During a testy exchange between Trump and Pelosi/Schumer in front of a gaggle of press cameras, Mike Pence sat silently, looking as though he was being forced to sit through some really bad performance art.
— The Daily Beast (@thedailybeast) December 11, 2018
And he kind of was.
The encounter may have been billed as a negotiation between the parties over Trump’s wall and the potential of yet another partial government shutdown. But that gives what transpired too much credit. Conscious of the cameras, nobody was positioning or bargaining. Nobody even broached the possibility of compromise, much less consensus. They were throwing verbal jabs to make headlines and give some self-satisfied supporters a twitter-length talking point.
Mike Pence powered down to save electricity pic.twitter.com/TpFpa5mwrt
— Max Burns (@themaxburns) December 11, 2018
Pence’s stoic silence has been described as everything from elf on a shelf to weekend at Bernies to low-energy Jeb Bush. But to me? I’d say I empathized, but were I in his shoes, I’m not sure I could have held on to enough self control to avoid Robert Downey Jr. level eye rolls. Maybe to some he looked like a grandpa-level disinterest, but by refusing to participate in a poorly constructed improv, he looked like something else entirely to me. He seemed like the adult in a room filled with drunk college kids, soberly asking himself how he got there and planning his own escape.
Today, we are all Mike Pence. pic.twitter.com/xvN4niXICG
— Anthony Zurcher (@awzurcher) December 11, 2018
It was, simply, the worst kind of vaudeville. It was the kind that was spectacularly ridiculous enough to be comedy, yet made tragic by the audience taking it seriously.
Trump, for his part, did his best to act like he had never donated significant amounts of money to both Pelosi and Schumer, going as far as calling one “the best” and openly endorsing her. Pelosi and Schumer did their best to act like they had never cleared such checks or voted in the past for the border wall they now opposed. Everyone pretended that Trump had the power to direct the legislative branch, either to seem even more powerful, or to seem less so. Everyone speaking attempted, weakly, to blame any government shutdown on someone other than themselves and members of their own parties.
Everyone other than Pence, of course.
Mike Pence looks exactly like our Elf on the Shelf during this discussion. pic.twitter.com/rdMSwBFHPO
— jlisle (@jlisle) December 11, 2018
Trump is the troll that’s too hard not to feed for those with enough pride and confidence, even though we all know better. He sucked in his opposition. He sucked in the media. Hell, given that I’m writing these words, he’s sucked me into believing his crass un-Presidential antics are worth enough words for an article, as dismissive as it is to the relevance of the absurd.
— OB “Silent Pence” KG™️ (@bklyn_g) December 11, 2018
It’s possible Pence felt that the whole act for the cameras wasn’t going to produce anything of substance, and nothing was to be gained by participating in the circus. It’s possible that he was told to stay silent, or felt it was important to let his boss take the lead and stick out his chest. Maybe he wanted to remind Democrats considering trying the whole impeachment shtick that he was the ‘reasonable’ alternative were they to succeed. Maybe the only wall he really cares about is in Israel. Hell, maybe it was just that he sat next to a woman who wasn’t his wife.
— Jeff Pearlman (@jeffpearlman) December 11, 2018
Whatever the reasons, it was one of the few times I could see myself in Mike Pence.