General John Hyten, who is in charge of America’s nuclear arsenal, revealed on Saturday that he would not carry out a nuclear strike ordered by President Trump, if he thought it were illegal. As Huffington Post report, he would weigh up proportional response and unnecessary suffering when considering legality. Clearly this is fantastic news for the well-being of our planet and all our lives that depend on it. It should also influence anyone planning for the removal of Trump as US President.
My advice; keep him around, he’s the lesser of two evils.
The greater evil is Vice President Mike Pence.
If Trump’s entire administration could be ended by the proof of some heinous crime or another, that would be excellent, but it is deeply unlikely. On the other hand, if Trump alone were impeached or forced to resign, the Vice President would take his place. If Pence couldn’t, then leader of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan would.
Neither of them have a moral compass any better tuned than Trump’s, but they’re both socially intolerant, both deep in the pockets of finance, oil and gun companies, and both have single-mindedly pursued power at any cost.
America doesn’t have ‘snap’ Presidential elections, and the civil service doesn’t continue on in the absence of a President. Someone will fill the role. First in line after Trump would be Michael Richard Pence.
evangelical tea party extremist with a smile
The New Yorker magazine recently ran a 13,000 word article on Pence. I strongly encourage you to find the time to read it. The picture that emerges is clear.
He is that particular kind of modern American Republican politician; a devout evangelical Christian who gets his views on women, sexuality and gender straight from the bible. He hates government and loves to cut taxes, regulation and public provision. He’s great friends with the leaders of big business, faultlessly loyal to his superiors and willing to do whatever it takes to take and keep power.
This is actually quite a long way from Trump’s policy stances, as ephemeral as they are, and fortunately still very much unelectable in national politics. His function as Trump’s VP pick was to reassure the conservative Christian voting base that the administration would be guided by ‘Christian moral values’ (complete opposition to abortion and gay rights), and reassure the Republican Party that Trump is ‘their man’ and not a complete loose cannon. Unfortunately, none of this would stop him from becoming President of the United States, if Trump were to vacate the seat.
Chaos vs Focus
If ‘Trumpism’ is an ideology, then it’s practice is something along the lines of; follow the advice of the last person you talked to, and if it feels good, do it. Now this can be scary, particularly when weapons of mass destruction are involved, but it has an inbuilt logic of contradiction. It tends toward the path of least resistance and undermines its own momentum. We’ve seen this in Trump’s reluctance to actually repeal Obamacare; fearing actually making his voters seriously less well off and unhappy, his failure to do anything to upset trade with China or his wildly contradictory rhetoric towards Kim Jong-un.
Whilst Trump is dismantling key arms of the US government; the diplomatic service and the Environmental Protection Agency most obviously, he is doing so through inaction rather than deliberate action. He is simply not hiring ambassadors and diplomats, and the posts he does fill go to people without any of the required credentials, knowledge or experience. They’re often individuals who’ve spent their entire life fighting the department they now control. Trump leaves the mismanagement to them so he can get back to Twitter.
Mike Pence, on the other hand, has his core religious and social beliefs and has pursued them to the brink of his own destruction, in the case of opposing gay rights as governor of Indiana. But when his beliefs get in the way of cold, hard power, he’ll always let them slide. He rowed back on his homophobic bill at the 11th hour, when it threatened to sink any hopes of reelection, but held onto ones massively reducing access to abortion and cutting funding for pre-school education. He instituted a huge tax cut for the rich that did nothing to help Indiana’s struggling economy but nearly bankrupt the state finances.
In 2012, Pence was the Koch brothers’ – oil magnates and some of the richest individuals on the planet – favourite candidate for the presidency. As anti-tax, anti-regulation and pro-business as Trump is, he doesn’t act predictably or reliably for big business. One day he pushes for a new oil pipeline, but the next he’s slapping a tariff on imports. One day he hires the ex-CEO of ExxonMobil to be his Secretary of State, but the next he’s drafting legislation to limit lobbying and access to Senators.
Pence, on the other hand, is a long time recipient of Koch brother political donations and happily works overtime for them when required to defeat a key bill like Cap and Trade on emissions in 2009. Despite purporting to embody the Christian values of charity and neighbourly love, in 2015 he barred the rehoming of any Syrian refugees in his state. A move without support from the Christian religious community and one which was subsequently struck down by a federal judge.
People deride Trump for being addicted to cable TV and rowing back on announcements the following day if he feels the public mood is against him. Did he really fire 59 Tomahawk missiles into Syria just because Ivanka was so horrified at pictures of Syrian children suffering after a chemical attack on TV that evening? We may never know, but at least Trump is in some sense democratic and able to compromise. Pence, as Governor, far from adopting the ideas of the last person he talked to, ““Got this look in his eye,” [Democratic senator] Buttigieg recalled. “He just inhabits a different reality. It’s very difficult for him to lay aside the social agenda. He’s a zealot.””
Trump may be a moron but at least he’s basically socially liberal. President Pence would be that brutal combination of moronic zealot. He’d want to be America’s pastor, showing his lost flock the ‘right path’. In 2002 he declared that “educators around America must teach evolution not as fact but as theory”. In 2000 he wrote that “[congressional] Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior” – A likely dogwhistle indicating support for gay conversion therapy and hostility towards condoms etc… as birth control.
Watch the body language
The reason I’m really scared of a Pence presidency is the fact that although he differs with Trump so greatly on so many policy issues, and clearly detests the way he is treated by the President, he never once retaliates. He never complains, he never makes a stand. Pence doesn’t have his own campaigns or issues or meetings or lead anything like any previous VP would. He always toes the line like a faithful dog. People like this are not to be trusted. At all.
You just have to ask, why does he do it?
Look at how Trump introduced Mike Pence as his VP pick. Credits to Dr. Jack Brown and his blog Body Language Success & Emotional Intelligence for these insights.
Trump’s body language is incredibly dismissive and unhappy. As soon as he’s shaken Mike’s hand he looks away, turns away, puts his hands in his pockets and walks off stage. This is not the introduction of a man he actually values or respects in any way.
Later on, Trump feels that he just has to confess to the audience that his pick was motivated mainly by party requirements. Even if it was, who admits this in public, right after the announcement? More importantly, who takes it in his stride without blinking? Mike Pence.
Throughout the transition period after election but before assuming office, Pence displayed extremely high anxiety when asked about almost anything Trump was doing. In this clip, Pence declares Trump “a man of his word”, but his body language resoundingly rejects what his mouth is saying.
Throughout the past year, Pence has spoken in support of Trump, even when his body language is screaming high anxiety and disagreement. Only someone prepared to do anything for power would sustain such attacks on their morals and mental health. Someone who sees this Vice Presidency – a very powerful position in American politics – as a temporary state, as means to an end. Someone who has an eventual goal – absolute (presidential) power. If Pence ever gets it, he’ll be much less of a democrat than Trump, and his policies would be even more damaging for America and the world.