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Opinion Pence gets dissed again — and he ‘deserves it’

Former vice president Mike Pence gives a speech during the 44th annual National Conservative Student Conference by Young America’s Foundation on July 26 in Washington, D.C. (Craig Hudson/For the Washington Post)

Mike Pence deserves it.

Specifically, the former vice president deserves at least a modicum of sympathy after all he’s been through. He came perilously close, we now know, to what his then-chief of staff says “would have been a massacre” on Jan. 6. Secret Service agents protecting Pence called their family members to say goodbye as the rioters closed in. President Donald Trump was at best indifferent to his vice president’s prospective demise, saying Pence “deserves it” for doing his constitutional duty and certifying the election results.

And now? The man who left Pence for dead continues to be lionized by the Republican Party — while Pence can’t even get a table at Olive Garden.

“I can confirm now with personal experience,” Pence said Tuesday at a highly anticipated speech in Washington, “you can actually be a congressman from your home state for 12 years, you can be the governor of your home state for four, you can even be vice president of the United States of America. But you’re still going to wait 25 minutes for a table at Olive Garden on Saturday night at 7 o’clock.” Pence concluded from this humiliating episode, “Only in America.”

The audience of college students, at the Young America Foundation, seemed not to know what to make of Pence’s story, and reacted with scattered applause.

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There was reason for their confusion: Everybody knows that if there’s a wait at Olive Garden, you go to Red Lobster instead.

Waiting for his Lasagna Fritta is the least of the indignities Pence is enduring at the moment. Naturally, he’s getting no credit from fellow Republicans for standing up for democracy that day in early 2021. And, as he floats his 2024 presidential candidacy, he’s trying feebly to differentiate himself from his former boss and tormentor — while simultaneously praising his former boss and tormentor. The result is a profile in timidity.

“I came today not to look backward, but to look forward,” he said Tuesday, unveiling his supposed point of departure from Trump. “Conservatives need to … offer a bold and positive agenda of solutions for the future.”

He added: “To win, conservatives need to do more than criticize and complain. We must unite our movement behind a bold, optimistic agenda.”

Then, after calling for a forward-looking vision, he gave a speech looking backward to the Trump administration. After calling for positivity and optimism, he delivered slashing negativity.

Pence gushed about what made him “proud” of the Trump years, repeatedly hailing what happened “under the Trump administration” and “during the Trump administration.” He showered praise on the Trump name no fewer than nine times: “We need to permanently extend the Trump-Pence tax cuts. … The Trump administration was the only administration in the 21st century where Russia did not seek to redraw international lines by force. … I’m proud to say the Trump administration changed the national consensus on China.”

One student asked about the “divide” between Pence and Trump. “I couldn’t be more proud of the record of the Trump administration,” Pence responded, allowing only a faint ray of daylight between him and Trump. “I don’t know that the president and I differ on issues, but we may differ on focus,” Pence said, reasoning that “the time has come for us to offer a bold, positive agenda.”

A sampling of the “positive” agenda Pence outlined: “American freedom is under attack … a pernicious woke agenda designed to control the American people and destroy the American Dream … one disaster after another … our borders are under siege … big-government socialism … toxic waste into the headwaters of our culture … censorship, coercion and cancel culture … the radical gender left … left-wing tyranny, socialism and decline.”

So, Pence’s idea of differentiating himself from Trump is to praise Trump and to give the same sort of “criticize and complain” speech Trump does, only with less feeling? No wonder he’s losing the battle.

On Tuesday, Trump staged a grand return to Washington, giving a keynote speech to the pro-Trump America First Policy Institute. For hours before the address, sycophants praised the former president and failed coup leader.

“I applaud President Trump,” said Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah).

“I like him a lot, and I miss him,” offered Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

Pence, by contrast, couldn’t catch a break. Travel delays forced the cancellation of his planned speech to the Heritage Foundation on Monday, leaving him to deliver the same speech to a lukewarm reception from the Young America crowd. “God must have had different plans,” Pence reasoned.

I don’t pretend to know God’s plans. But is it possible that God, by delivering Pence from the mob that day, intended for him to find the courage to speak out against the evil that is imperiling our democracy?

Instead, as Pence again plays Trump’s meek supplicant, more humiliation will follow. He deserves that, too.

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