Predictably, the West Wing’s walls are steadily crumbling under the crush of lies intended to sustain them, and Americans are transfixed by each new revelation*. In this era of attention-deficit, there is a risk of getting ahead of the actual evidence (although each new lie-revealed clears more pathway) – Americans like their political potboilers to arrive in binge-watchable chunks. Sober, thorough investigation takes time. That’s no fun, and it may never conclude.
That’s because the meetings that nobody’s talking about may overtake the gum-shoe ploddings of Mr. Mueller, et al. It seems that, over the course of recent weeks, Vice President Pence has convened and hosted** an ongoing series of four dinner meetings with major GOP donors and traditional supporters, at the Vice Presidential residence. More are planned.
As reported in the New York Times last week (remember last week?), “each has drawn roughly 30 to 40 guests, including a mix of wealthy donors, as well as Republican fund-raisers and executives from companies like Dow Chemical and the military contractor United Technologies. …”
“Mr. Pence typically kicks off his dinners with a cocktail hour at which he recounts the history of the taxpayer-funded residence, followed by a brief assessment of his administration’s legislative and foreign policy agendas and a question-and-answer session, according to guests. After people are seated for dinner at four or five separate tables, they said, Mr. Pence makes his way around the room, chatting for a few minutes with each guest.”
Now, the argument can be made that this is just Mr. Pence “the ultimate team player” according to a fellow Hoosier, dutifully shoring-up support for his boss, who largely eschewed fealty to the donor class as part of his faux-populist persona.
But wait, there’s more.
Mr. Pence was also summoned to a private tete-a-tete with Charles Koch in Colorado Springs last month, as part of the Koch Brothers secretive annual convention of Dark Money legionnaires. The vaunted Kochtopus, whose resources rival those of the GOP itself, has famously distanced itself from Mr. Pence’s boss, who belittled his primary opponents as they supplicated for its organizational and financial assistance.
Further, the Koch front group Americans for Prosperity (AFP) skillfully supported Mr. Pence during his troubled gubernatorial administration in Indiana. In the midst of an internal GOP budget battle, AFP “staged town hall meetings in the districts of vulnerable lawmakers, convened raucous rallies outside the Capitol and ran hundreds of thousands of dollars-worth of ads against Republicans. The resulting deal was Mr. Pence’s first major victory as governor.”
“‘Americans for Prosperity made a difference in the Hoosier State,’ Mr. Pence told an audience at the group’s national conference in 2014, calling it ‘the finest grass-roots organization in the United States of America.’”
And finally, just yesterday, the Veep put out a press release reminding the American People that DiJiTs Jr.’s matinee with the Russian lawyer occurred prior to Mr. Pence joining the ticket. Marc Lotter, Pence’s press secretary, said, “The vice president was not aware of the meeting.” “He is not focused on stories about the campaign, particularly stories about the time before he joined the ticket,” the press statement said.
So sure, maybe those meetings, ties and the timely press release are all simply in service to the Administration. But maybe they are groundwork for a succession to the Oval Office - long before Mr. Mueller connects all the dots with Russian oligarchs dating back two decades, and leading inexorably to the recent shameless attack on American democratic institutions.
For the “follow the money” crowd in which I stand, maybe the donors meetings and the Koch session are designed to position Mr. Pence as the sane alternative to the current chaos - a traditional Republican with traditional GOP values, who can be trusted with the traditional GOP agenda they have worked so hard to craft.
Those donors and the Kochtopus have invested strategically, and heavily, over several decades in the creation of the current GOPer majorities. Those majorities are precious, may be fleeting, and are currently being squandered by the self-obsessed flailer of the free world. I continue to believe that the puppet masters, as Mr. Trump calls them, will shortly pull the strings on the plug of his tenure.
Mr. Pence appears to be doing his best to help his President circle the drain.
* Very separately, the Labor Department has been at a loss to explain a recent stall in the economy’s productivity. They need look no further than the country’s rapt pre-occupation with the serial calamities of the Trump administration. It’s awfully tough to keep-up, And turn-out new widgets at the same time.
** with his wife, of course – in case stray ladies might be present.