[guest post by Dana]
Former Vice President Mike Pence spoke at the Gridiron dinner in Washington D.C. this weekend. Pence, who is teasing a run for the presidency, sounded off on Donald Trump at the event. And while he didn’t hold back, his comments were made without a camera rolling. Pence not only went after Trump, but also shredded Tucker Carlson’s outlandish claims about tourists peacefully enjoying the Capitol on Jan. 6:
“January 6 was a tragic day for him. I was there at the Capitol, and let me assure you it was not, as some would have us believe, a matter of tourists peacefully enjoying our Capitol.”
He added, “Tourists don’t injure 140 police officers by sightseeing. Tourists don’t break down doors to get to the Speaker of the House. Or voice threats against public officials. The American people have a right to know what took place at the Capitol on January 6. I expect members of Fourth Estate to continue to do their job. Make no mistake about it — what happened that day was a disgrace and it mocks decency to portray it in any other way.”
Pence recounted his experience at the Capitol that day, as he refused Secret Service pleas to leave the complex to ensure his safety.
“When I was escorted off the Senate floor Secret Service told me that I had to leave the building,” Pence said. “But I was determined to stay. I believed that law enforcement would soon have the situation in hand, never imagining what would unfurl, would occur. But it was there in that small office just off the Senate chamber, there was a small television set, and we watched what was unfolding outside — the mayhem and the rioting. You could hear it echoing outside, and soon thereafter in the hallways.”
Pence then focused specifically on Trump’s behavior and the danger in which the Pence family found themselves:
”I was not afraid but I was angry. President Trump was wrong. I had no right to overturn the election. And his reckless words endangered my family and everyone at the Capitol that day. And I know that history will hold Donald Trump accountable” for what happened.
Pence’s team clearly believes that the candidate they see “occupy[ing] the adult-in-a-room 2024 lane” is speaking up at the right time:
[H]is advisers saw the Gridiron dinner as an opportunity not just to echo those sentiments but to amplify them. They also believed it would help Pence win over his most skeptical audience these days: Washington insiders and journalists who have given him short shrift in the early 2024 primary.
“This was a different audience for him,” said Marc Short, Pence’s former vice presidential chief of staff and his senior adviser…Mike is in a different place where he can be sort of free and liberated in ways that I don’t think others in the field are,” Short said. “And so I’m not looking at it as to where he is at this moment. I believe that he’s got a good pathway forward.”
In my opinion, he’s focused on the wrong audience. It wasn’t Washington insiders and journalists that bought into Trump’s lies about the election being stolen. And it wasn’t Washington insiders and journalists that stormed the Capitol on Trump’s behalf. Also, Independents and rational Republicans count for something, too. Therefore, it’s not the Washington insiders and journalists that Pence has to win over if he wants to become the nominee. But hey, it’s not hard to see why he chose a roomful of Washington insiders and journalists to try and win over:
Those close to Pence are trying to help him recapture some of that more freewheeling approach, making sure that his campaign events include fireside chats and not taking a de facto position that the press is the enemy.
The report also notes that Pence has said that it’s critical to be “transparent” about what happened on Jan. 6. If he truly believed that, he would be willing to comply with the subpoena, rather than fight against it.
P.S. Pence is already in campaign mode: New Hampshire on Thursday and Iowa on Saturday…