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Peter Montgomery discusses the possibility of a vice presidency under someone who cites Dick Cheney as an inspiration and was reportedly promised ‘the Most Powerful VP in History’

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KIM BROWN: Welcome to the Real News Network in Baltimore. I’m Kim Brown. In late July there was a story floating around a lot of major news outlets about republican presidential nominee search for a vice presidential running mate. Now several outlets reported that inside of Ohio Governor John Kasich’s circle that they claimed that Trump’s people tried to entice him with the gig suggesting that Kasich would be in charge of all foreign and domestic policy and would “be the most powerful VP in history”. Now of course Trump’s people later denied these reports and Indiana Governor Mike Pence was eventually selected for Trump’s running mate position. But Mike Pence is about as conservative as they can get. From restricting Planned Parenthood and abortion access in Indiana to opposing marriage equality and more. He is the poster boy for the religious right and for the Koch brothers according to our next guest. We’re joined today with Peter Montgomery. He is a senior fellow at the People For the American Way where he contributes to the Right Wing Watch Blog. He’s also an associate editor at Religion Dispatches and his writing appears in the American Prospect, Alternet, and other progressive media. Peter we appreciate you joining us today. Thanks. PETER MONTGOMERY: Thanks, I’m very happy to join you. BROWN: So Peter let’s assume for a moment that that story from over the summer was true that Donald Trump’s camp was trying to recruit potential Vice Presidential running mates by telling them that they could be the most powerful VPs in history. Let’s apply that to his selection. Governor Mike Pence from Indiana. Would it be scary for Mike Pence to be the most powerful vice president in history and tell us why? MONTGOMERY: Well it would be very scary and I think it is pretty easy to believe because Donald Trump does not seem to have a lot of interest in policy details but Mike Pence has a long track record of being very interested in right wing policy from his days as a right wing radio host to the time was running a state wide right wing think tank to his time in congress and now as governor. He’s really a favorite of both the religious right and the Koch brothers critical networks. That’s a very dangerous combination as you mentioned in your introduction. BROWN: Let’s talk about his affiliations with Koch brothers and the ALEC legislative council or conference as it were. So, what are Mike Pence’s relationships to these entities? MONTGOMERY: Mike Pence really shares the Koch Brother’s fundamental antigovernment antitax, antiregulation agenda and that’s why they’ve been such a big fan of his. Back when he was running for congress in 2000, he was even saying that cigarettes don’t kill people. That’s something that the medical establishment agreed on decades ago but then in congress he voted against the bill giving the FDA that authority to regulate cigarettes. That gives you a sense of the mindset he has about government and tells you why the Koch brothers like him so much and so when he was running for governor, Charles and David Koch gave him about 200 thousand dollars for his campaign and then when he became Governor and he had this big tax cut plan that he wanted to push through and some of his fellow republicans weren’t too sure about it, the Koch brothers Americans for Prosperity held town hall meetings and republican districts, at rallies and paid for hundreds of thousands of dollars of television ads beating up people who were not supporting Pence’s tax cut policy and they really have to push it through. So he’s been a frequent speaker at their gatherings. He’s called Americans for Prosperity the best grassroots organization in the country. So, they really have a very mutually beneficial relationship. BROWN: So does Mike Pence give Donald Trump a lot of conservative legitimacy? Because let’s be real, Donald Trump is not a tradition conservative. Certainly not a traditional republican. He is up until recently, was in favor of abortion. He has since changed that position. He also contributed freely to both republicans and democrats in their political campaigns and also Donald Trump is someone who necessarily does not embody what I think traditional conservatives would call family values. He’s been married and divorced several times. He’s an admitted philanderer. But does Mike Pence sort of pull Trump to the right to make him more palpable to the religious right, the Christian conservatives? MONTGOMERY: I think that’s why Mike Pence was picked actually. I think that Mike Pence kind of in one person could give Trump better credibility and two important right wing constituencies that has some doubts about him. One that we just talked about is the Koch brothers vertical networks and the other is the religious right. Mike Pence back before he decided to run for Governor in 2012 when it looked like he might decide to challenge Barack Obama, he was the right-wing dream candidate that year. They saw him as their hope. He’s as far as the right as you can get on restricting women’s access to abortion. He signed a bill requiring people to make funeral arrangements for miscarried fetuses. You know when he was in congress he was going to shut down the government in order to try to defund Planned Parenthood. So he is really at the far edge of wanting to restrict women’s access to abortion and reflect about that and certainly he’s promised that the Trump administration would go after access to abortion from day one. He’s got a similar record when it comes to LGBT equality. He’s been deadest against it. That goes back many years. So, he really does sure up Trump’s right flank on both the Koch brothers and the religious right networks. When you see his choice and used by right wingers to encourage their fellows who might be a little weary of Trump and say look his first big decision, his first executive decision was picking mike Pence and so you ought to trust him because of that. BROWN: And temperament wise when you put Mike Pence next to Donald Trump, he certainly does come off as more reasonable at least in his demeanor. Maybe not so much when it comes to his policies, he’s not frothing like Donald Trump. MONTGOMERY: He can sometimes fool people into thinking he’s a more moderate guy just because he comes across as quiet and considerate. Back when he was a radio host he called himself Rush Limbaugh on decaf. I think that’s very telling. You know what’s Rush Limbaugh decaf? It’s a lot less yelling but the same horrible policies and the same horrible positions. I think that’s a pretty good self-description by Pence of who he is and we progressives should not make the mistake of letting his quiet demeanor – should not make the mistake of thinking that means he’s somehow a more moderate considerate person because he’s not in anyway. BROWN: Absolutely and the argument can certainly be made that Mike Pence is more dangerous than Donald Trump because Mike Pence has been in government. He actually knows what he’s doing. So go with me here for a moment. So let’s go into a hypothetical Trump administration and let’s have Mike Pence be the vice president and with the same sort of mentality as a Dick Cheney whom by the way Mike Pence says that he would try to emulate his vice presidency after something like a Cheney. MONTGOMERY: That in itself is scary. BROWN: Go ahead. MONTGOMERY: Cheney himself is scary. BROWN: Exactly. So Dick Cheney obviously was a very ambitious, let’s use that word, a very ambitious vice president. He sought to expand tremendously the powers of the executive branch and he did so effectively in his own way for his own agenda and his own causes. So how do you see Mike Pence in that role? What are some of the things or some of the policies as you mentioned reproductive rights is one. But what else would be in danger or under attack should Mike Pence be elected as vice president of the United States? MONTGOMERY: I think both Trump and Pence have made a big deal out of the fact that when they get the White House they’ll immediately look at overturning a lot of President Obama’s executive orders. I would think that one area and that would be that President Obama has used executive orders to require that federal contractors have polices that comply with nondiscrimination principles and so that if you’ve got a government contract you can’t discriminate against LGBT employees for example. That’s an example of the way in which Obama has used administrative executive orders. And that kind of thing would certainly be tossed out the window if Mike Pence was setting polices. It’s said that they would go after Planned Parenthood from day one. I’m not sure exactly what they could do with executive orders but they could certainly try to restrict Planned Parenthood access to funding. They will do whatever they can as quickly as they can to do away with Obamacare and that in itself would put a lot of people who are now relying on that coverage for needed medical care in a world deferred. You can pretty much go down the policy list. In the past Mike Pence was in favor of privatizing social security. There’s a whole right wing agenda that civil groups is going to require congress to act on and some of which Donald Trump and Mike Pence could get very [crazy] about. BROWN: Peter how do you see the right responding if they do suffer a White House defeat this time around. If Hillary Clinton is elected and possibly the senate gets flipped back to a majority of democrats holding the seats, it’s not looking likely that democrats will be able to capture a majority in the house but some things could be shifted around on capital hill and we can all remember very clearly how in the wake of President Obama being elected, that’s when we really saw the rise of the Tea Party movement and we saw republicans take back a lot of the state house legislatures and take a good share of the governorships out there. What do you anticipate how the right will retool itself or attempt to regroup because they are a little bit in shambles at the moment, if they lose in November, especially the White House race. MONTGOMERY: Well I think it’s very clear that the congressional republican leadership is going to do everything it can to try to destroy a Hillary Clinton presidency, the way that they vowed when Barack Obama was elected that they were going to be a resistance met and that their goal was to not to work with him to advance public policy. There was a common good. Their goal was to destroy his presidency and keep him from getting reelected. So some republicans are already saying that they’re going to do everything they can to block any Supreme Court Justice that she might nominate and that is a astonishing abdication of their constitutional responsibility and a willingness to put party and ideology over the good of the country and the needs of a country that needs to have functioning courts. We also have house leaders sort of gleefully rubbing their hands in anticipation of jimmying up investigations. People are talking about impeachment before she even gets into office. So, I unfortunately think there’s going to be a lot of irresponsible behavior from republicans and there’s going to be a push from their right wing for that irresponsible behavior and I think we’ll have to see if they have some cooler heads prevail. If they have some people who are willing to pull back from the edge a little bit. I’m not sure what’s going to happen. BROWN: Indeed. Well we’ll find out. We’ve been speaking with Peter Montgomery. He is a senior fellow at the People For the American Way where he contributes to the Right Wing Watch Blog. He’s also an associate editor at Religion Dispatches and his writing appears in the American Prospect, Alternet, and other progressive media. Peter we appreciate you’re your time today. Thanks a lot. MONTGOMERY: Thanks for having me. BROWN: And thank you for watching the Real News Network.


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Peter Montgomery oversees the People For the American Way Foundation's research and writing on the Religious Right. He also works to help progressives understand and more effectively communicate with important constituencies, particularly the reachable religious middle. Before joining People For the American Way Foundation in 1994, Peter Montgomery was associate director of grassroots lobbying for Common Cause, where he planned and directed grassroots lobbying campaigns, volunteer recruitment, and media relations strategy. He wrote and edited for Common Cause Magazine, an award-winning journal featuring investigative reporting about the federal government.