WHEN VICE PRESIDENT Mike Pence appeared at an event in Arizona the other day and lauded former sheriff Joe Arpaio as a “tireless champion of . . . the rule of law,” his comment wasn’t just a risible fiction about a man who made racial profiling his political calling card, thumbed his nose at a federal judge’s order and was convicted of criminal contempt of court. In kowtowing to Mr. Arpaio, a hero to alt-right racists, the vice president also announced his own contempt for principles higher than reflexive genuflection to anything and anyone favored by President Trump.
It was Mr. Trump, of course, who pardoned Mr. Arpaio last year almost immediately after he was found guilty of criminal contempt for ignoring a federal judge’s order to halt his office’s systematic racial profiling patrols in Maricopa County, in and around Phoenix. That pardon was a milestone in Mr. Trump’s ongoing assault on the norms and traditions of legality. Mr. Arpaio had expressed no contrition nor even applied for a pardon, let alone been reviewed for one by the Justice Department — the usual process by which presidential pardons have been granted.
Mr. Pence, while unstinting in his public and private obeisance to the president, has also peddled an image of himself as a compassionate Christian committed to bedrock conservative values. That squares poorly with his homage to Mr. Arpaio, whose stock in trade during more than two decades as sheriff was to harass and humiliate Hispanics, including by detaining people on suspicion of lacking proper documentation based on nothing more than their appearance.
Mr. Pence’s remarks about Mr. Arpaio, who is running for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in Arizona, were in keeping with the obsequious tone he has adopted to sustain Mr. Trump’s favor. “I just found out when I was walking through the door that we were also going to be joined today by another favorite,” Mr. Pence said. “A great friend of this president. A tireless champion of strong borders and the rule of law. He’s spent a lifetime in law enforcement — Sheriff Joe Arpaio, I’m honored to have you here.”
Was it really an honor to rub shoulders with a man who referred to the jail he ran as a “concentration camp,” and where he subjected inmates to inhumane conditions? Was the vice president thinking of Mr. Arpaio’s office’s record of ignoring more than 400 sex-crime cases, many of them reported by illegal immigrants, including dozens involving children who said they had been molested?
By publicly hailing Mr. Arpaio, the vice president ignored the former sheriff’s long record of lawlessness and blatant disregard of constitutional principles. Once, the question of what Mr. Pence really stands for was a nuanced one. Now, not so much. By embracing the role of Mr. Trump’s avatar, he has made clear that he stands exclusively for Mr. Trump, with all the moral liabilities that involves.