Mother Knew Best

Former vice-president Mike Pence’s contemporaneous notes of meetings with Donald Trump in January 2023 may prove to be the final nail in the boxcar which carries the former president to prison.  They are highlighted in Jack Smith’s 45-page indictment and are likely to be front and center during the obstruction and conspiracy trial.  Pence’s turnaround is as dramatic as Luke Skywalker’s realization the evil Darth Vader is his father.  If it puts closure on the Trump era, Pence deserves kudos for his resistance to joining the January 6 conspiracy and for his documentation of the events leading up to the violent insurrection.

In this morning’s New York Times, Maureen Dowd describes the VP’s 180-degree pivot as follows.

It’s strange to see Pence showing some nerve and coming to Smith’s aid, after all his brown-nosing and equivocating. He and Mother, who suppressed her distaste for Trump (my emphasis) for years, were the most loyal soldiers; in return, according to an aide, Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows said Trump felt Pence “deserved” to be hanged by the rioters.

“Mother,” of course, refers to Pence’s wife Karen.  Their backstory is all you need to know.  Pence first met his future wife at the Catholic church in Indianapolis to which they both belonged.  He first noticed her when she was playing guitar during Mass.  In 1995, they left the St. Thomas Aquinas Church and became evangelical Christians. 

One can only imagine Karen Pence’s “distaste for Trump,” the antithesis of everything she spiritually believed, especially following release of the “Access Hollywood” tape on October 7, 2016, 26 days before the general election.  Or the pillow talk that night.  Surely, Karen asked Mike, “Do you really want to be associated with this man?”

Which is why Pence deserves qualified praise for his actions on January 6 and his cooperation with the special counsel’s office.  The situation could have been potentially reminiscent of the hit taken by Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern in 1972 when it was disclosed his running mate Missouri Senator Thomas Eagleton had received electroshock therapy for clinical depression in the 1960s.  McGovern’s choice of Eagleton and his indecision how to resolve the question of his running mate’s fitness to serve as VP raised legitimate issues about the standard bearer’s judgement.  Something from which he never politically recovered.

Imagine if Pence had voluntarily dropped off the ticket.  That, not Hillary’s emails, would have dominated the news cycles for the final month of the campaign.  Furthermore, Pence would have four years to market his principled and “too honest” persona to Republicans, making him a competitive option for the 2024 Republican nomination.  Additionally, it would have given him time to solidify his evangelical base rather than handing it over to Trump.

Too bad he did not call Dan Quayle for advice on that occasion. 


The latest data point concerning the extent to which every sane member of the Trump administration knew they would eventually need to protect themselves from being thrown under the bus is the number of staff members, including Pence, who felt the need to keep contemporaneous notes following meetings with “the boss.”  Every MSNBC host on both sides of the aisle (e.g., Bush communications director Nicole Wallace and Obama press secretary Jan Psaki) and most guests with White House experience confirm they never felt the need to do so.  It is legitimate for the media to continually ask the Trump era note takers why they did not produce their evidence of a pending coup prior to January 6.

For what it’s worth.