Beware of this scoop from CNN's Dana Bash -- not because she isn't credible as a journalist, but because the sourcing is totally opaque. Why would anyone within Trump's upper echelon leak this detail and intentionally draw blood from their just-announced teammate? And who would be in a position to know this information, but also have an incentive to run off and gossip to CNN that Trump supposedly came thisclose to dropping Pence and heading in another direction? Here's Bash's tweet, which is making the rounds:
Baseless speculation: Perhaps this was the work of someone plugged into Trumpworld, but whose loyalties lie with one of the other spurned VP finalists. Newt Gingrich -- whose jaw-dropping, last-minute mega-pander failed to change the outcome -- seems to be taking the Pence news more or less in stride. Others' grapes are more distinctly sour:
Christie discussing Pence on MSNBC: "You'd have to ask him why he endorsed Ted Cruz at the time that he did. I don't know."— Alan Rappeport (@arappeport) July 14, 2016
Sources tell NBC News that Donald Trump was watching news coverage from his Beverly Hills home Thursday and was described as surprised and "irritated" that news organizations were identifying Pence as his choice early in the day. Those sources said that by mid-afternoon, after the initial news reports, he had still "not informed" the other two men on his final list -former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie -- that a final decision had been reached. Trump spoke to Gov. Christie after 4:00pm in what was described as a "tense" conversation where a Pence pick was discussed but a final decision was not communicated.
Regardless of how the network Trump loves to berate came to possess this nugget, its provenance and the motives behind it should be met with some skepticism. Meanwhile, conservatives are mostly applauding the addition to Pence to the ticket; he's being hailed as a strong fiscal conservative and a pro-life champion who fought against government bailouts before it was popular. The acclaim is not universal, however. Some fiscal hawks are reminding people of the Indiana governor's decision to expand Medicaid under Obamacare in his state, for which the White House praised him this week. And a sizable contingent of social conservatives, including this high-profile Trump backer, don't appear to have gotten over what they see as Pence's betrayal on last year's hysterical uproar over a religious freedom law. Speaking of which, here's the oppo video Hillary's team released today:
Clinton campaign drops Pence attack vid before Trump campaign has any mention of Pence on their website: https://t.co/Brz3Bavt0O— Phil Mattingly (@Phil_Mattingly) July 15, 2016
The notion that Mike Pence is some wild-eyed extremist doesn't pass the laugh test, but this is the Left's boy-who-cried-wolf playbook, this line of attack was literally inevitable. What's striking about this clip is that it highlights three issues: The RFRA controversy, Planned Parenthood, and immigration. From watching the video, you'd never know that Pence reversed course and insisted upon changes to the religious liberty bill he'd signed, which closely mirrored a federal law passed almost unanimously by Congress and signed by President Clinton in the 1990's. The Left distorted the legislation, agitated for companies to boycott Indiana, and pressured Pence into caving. Now that it suits them, they're ignoring the U-turn that they demanded and secured, bludgeoning Pence with a partial story. Why, it's almost as if they've been acting in bad faith all along -- which only frustrates supporters of the original bill all the more. Here's to hoping that Pence's messaging has improved significantly on this front.
On Planned Parenthood, yes, Pence favors stripping the abortion giant of federal funds. The organization provides many uncontroversial services (and lies about providing others), but that doesn't cancel out its long, sordid, appalling history of heinous behavior and dangerous positions. They should not receive a dime of taxpayer money. And it's quite rich that Democrats are knocking Pence for holding up legislation over Planned Parenthood and abortion funding, in light of their actions last year and, well, right now. Finally, Pence easily falls into the mainstream on immigration -- with some conservatives arguing that his stances and statements have been too lenient. The video uses highlights his opposition to a "comprehensive" reform bill as some sort of smoking gun. It's likely that he simply recognizes the reality that the federal government does a really bad job of crafting and implementing sweeping "solutions." Case in point: The ongoing Obamacare debacle. In other words, these attacks are predictable, aimed at the far-left Democratic base, and substantively thin gruel. Want a more damning assessment of Mike Pence? Consider this tweet from respected Republican foreign policy strategist Dan Señor:
It's disorienting to have had commiserated w/someone re: Trump - about how he was unacceptable, & then to see that someone become Trump's VP— Dan Senor (@dansenor) July 15, 2016
Is this even that much of a surprise, though? National Review reported this spring that Pence "loathed" Trump. How things can change. As we've seen on several occasions this cycle (this about-face being one of the starkest examples), proximity to power can be a mighty powerful intoxicant.