As a columnist, I would never think of writing a column proposing that the vice president of the United States should take a lie detector test.
However, since Vice President Mike Pence has offered to take a lie detector test to prove he was not the writer of the famous anonymous op-ed in the New York Times, this subject is now fair game. I would support the idea of Pence taking a lie detector test, which would include one extra question.
The first question would be, as Pence suggested: Did you author the anonymous op-ed that ran in the Times? The second question, which I would add, would be: Do you agree with the op-ed, whether you wrote it or not?
I speculate that if Pence said he disagreed with the major points in the Times op-ed, he would flunk the test.
Over the last year, a number of Democratic friends have suggested that I write a column about Pence implying he might bear some responsibility for the Russia scandal that is now under investigation by special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE.
I have declined to do so, and decline to do so today, because there is not one shred of evidence that in any way implicates Pence in the Russia scandal.
The point of this column is to advance a serious discussion about Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Dems attempt to tie government funding, Ida relief to debt limit Trump lawyer offered six-point plan for Pence to overturn election: book Poll: Trump dominates 2024 Republican primary field MORE. As vice president, he is first in line as successor to President TrumpDonald TrumpUN meeting with US, France canceled over scheduling issue Trump sues NYT, Mary Trump over story on tax history McConnell, Shelby offer government funding bill without debt ceiling MORE should Trump leaves office early for any reason. He is a probable future candidate for president.
A recent story in The Hill described a book by Michael D’Antonio, a Trump biographer, that asserts that Pence believes God is “calling him” to “function as a president in waiting” and that he believes he is destined to be president.
I have no idea whether D’Antonio is right about this and do not suggest that God inspired me to write this column, but there is no doubt that Pence could well be, at some point in the future, a major candidate for president and should be considered as such.
Ultimately, of course, Pence will not take a lie detector test, but it is fair to offer the opinion that he probably agrees with most of what the Times op-ed suggested about Trump, but, for political reasons, he refuses to make this known.
Treating Pence as a vice president who could someday run for president, he should be asked by the media for direct answers to the following questions:
Do you believe, Mr. Vice President, that Russia is attacking American democracy, that President Trump clearly understands this, and is he doing enough to combat this attack and defend America?
Do you seriously believe, as Trump suggests, that the op-ed could be treasonous and that the Justice Department should launch a criminal investigation of the op-ed? If he does, he is unfit to be president.
In the U.S., op-eds are not crimes unless they reveal classified information, which the Times op-ed does not. To prosecute this op-ed would be a tactic of dictatorships, not democracies.
Do you agree, the free press should ask Pence, when the president often praises foreign dictators? Do you agree that the free press is the enemy of the people, as President Trump has charged, or do you condemn such talk from a president?
Do you believe, Mr. Vice President, that the United States should wage trade wars, tariff wars and economic wars against allies and adversaries, as Trump does, or do you condemn such policies?
Do you support or condemn an immigration policy that rips children away from their mothers and fathers?
The vice president should be asked: Do you agree with, or deplore, Trump’s attacks against leaders of important democratic allies, such as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and German Chancellor Angela Merkel?
Do you agree with Trump’s criticisms of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and his periodic praise for North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un?
The vice president should be asked: Do you agree with Trump’s charge that the Mueller investigation is nothing more than a witch hunt or fake news, and do you agree with the public war Trump has been waging for many months against Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsOvernight Hillicon Valley — Apple issues security update against spyware vulnerability Stanford professors ask DOJ to stop looking for Chinese spies at universities in US Overnight Energy & Environment — Democrats detail clean electricity program MORE?
The problem with Pence is that he has fawned over Trump well beyond even the modest standards of vice presidents discussing their presidents, and he has given the impression that he agrees with Trump on matters which, in my humble opinion, almost every day he does not.
Brent Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), who was chief deputy majority whip of the U.S. House of Representatives. He holds an LLM in international financial law from the London School of Economics.