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Vice President Pence: Honor in humility

Vice President Pence: Honor in humility
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When taking a measure of someone’s time on earth, judgment is usually made based on one’s entire “body of work.” In taking on challenge and uncertainty, hardship and hard work, and opportunities impacting the world they would one day leave, did that person punch above or below their weight?

In the past few days, in a place where rhetoric is rife but courage rare, Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceDemocrats don't trust GOP on 1/6 commission: 'These people are dangerous' The Memo: CPAC fires starting gun on 2024 Merrick Garland is right to prioritize domestic terrorism, but he'll need a bigger boat MORE proved in one act, one moment, he was one of life’s heavyweights.

Shortly before mob rage created scenes of anarchy on the floor of the U.S. Senate, Pence informed the world that despite grave doubts about last year’s election integrity, he would — like every other vice president in history — uphold the Constitution and not interfere with the Electoral College count.

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“The presidency belongs to the American people, and to them alone”  he said.

When Richard Nixon and Al Gore did the same, elevating opponents John F. Kennedy and George W. Bush, respectively, to the nation’s highest office, they received a standing ovation from both sides of the aisle. Nixon called it a “striking and eloquent example” of Americans’ respect for, and defense of, self-government.

Quoting John Quincy Adams (“Duty is ours; results are God’s”), Pence added his name to an honor roll of those who’ve put faith, family and country ahead of everything else.

Confronted by a no-win situation politically, a challenge to his beliefs ideologically, and a test of morality personally, Pence — one of the most loyal vice presidents in history — used small-town humility to defuse a big-time crisis.

Years ago, Mike Pence was a million-to-one shot to play a leading role in this real-time calamity. A former JFK Democrat from Indiana raised in a military family, Pence converted in both politics (inspired by Reagan to re-register as Republican) and faith (inspired by God).

Once a popular talk radio show host described as “Rush Limbaugh on decaf,” he learned as much from his guests (including local Democrat icons Evan Bayh and Frank O’Bannon) as they did from him.

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Pence also came to understand how it feels to lose an election (his first two runs for Congress fell short) as well as to win (six terms in Congress, one as Governor).

The story of his ascension to vice president is the stuff of dreams writ large. A flat tire grounded Trump’s personal plane in Indianapolis just days before the New Yorker-turned-Floridian decided on a VP-running mate. The personal time Trump spent with Pence, over a lengthy dinner and home-cooked breakfast the next morning, together with an immovable Indiana filing deadline, prevailed.

Pence, who culturally endowed Trump with a right of passage among evangelicals, also provided a powerful political addendum to the ticket: a rust belt conservative without the tarnish. Pence once described himself as a “Christian, a conservative, and a Republican — in that order.”

Fittingly and tellingly, while Chris ChristieChris ChristieBiden administration buys 100,000 doses of Lilly antibody drug Cancun fallout threatens to deal lasting damage to Cruz On The Trail: The political perils of Snowmageddon MORE and Newt GingrichNewton (Newt) Leroy GingrichMORE postured and pestered for the job, Pence prayed… and God was listening.

The Office of Vice President, established in 1787 as a Constitutional afterthought, has been occupied by farmers and lawyers, military veterans and community leaders, Nobel Prize winners, and one infamous fugitive from justice who dueled his way into history (and a very popular Broadway musical).

Beginning with Jimmy CarterJimmy CarterJimmy and Rosalynn Carter return to Georgia church after vaccinations The progressive case for the Hyde Amendment COVID-19 pork or more shots? MORE, who dramatically expanded the reach and funding of his vice president, the office continued to grow in stature under the next six presidents (two Democrats, four Republicans) including the current occupant of the West Wing.

Joe BidenJoe BidenNoem touts South Dakota coronavirus response, knocks lockdowns in CPAC speech On The Trail: Cuomo and Newsom — a story of two embattled governors Biden celebrates vaccine approval but warns 'current improvement could reverse' MORE is living testimony to this truth, as he became a significant advisor and advocate for Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaArtist behind golden Trump statue at CPAC says he made it in Mexico Obama opens up about singing 'Amazing Grace' after Charleston shooting: 'I've used up all my words' Exclusive: How Obama went to bat for Warren MORE, especially in foreign policy and within the halls of Congress where his decades of public service produced a lifetime of contacts (and IOU’s).

Mike Pence has played a similar role for and with President TrumpDonald TrumpNoem touts South Dakota coronavirus response, knocks lockdowns in CPAC speech On The Trail: Cuomo and Newsom — a story of two embattled governors McCarthy: 'I would bet my house' GOP takes back lower chamber in 2022 MORE, effectively tasked with monitoring and overseeing every major function of government for the consummate outsider needing an insider’s perspective.

Functionally, though, Pence understood when he wielded the gavel the other day that the vice president has but two Constitutional duties: breaking a tie vote in the Senate, and presiding over/certifying the Electoral College count. Pence was given a third “unofficial” lead role this past year fighting a deadly pandemic.

Over the past few days, Mike Pence made honor count, in the same Senate chamber where Democrats raised Electoral College objections to the past three Republicans who scored election victories to win the presidency.

At the same time, Pence was angry for America, seeing again how America has regressed from a democracy strengthened by differences to a country imperiled by them. Like the president, Pence also spoke out for the dire need to re-establish trust in the validity of the vote; that when we question who won, everyone loses.

We live in a culture where being #1 carries cache as the one in charge, the play caller, the leader responsible. In the political world, in private conversations hidden from public view, the vice president helps ensure the Commander-in-Chief is both well-advised and well-served.

Pence has done both for over four years, beginning with that unexpected dinner from an unanticipated layover in an unparalleled trek to the White House.

It’s amazing how the stuff of dreams led to a leader who helped prevent a national nightmare.

Trump was right when he described his ticket-mate at the 2016 Republican National Convention as “a man of character and accomplishment… right for the job.” 

This past week, Pence was the right man for the nation, securing not only a place in history, and consideration as a 2024 contender, but also a leadership role in charting the future of the GOP.

Not too shabby for one week’s work.

Adam Goodman is a national Republican media strategist and columnist. He is a partner at Ballard Partners in Washington, D.C. He is also the first Edward R. Murrow senior fellow at Tufts University's Fletcher School. Follow him on Twitter @adamgoodman3