It’s a bad day to be Mike Pence, but if allegations contained in a new book are true, every day is bad to be Mike Pence.
Michael Wolff’s extremely revealing look at Donald Trump’s first year in the White House, Fire and Fury, claims the former Indiana governor is viewed as “the weakest vice president in decades” among members of the White House staff.
The recently published hardback contains a number of juicy allegations about the current administration, including that Trump never wanted to be president in the first place. Fire and Fury claims the POTUS proudly refers to Melania as a “trophy wife,” and Ivanka believes she will be the first female president.
But no one is less spared than Pence.
The text derails the popular notion that the religious conservative is a Rasputin-like figure in the White House, someone pushing Trump toward the dark side of the extreme religious right. A member of the administration close to former advisor Steve Bannon compared him to “the husband in Ozzie and Harriet,” a good-natured but oafish presence.
Pence is described as a “nonevent,” despite initial hopes he could be someone who would reign in Trump’s worst impulses.
“Although many saw him as a vice president who might well assume the presidency someday, he was also perceived as the weakest vice president in decades and, in organizational terms, an empty suit who was useless in the daily effort to help restrain the president and stabilize the West Wing,” Wolff writes.
This account is a jarring departure from how Trump’s team described the role of the vice president when they were scouting running mates in 2016.
When presidential also-ran John Kasich was offered the position, The New York Times claims that Trump’s eldest son, Donald Jr., claimed he would be the “most powerful vice president in history.” The billionaire CEO viewed his second-in-command as overseeing “domestic and foreign policy,” while Trump would in charge of the vague task of “making America great again.”
But with Pence in the role, Wolff writes the vice president “cast himself as blandly uninteresting, sometimes barely seeming to exist in the shadow of Donald Trump.” Pence himself once described his job as “funerals and ribbon cuttings.”
That choice may have been an intentional one for the Republican politician.
Wolff, a contributor to Vanity Fair and New York Magazine, notes that Pence begins speeches with a conspicuous shout out to his boss: “I bring greetings from our forty-fifth president of the United States, Donald J. Trump.” The author claims those salutations are “directed more to the president than to the audience.”
Pence is so skilled at kowtowing to Trump that White House staffers view his “extreme submissiveness” as “suspicious,” Wolff writes.
These stories call into question the vice president’s role in policy-making under the current administration. When Trump was poised to sign an executive order permitting sweeping discrimination against LGBTQ people, Pence was said to be a major advocate for that proposal, as well as Trump’s attempted ban on open trans military service.
Wolff characterizes the couple as much more powerful figures in the White House than Pence. Fire and Fury describes the First Daughter as “in effect the real chief of staff” and Kushner as wielding “extraordinary influence from a position that no one could challenge.”