Pence, who voted for the Iraq war and speaks of the need for greater militarization, extreme social conservatism and climate change denial, could play a powerful role in the Trump administration – Paul Jay with Bill Curry and Brian Tashman

Story Transcript

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Baltimore. Last Sunday night, Donald Trump introduced his vice presidential pick, Mike Pence, on 60 Minutes, an interview with Lesley Stahl. Here’s a little bit from that interview. LESLEY STAHL: Your running mate voted for it. DONALD TRUMP: I don’t care. STAHL: What do you mean, you don’t care that he voted? TRUMP: It was a long time ago. And he voted that way, and they were also misled. A lot of information was given to people. But I was against the war in Iraq from the beginning. STAHL: Yeah, but you use that vote of Hillary’s that was the same as Governor Pence as the example of her bad judgment. TRUMP: Some people have. And quite frankly, I’m one of the two that was right on Iraq. STAHL: But what about [inaud.]. TRUMP: He’s entitled to make a mistake every once in a while. STAHL: But she’s not. Okay. TRUMP: She’s not. STAHL: She’s not. TRUMP: No, she’s not. MIKE PENCE: –Issue here is declining American power in the world. I truly do believe that history teaches that weakness arouses evil. And whether it be the horrific attack in France, the inspired attacks here in the United States, the instability in Turkey that led to a coup, I think that is all a result of a foreign policy of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama that has led from behind, and has sent an inexact, unclear message about American resolve. One of the reasons why I said yes in a heartbeat to run with this man is that he embodies American strength. And I know that he will provide that kind of broad-shouldered American strength on the global stage, as well. JAY: Now joining us from Washington, DC is Brian Tashman. He’s a senior research analyst at People for the American Way, where he covers politics and media for the group’s Right Wing Watch project. Also joining us from Farmington, Connecticut is Bill Curry. Bill is a columnist for He was a counselor to the president in the Clinton White House. And as I say, he’s in Farmington, Connecticut. Thank you both for joining us. SPEAKER: Great to be with you, Paul. JAY: So I think there’s kind of two things that are interesting. I mean, there’s many things interesting that come out of this interview, not the least of which is there seems to be a clear contradiction between a lot of the messaging Trump was giving during the campaign, critiquing Clinton for organizing regime change in Libya, and claiming he was against the Libyan war, which, in fact, he really wasn’t. If you go back and look at what he said at the time, he was actually calling for U.S. troops to enter Libya. But he did critique Clinton for that. He attacked the Iraq war, an enormous attack on Jeb Bush, and vis-a-vis his brother. Great lack of judgment in going into Iraq, and so on. Now he kind of pooh-poohs all that because Pence voted for it. And then there’s an issue of just how much does all this matter? Is Pence just window dressing for a Trump presidency, so it kind of doesn’t really matter, or is Pence more significant than that? What do we know so far about that, Bill? BILL CURRY: Well, you know, a couple of things, Paul. What we know from a report in many of the national papers of the process by which the Trump campaign solicited John Kasich as a potential VP, and the report from the Kasich people that Kasich was surprised to be told that the vice president would be in charge of both foreign and domestic policy, which would leave Trump in charge, I guess, of just generally making America great again. Whether the Kasich report is true or not, Trump is so uninformed, and has so few of the apparent skills of a commander in chief and of a president, that it’s clear that a vice president as experienced as Pence is going to be in a position of tremendous influence. I think Mike Pence, if Donald Trump were elected president, Donald Pence would make Dick Cheney look like Dan Quayle. This could be a guy with enormous influence. So we should be looking very hard at his record, in his speeches, which are, we’re finding out, as extreme as any in his party. But that’s probably a more important indication of where they’re going than the platform they passed. JAY: Brian, if you listen to Mike Pence, he sounds almost word-for-word actually like Dick Cheney. Just who is Pence? What does the pick of Pence represent in terms of political alliances, and in terms of what we actually really know about how Trump might govern? BRIAN TASHMAN: Well, as Donald Trump said, he picked Mike Pence in part to unify the Republican Party. And Mike Pence really represents the Tea Party far-right fringe of the GOP. Before he was governor of Indiana he was a member of Congress who pushed very radical policies. One to mention is the personhood law, which would outlaw all abortion rights without exception in all cases, and he was the one who was very instrumental in creating a standoff between the House and President Obama which almost led to a government shutdown over whether we should continue to fund Planned Parenthood. So this person has very right-wing background that really should be disconcerting, because Donald Trump has been painted as this social moderate whose views kind of changed, and they’re much more moderate and contemporary than the rest of the GOP. But Mike Pence shows that he’s just like any other Republican, with a very anti-choice, anti-LGBT, hardline experience. JAY: Now, Pence is also, in terms of his foreign policy speak here, this is from the most right-wing type of neocon language. So this, you could have heard this, as I say, certainly out of Dick Cheney and maybe a Lindsey Graham. And what does that tell us about his alliances in terms of military-industrial complex, and this sort of thing? Because that’s where we usually hear this kind of language from. TASHMAN: Well, one thing to know about Donald Trump and Mike Pence is they really are fine with corporate America kind of putting them in the driver’s seat and letting them drive the agenda. So we saw it with Mike Pence and taking favors from the tobacco industry to promote claims that smoking isn’t bad for you. Throughout his time in Congress he has been on the hawkish side. And let’s not forget that Donald Trump also was a hawk before he said he wasn’t one. He supported the Iraq war and now he claims he never did. He supported intervention in Libya. Now he claims he never did that. And if you read to him his verbatim quotes where he endorses these military interventions he said, no, I never said it. And Mike Pence is at least a little bit more honest about his background, but clearly it hasn’t troubled Donald Trump, because Donald Trump is so completely incoherent and so ready to lie and tell falsehoods about his own record and the record of others that this very hard-right running mate is fine with him, because his views are flexible. And if he thinks that it contradicts a previous view, Donald Trump will just say, oh, I never said it. JAY: Bill, I understand Cheney said he was going to the convention. And I’m not sure, I haven’t been watching all the coverage. So I’m assuming he’s there, because he said he was going. Does this mean Trump, by picking Pence, has made his alliances? That we know that he got funded by Sheldon Adelson. My understanding is Pence has been backed by ALEC and the Koch brothers. And Cheney is there. So has the real Donald Trump now stood [out]? CURRY: Well, first of all, I’ve actually watched more of the coverage than any human being should. And Cheney hasn’t surfaced yet. But that doesn’t say he won’t be there for the last night. And again, it’s hard to parse all this with Trump, precisely for the reasons Brian was citing. And Trump is taking opposing views of almost every issue in American politics. And when one becomes inconvenient he sheds–there is, and you look at the story of his life, there is no relationship, let alone a conviction, that means enough to him that he wouldn’t just turn on a dime. And so you try to, you know, you try to parse all this bombastic rhetoric. The one thing we know for sure is the defense spending side of it. Between Pence and Trump, you’re right to talk about the military-industrial complex. Each one of them is actually confused, confusing in his rhetoric about how and where he would use the military. But each is absolutely crystal clear that they will propose a mammoth increase in spending on military, and again, certainly accompanied by mammoth tax cuts for the super rich would, among other things, bankrupt the federal government. JAY: What do we know about Pence’s relationship with the Koch brothers? Do you have information on that? There’s been a lot of talk about it. TASHMAN: Well, we do know that Pence is a favorite of a lot of the Koch-funded organizations that claim to be grassroots conservative organizations, but as we know are actually just fronts for the Koch brothers. So he has had a long relationship with the infrastructure of the conservative movement. These are actually some of the same groups that were very hesitant to get behind Trump because they didn’t think he was a real conservative. But at that point, you know, Pence, really like Trump, does want this massive military spending increase, and Trump also wants the massive tax cut. And after all of that, Trump still says that he will pay down the deficit and the national debt. JAY: Bill, Trump had earlier in the campaign suggested enough nuance in his foreign policy that you can actually get some progressives, and liberals were actually, you know, liking some of what he was saying, comparing it to the more hawkish talk, really, of Hillary Clinton, who has a really hawkish history. And there was talk about maybe Trump on foreign policy won’t actually be more nuanced than Hillary Clinton would be. Has the convention told us differently? CURRY: I think it has. First of all, the choice of Mike Pence tells us differently. Secondly, the platform adopted by the Republican Party tells us differently. And the main thing Trump was doing was acclaiming–erroneously, dishonestly–to oppose the Iraq war when Hillary was voting for it. And it turns out, again, the amazing thing about Trump’s lies is you don’t have to do more than Google them. It’s a few seconds of research to find out that he’s not telling the truth. So the question here is, you know, we’re all trying to figure out what, of all the preposterous and frightening things these guys say, which parts are true. And the problem is that it’s impossible. No Republican right now except Lindsey Graham has called for more troops in the Middle East. Lindsey Graham said he would send, I believe, 15,000. Either 12,000 or 15,000 he was [voting] to fight ISIS. No one else says that, and that’s one of the reasons why they harp so much on this syntax of radical Islamic extremism, because they want, they have to show that Obama’s rhetoric is tougher since they themselves won’t be responsible enough to disclose what they’ll actually do with the massive armies they want to build. All I can say is that an army that big in the hands of a man that unstable, combative, and pugilistic by temperament is just one of the most dangerous things that we could do to the world. JAY: Brian, there was a recent poll–I don’t know if you follow the New York Times. It said that a 78 percent chance for Hillary Clinton to win this election. It seems to be–and there’s also, you know, given Clinton’s record, given the record even of the Obama administration, but particularly Hillary’s, as I said earlier, very hawkish. Hillary helped push, apparently, Obama into the Libyan adventure, which has led to chaos in Libya. Hillary is apparently pushing the support for the Saudi-Qatari interventions in Syria. I’m not sure how much push Obama needed on that. But it’s still, between the two of them, helped create devastation and chaos in Syria. A lot of people are suggesting that maybe, when it comes down to it on these foreign policy issues, there’s not that much distance between what a Trump presidency might do and a Clinton presidency might do. What do you make of that? TASHMAN: Well, I think we should get back to what Donald Trump actually said, has said, throughout this campaign. Now, as mentioned, it’s very hard to pin him down. But there are a few things where he has been consistent. He wants to pretty much suck up to Vladimir Putin, the Russian leader, who also [inaud.] in the Middle East right now. He really wants to help a lot of these illiberal, authoritarian governments, and alienate ourselves from big, major allies like Germany, South Korea, Japan, the United Kingdom. He’s pretty much said that he wants to limit U.S. involvement in groups like NATO, and instead try to create a new partnership with Russia. JAY: But hang on. It’s pretty clear with Pence there, who knows if any of that verbiage means anything? Because Pence represents political forces that would never hear of any of that. TASHMAN: Right. Well, that’s the problem with Trump, is that we never can be too sure, because he is such a big risk. He also believes that just saying the words ‘radical Islam’ can magically stop terrorism. His main foreign policy ideas include expanding and broadening the torture laws, and the definition of war crimes, to enable U.S. military forces to violate current war crime laws by bombing the families of terrorists and other innocent civilians. This is clearly someone who’s very unstable and erratic. And it really boggles the mind to think about how he would lead the U.S. military, potentially going to war with countries just because of a personal dispute. And he’s very impatient, very temperamental. This isn’t someone with a steady hand. JAY: Right. Bill, just finally, the New York Times, as I just mentioned, they did this analysis of the elections and have somehow come up with a figure that Hillary Clinton has a 78 percent chance of winning, I guess based on historical trends in swing states and so on. And also, prior to the convention, we heard Republicans heading for the exits, worried about losing the Senate, losing the House. What do you make of this idea this is heading towards a Clinton landslide? CURRY: I, first of all, it was Nate Silver who founded that New York Times column, who less than a year ago put Trump’s chances of being nominated at less than 2 percent. Using–not just as a figure of speech–but using that same methodology. So I’ve always been skeptical of polls. And one of the things that people don’t understand about polls is they depend in part on the pollsters’ very subjective, professional judgment as to what the makeup of the electorate will be. And that’s not science. That’s a judgment call. I also think the polls have become less reliable than they have been, given the changing technology and people’s disgust with them, being so hard to get people to come on and answer these long questionnaires. So every time I see a poll article, I take it with a big grain of salt. And I think that you have, essentially, a centrist Democrat, an architect of the kind of both of pay-to-play politics, and the global finance capitalism that are at the heart of the rigged system that people across the world are complaining about. And you have against her a nativist proto-fascist who appears to me to be genuinely emotionally unstable, who has, again, the attention span of a fruit fly. And almost no knowledge base whatsoever. So it ought to be a really clear choice. It’s easy to see how people who were dissatisfied with that choice–I wish the choice were different–nonetheless could make it pretty easily. And yet, the race is tied. And I would just say, you know, I was in Europe when the Brexit vote came out, and I thought a lot about it and had been following it. And Hillary’s sort of like the European Union. And Trump is sort of like the Brexit vote. And it’s hard to imagine, it’s hard for any of us to imagine, as it was for the Europeans to hear the racism and the immigrant and refugee-bashing, and the irrationality of a lot of the far-right wing leading the Brexit vote that England would ever do that. It’s hard for us to imagine, many of us to imagine, that America has fallen so far that it could elect Trump. But it’s a two-point race. And anybody who says that a person in a two-point race has a 78 percent chance of winning I think is, I think is building a bridge too far. JAY: Right. I mean, Obama and McCain with a Palin vice president was a close race, so. CURRY: Until Wall Street, until the Wall Street meltdown, McCain in the average polls was a couple points ahead. JAY: All right. Thank you both for joining us. CURRY: Thanks so much to you. JAY: And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.


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Medea Benjamin is co-founder of the peace group CODEPINK and the human rights organization Global Exchange. She has been organizing against U.S. military interventions, promoting the rights of Palestinians and calling for no war on Iran. Her latest work includes an effort to stop CIA drone attacks, and she is the author of a new book, "Kingdom of the Unjust: Behind the U.S.-Saudi Connection"

Bill Curry was White House counselor to President Clinton and a two-time Democratic nominee for governor of Connecticut. He is at work on a book on President Obama and the politics of populism.

Brian Tashmanis a Senior Research Analyst at People For the American Way, where he covers politics and media for the group's Right Wing Watch project.