New York Times reporters Michael Barbaro and Monica Davey portrayed Donald Trump’s socially conservative vice presidential running mate as a potentially “dangerous anachronism" in Friday's “Mike Pence: A Conservative Proudly Out of Sync With His Times.”
It’s all a piece with the mainstream media’s double standard in ideological labeling of the parties, with Pence as a troglodyte social conservative, but no ideological labels for liberal or left-wing potential Democratic vice-presidential choices, like Sen. Bernie Sanders or Sen. Elizabeth Warren. By contrast, The Times itself in Friday’s print edition wrote a flattering article on potential Hillary Clinton running mate Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, who carries a 90% rating (out of 100) from the liberal Americans for Democratic Action, without once giving him an ideological label (though being a "white man" is seen as a drawback).
Yet the paper’s Pence profile was littered with unflattering labels and anecdotes to cement Pence as a hopeless stick-in-the-mud.
Long after government regulators had confirmed the lethal consequences of cigarette smoking, Mike Pence mocked their warnings as “hysteria” in 1998.
“Time for a quick reality check,” he wrote. “Smoking doesn’t kill.”
And long after Republicans’ war on big government was fading, Mr. Pence defiantly opposed his own party over the creation of signature programs like No Child Left Behind and a Medicare prescription drug benefit.
Throughout his career as a congressmen, radio show host and governor, Gov. Michael Richard Pence of Indiana, Donald J. Trump’s running mate, has been deeply and proudly out of sync with his times.
With his formal bearing, shiny helmet of white hair and carefully chosen, slowly delivered words, he is a throwback in his demeanor. With his deep social conservatism, public religiosity and aversion to negative campaigning, he is a throwback in his political style.
He is so abstemious that he once declared that, to avoid temptation, he would never appear anywhere alcohol was served unless his wife was with him.
This has earned Mr. Pence, who is 57, both the admiration of Republican voters who identify with his homespun manner and the frustration of outsiders who see him as a dangerous anachronism.
Those animating forces were at the center of the most consequential – and controversial – decision Mr. Pence made as governor: signing a 2015 law that could have made it easier for religious conservatives to refuse service to gay couples just as same-sex marriage was spreading across the country.
By the time he was elected to Congress in 2000, after two failed tries, Mr. Pence had missed the so-called Republican revolution led by Newt Gingrich and his scrappy, fiscally conservative acolytes who stormed Washington in 1994. Nobody, it seemed, had told Mr. Pence that the rebellion was over. He arrived in the House determined to slash federal spending and shrink the role of government.
So far, he has struggled to carve out a national reputation beyond his polarizing pursuit of socially conservative causes. In an echo of his actions on gay rights, he signed a strict new law in March that bans abortions after a fetus is found to have Down syndrome “or any other disability.” The measure inflamed many women and abortion-rights activists across the country and now faces a serious court challenge.
(The Times celebrated the vulgar social media protest @PeriodsforPence after Pence signed the abortion restrictions into law.)
The reporters continued to portray Pence as out of sync with the times.
His conservatism, friends said, is firmly rooted in his Indiana childhood, a postcard from a tranquil Midwest of the 1960s. The son of a gas station manager, he was a quiet altar boy whose favorite childhood memory was playing in a neighborhood creek.
After a bit on Pence voicing his regrets for negative campaigning, he was under the gun for having "offended gays across the country."
Admission of error did not come as easily in the case of the religious freedom law that Mr. Pence signed in 2015. After offending gays across the country, enduring a severe backlash from the state’s business community and undergoing a painfully awkward nationally televised interview in which he struggled to explain the law’s on-the-ground impact, Mr. Pence acknowledged only that he could have better handled the TV encounter.