Rumor has it that G.O.P. Presidential candidate Donald Trump will pick Indiana Governor Mike Pence as his running mate. Maybe that will happen, and maybe it will not. Trump likes theatrics, so he may surprise us by picking someone we don’t expect!
But, while Mike Pence’s name is in the news, I want to share a story about the time that I met him.
The year was 1996. Mike Pence had not yet entered politics, but he
hosted a local TV political show. I was an intern at a conservative
Christian organization in Indiana, and my boss was going to appear on The Mike Pence Show. The topic of the episode would be the influence of the religious right on Republican politics.
Other guests would be on the show, as well. One was a liberal guest,
who did not like being called a liberal. There was a political writer,
whom I had met earlier at the Indiana Republican Convention. I had
struck up a conversation with him because his column appeared in my
small town’s newspaper, on the days when Charley Reese’s column was not
there. He actually remembered me the second time that he saw me! And
there was a Republican operative.
The political discussions before the show are what I remember most
from that day. The liberal was saying that the reason that the federal
government stepped in and started welfare programs was because the
states were not sufficiently doing so. My boss asked if the welfare
programs made things better, implying that they had not. The political
writer expressed reservations about the platitude he heard that
government should be run like a business, for he had bad experiences
with businesses. And the Republican operative said that Richard Nixon
was crazy all by himself!
This discussion would stay with me. What the liberal said about the
states not sufficiently helping the poor was eye-opening to me, since I
had assumed that letting the states handle things was the way to go: the
states were closer to the problems and knew better what needed to be
done, I figured, and it was better for power to be distributed among the
states rather than for it to be concentrated in the federal
government. The liberal’s argument was the first time that I heard a
decent argument to the contrary. (Then again, I knew then that slavery and segregation were good
arguments against states' rights, but the liberal's argument was the
first time I heard a decent argument against leaving the poverty problem
to the states.)
My boss’ response to the liberal’s argument seemed weak to me at the
time, but, nowadays, I think that he was asking a good question: did the
“solution” work? People can debate that when it comes to social
welfare programs, but what my boss said remains poignant to me on
account of the problems that Obamacare has had. What do we do when our
choice is between no solution, which leaves problems unattended, and a
On the show itself, the guests were talking about the influence of
the religious right on Republican politics. The Republican operative
asked “So what?” The liberal agreed, but said that people should be
honest about it, and he compared it to big labor’s influence on
Democratic politics. The political writer leaned in the direction of
defending the religious right, even though he himself was not
Where does Mike Pence come into all this? To be honest, I don’t
remember much of what he said. I shook his hand, and he came across to
me as a low-key guy, much like he does on TV today. He was not there
throughout the pre-show conversation, but only a small part of it, when
the make-up was being put on him. When his TV show started, he was much
more animated, even more so than he is on TV today.
I’ve not met too many celebrities in my life, as far as I can
remember, but I know people who have met celebrities. Mike Pence
probably wouldn’t know me from Adam, were he to see me on the street!
But it is interesting that I met him before he became a big-time
politician, back when he had dark gray hair. Like I said, I don’t
remember much of what Pence said, but I do remember the political
conversation that day as something that challenged my beliefs, and that
still challenges my beliefs.