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Opinion Mike Pence’s empty words

Vice President Pence speaks at 2019 March for Life dinner in Washington. (Cliff Owen/AP)
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A few weeks ago, I asked, “What is the point of Sarah Sanders?” The White House press secretary, I argued, is so lazily mendacious in her television appearances that it begs the question of why networks would have her on in the first place. Vice President Pence, like Sanders, is an essentially useless show guest. But unlike Sanders, Pence’s appearances serve a purpose, if only to showcase to viewers how little the White House has to offer.

On CBS’s “Face the Nation” Sunday, Pence described the president’s offer to trade three years of deportation relief for the “dreamers" and some other vulnerable immigrants for billions in funding for a border wall as a “a good-faith, common-sense compromise.” Host Margaret Brennan asked, “If this is a genuine attempt, why weren’t any Democrats included in the consultations for this?” Pence could offer only that, “Well, Margaret we’ve been talking to Democrats over the last four weeks.” After some more back and forth, Brennan said, “I didn’t hear you say which Democrats are supporting it though,” to which Pence could only respond, “Right.”

Over on “Fox News Sunday,” it was a similar (lack of) story from the vice president, as he would not answer whether or not the White House’s proposal has enough votes in the Senate.

“Fox News Sunday" host Chris Wallace further pointed out to Pence, “You could open the government tomorrow. The House has passed bills to open the government tomorrow, why don’t you sign them and open the government and then you can negotiate about this?” Pence could only respond that “the American people want us to secure the border” — even though polls have shown that a clear majority of Americans don’t want a shutdown over border security. Pence then turned to blaming Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)and other House Democrats for not negotiating — a tactic he tried on CBS as well, but not an answer to Wallace’s question.

There were many other nonanswers from Pence on the shutdown — whether the president would negotiate on his requested funding level for the wall, whether Trump would offer dreamers a permanent path to citizenship and other crucial details. But perhaps Pence’s “finest” pablum surfaced back on CBS when he decided that, because it’s the weekend of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, he might as well invoke the civil rights leader:

But one of my favorite quotes from Dr. King was, “Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.” You think of how he changed America. He inspired us to change through the legislative process to become a more perfect union. That’s exactly what President Trump is calling on the Congress to do. Come to the table in a spirit of good faith.

Yes, who can forget King’s embrace of the legislative process rather than outside protest? Or the government shutdown prior to the passage of the Civil Rights Act?

The vice president had only empty words to offer on Sunday because there was nothing he could offer. No examples of Democrats with whom the White House shared its new proposal. No rationale for why the White House hasn’t already reopened the government aside from leverage. No reason Democrats should now trust a president who changed his mind the last time a deal was struck. That an administration talking head such as Sanders can’t offer useful answers isn’t surprising. That the vice president himself can’t is damning.

Read more:

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Michael J. Glennon: If Trump is impeachable, so is Pence

Karen Tumulty: Trump owns this shutdown debacle