FARMVILLE, Va. — For months now, CNN has engaged in a pathetic search for the perfect person to speak on behalf of Donald Trump during its quite-frequent panel discussions on the 2016 presidential race.
It hired Jeffrey Lord, a political director in the Reagan White House. Only Lord has a knack of making wacko references to slavery and FDR. It hired Kayleigh McEnany, a Harvard Law School graduate and pundit. Only McEnany has trouble acknowledging that the sky is blue. It hired Corey Lewandowski, a former Trump campaign manager who was fired from his post. Only Lewandowski is incapable of — and perhaps contractually prohibited from — ever straying from official talking points. It routinely invites national campaign spokeswoman Katrina Pierson to defend Trump positions. Only Pierson once said, “He hasn’t changed his position on immigration, he’s changed the words that he is saying.”
Mike Pence laps all of these folks. He’s the governor of Indiana, and tonight at the vice-presidential debate here at Longwood University he showed why he’s just the guy to suit up and blab away on the 2016 presidential race with an ever-expanding group of news professionals at CNN. Moderated by Elaine Quijano of CBSN and CBS News, the debate was about 15 white papers more substantive than last week’s presidential debate last week at Hofstra University. That’s what happens when you subtract the Donald Trump factor.
In any case, Pence makes for an attractive CNN hire. He can defend and advocate for Trump’s positions on foreign policy, social issues, immigration and the economy. Further, he possesses expert deflection skills, as he saved himself from having to directly defend Trump’s laundry list of offensive and outrageous comments about Muslims, Mexicans, John McCain and many, many other topics. Check out how he responded to Tim Kaine’s contention that the Trump-Pence ticket is engaging in the politics of insult: “Senator, you and Hillary Clinton would know a lot about an insult-driven campaign. It really is remarkable. At a time when, literally, in the wake of Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state, where she was the architect of the Obama administration’s foreign policy, we see entire portions of the world, particularly the wider Middle East, literally spinning out of control.”
The debate’s format lent itself to interruptions, eruptions and Quijano’s repeated attempts to get both fellows to shut up; there’s no telling whether Quijano’s practice sessions — featuring CBS News veterans Bob Schieffer and Bill Plante as the vice presidential stand-ins, according to CBS News sources — seasoned her for the ferocity of these two rhetorical gladiators. What we do know is that Pence tonight honed his expertise in dealing with crosstalk, a central element of cable news.
The guy’s unflappable, too, as possible future colleague CNN political analyst Gloria Borger noted in the post-debate chatter: “It’s easier to get under Donald Trump’s skin than it is to get under Mike Pence’s skin,” she said.
So what’s stopping CNN from making this move? Well, Pence is the sitting Indiana governor and the Republican vice-presidential nominee, you might say. But why would that matter? After all, CNN hired Lewandowski despite his confidentiality strictures, his prolonged severance payments from the Trump campaign, and strong evidence that Lewandowski has returned to the nerve center of the Trump campaign. So why not?