Selective leaks of classified documents to a chosen media outlet to whitewash ugly truths has, by now, become a well known tactic of powers that be. Misinformation campaigns are launched in order to enhance the image of political leaders in the saddle or ones trying to make a bid to capture power. It is normally left to the people to sift facts from fiction and come to their own conclusions. But, rarely has a key political leader taken upon himself the task of challenging the doctored narrative dished out in this manner as has been done by former US Vice President Mike Pence who tore into his former boss, Donald Trump, 11 March.
Pence chose a well known platform – the Gridiron Club’s annual dinner – to launch by far the most scathing attack against Trump for his exhortation to rioters to vandalise Capitol Hill 6 January, 2021 to overturn the verdict of the people in favour of the Presidential candidate Joe Biden. The dinner is a Washington tradition. The Gridiron Club, founded in 1885, just after the election of Grover Cleveland, hosted dinner for every President since then at least once a year. Fifteen journalists formed the club and instituted the formal dinner where top political leaders are expected to deliver speeches laced with humour and wit, cracking jokes at the expense of their rivals and co-travellers. Pence did stick to the format, but cleverly used the platform to strike a sombre note taking on Trump.
This immediately triggered speculation about his motive. Questions are being asked whether he wants to run for Presidency next year as a Republican candidate replacing Trump or is he challenging the narrative being given by pro-Trump Fox News to exonerate the mob that ran amok at Capitol Hill at the behest of Trump.
If Pence’s intention is to call a spade a spade, he timed it well since he not only spoke before journalists, but also sought to expose the disinformation campaign by the pro-Trump media organisation. A well known anchor of a show hosted by the media outlet had recently got permission from the House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to use 40 hours of footage on the violence at Capitol. The permission itself is controversial since McCarthy turned down the same request made at the same time by several other media outlets. The Fox News host used the footage selectively to project the perpetrators of the crime as a peaceful mob enjoying a “tour” of the Capitol. With the doctored evidence he has called into question the narrative of reckless violence presented by the Democrats.
On that fateful day, it was Pence’s duty to certify the election results in favour of Biden. Trump was instigating him not to do so. But, Pence went ahead with his task and the rioters were baying for his blood. He had to be whisked away to safety by the security. Referring to that incident, Pence told journalists at Gridiron Club that he had not been “afraid”, but “angry”. “President Trump was wrong. I had no right to overturn the election and his reckless words endangered my family and everyone at the Capitol that day. And I know that history will hold Donald Trump accountable,” he declared.
Nor did Pence leave any one in doubt about his rejoinder to the Fox News host’s attempt to rewrite the incident. He said, “It was not as some would have us believe a matter of tourists peacefully entering the building. Tourists do not injure 140 police officers, tourists do not break down doors to get to the Speaker of the House or threaten public officials.”
These are strong words and solid evidence, indeed, as the death of one police officer and serious head and other injuries of scores of security personnel trying to protect the Capitol are incontrovertible facts that undermine the pro-Trump narrative.
Now, the question is whether Pence’s diatribe against Trump after maintaining silence for a considerable period of time is prompted by his desire to run for Presidency. He did give broad hints at the dinner speech that he is willing to do so. He seems to project himself as a sober, balanced Republican who will not be partisan like Trump. He said so in so many words.
It looks like Pence is testing waters and scouting for the support of fellow Republicans after the sentence given by the court recently to the main culprit of the violence proved Trump’s exhortation of the rioters is indefensible in the court of law. If he finally takes the plunge, the coming Presidential election will get a new twist.
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