a meeting of Republican leadership held on June 25, 2016 in Washington, DC. Current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy entered the meeting late and said – upon entering – “There’s two people I think Putin pays – Rohrbacher and Trump – swear to God!” No one in the room reacted with shock. Rather, unease filled the room – so much unease in fact that then Speaker Of The House Paul Ryan stepped forward and told everyone they were not going to discuss this any further and definitely not outside the room. They were going to keep it secret that 1) Trump was a grave national security threat and 2) they knew it.
Trust me – if everyone in the GOP’s leadership knew Trump was corrupt, so did Mike Pence when Paul Manafort approached Pence as his choice – Manafort’s – for veep. Remember what Manafort was doing at that exact same time? He was trying to make things right between himself and Oleg Deripaska, a former client of Manafort’s political influence shop (a lot of their business involved pushing the Ukraine toward Russia). Deripaska believed Manafort had ripped him off to the tune of $10 million. In oligarch world, you pay that debt or you suffer some serious physical consequences. Manafort knew what the stakes were. Also remember – in the not too distant future, Manafort would hand Deripaska (via Konstantin Kilimnik) proprietary polling data pertaining to Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.
We don’t know what happened to the data pertaining to Minnesota. But we know what happened to the rest of it: Russian military intelligence (which employs Deripaska) turned the polling data into propaganda that popped up as weaponized ads on individual Facebook pages of democratic Black voters in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan. The ads – aimed directly at Black Democratic voters – fed its viewers’ disinformation that suggested that despite what she said out loud, Hillary Clinton was a deep down closet racist – someone that Black voter should consider not voting for; better yet, just stay home! Part of the point of disinformation is to break one’s confidence in normalcy and good human behavior. If just one Black Democratic voter did, in fact, stay home and didn’t vote because of this disinformation campaign? That’s not just one too many, it’s flat out illegal.
But then, we know how hard it is to get white people to punish other white people for acting like such dumbass white people. The Donald Trump’s of the world arise in part because no one ever tells them “no”.
Every time Mike Pence stood by Trump, he KNEW he was standing by treason. Mike just never thought any of them would get caught at it. White people, as we know, are incredibly arrogant that way. They don’t see their criminal acts as criminal acts – regardless of how criminal they are. Hell, as of now, the entire GOP (minus Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger) thinks the January 6 insurrection was just “political discourse”. They know that’s not the case just like Mike Pence has always known that Donald Trump isn’t good for anything or anyone not named Donald Trump.
To be kind, Mike Pence is a phony, a fraud and a pathetic waste of otherwise good carbon.
Why did Pence finally “do the right thing” as opposed to what he’s done every single day for the past five plus years – variations of the wrong thing? On the day – on January 6 – Pence stood up to Pence knowing what the repercussions would be. That doesn’t reflect Pence’s moral stance, it reflects the calculus Pence was doing – knowing he’s already guilty of treason. Pence doesn’t think he’ll ever get prosecuted for all the treason he’s committed, but he’s not as certain as he used to be. He sees the January 6 Commission making progress. He knows what’s in the documents they have already and the ones that are coming. He knows for a fact how deep and extensive the January 6 insurrection plot and planning runs and ran.
He knows where all those plots and plans connect: in the White House inside Donald Trump’s bloated orange head.
Like a white guy, Pence has assured himself that “it would have been far worse had it been someone else” instead of him committing the treason. Anyone else would have been really, REALLY treason-y whereas Pence was only just being “really treason-y”.
But then, Mike Pence also tells himself that he’s the epitome of a “good Christian”. Here’s the dirty little secret every Christian fundamentalist and Talibangelical harbors: They don’t believe for two seconds IN God, they believe with every fiber in their being that they ARE God. See the difference?
Evangelicals have turned “Do unto others” into “Do what we say or else”. They see Jesus as a mascot, nothing more. He’s their pretty, white Ronald McJesus, serving up “faith nuggests” and empty calories to the masses under the guise of spiritual fulfillment. No wonder they all walk around starving while over-eating. There’s a tone of voice – a stick-up-its-ass stentorian pose – that hard core religionistas like Pence adopt whenever they speak publicly. It’s like he’s shoveling bullshit with three hands instead of the two his god gave him.
Pence is a bully, same as Trump is. But Pence isn’t an alpha creature; he’s a soft-white-underbellied beta happy to do the alpha’s bidding. In a way, so is Trump: he’s a beta when facing the alpha’s alpha Vlad Putin.
But – and here’s the thing about bullies – all bullies can, in turn, be bullied. It’s the thing that scares them more than anything. Think Putin’s invincible? His actions tell you he knows better. Will Putin invade Ukraine? Bet against it. The second Russian forces cross the “line of scrimmage”, Putin and every one of his oligarch pals (organized criminals each and every one of them) will find themselves cut off from the dollar and from Western banking. Western banks is where all those oligarchs – Putin included – stash their money because they know better than anyone how terribly corrupt all those Russian banks are, being their owners!
Putin may look like an ordinary “head of state” but that’s the last thing he is. Putin is an international criminal, a gangster, with a government (its military, its nukes) at his disposal. He silences any critical press and poisons his political enemies or sends them flying off balconies and out of windows from upper floors. Being a consummate intelligence professional, he understands how to use kompromat to full effect – which is exactly what he’s done to Donald Trump and the entire GOP.
Mike Pence included.