Mike Pence tried to eat his cake and have it too by defending Donald Trump's demand for a military parade while criticizing North Korea for doing the same thing.
In under a minute and a half, Mike Pence demonstrated the absurdity of Donald Trump’s demand for a military parade while also abandoning America’s moral high ground.
Speaking to reporters in Pyeongchan, South Korea, at the site of the Winter Olympic Games, Pence tried to call out North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for a “provocative” military parade.
But in the middle of his statement, Pence was questioned about Trump’s own planned military parade.
The dueling storylines left Pence tied up in his knots. Trump’s demands and motivation are nearly identical to the North Korean leader’s, but Pence tried and failed to make a distinction between the two.
A reporter asked Pence if Trump’s request undermined his “moral high ground” while the United States is trying to undercut North Korean propaganda. Pence mischaracterized Trump’s parade as an opportunity to “celebrate the men and women of the Armed Forces” it would be about Trump, not the troops, as he made clear when he first demanded a military parade for his inauguration.
“I heartily support the presidents call to celebrate our military,” Pence said.
But seconds later, Pence was off message. He called the North Korean parade “an effort on the part of the regime in Pyongyang to display their ballistic missiles, to display a military that continues to make menacing threats across the region and across the wider world.”
Then he warned that North Korea’s “display was all one more part of an ongoing provocation.”
Just as quickly, he pivoted back to shilling for Trump. He claimed that Trump’s demand was inspired by the Bastille Day celebrations he saw when visiting France and insisted, “We can celebrate our troops and not in any way ever be associated with the provocations of the North.”
But the French event (suddenly Republicans want America to emulate the French) was for Bastille Day, and the American equivalent would be Independence Day, when parades are already held from coast to coast.
Trump is requesting a military event created out of thin air, for the benefit of someone who has spent a disproportionate percentage of his presidency tweeting and watching television.
If anything, Trump has spent more time in office denigrating the military and veterans than celebrating it.
Pence’s embarrassing answer showed the biggest downside to the entire enterprise: How can America condemn North Korea when Trump wants to emulate its dictator?
Trump is interested in a useless military parade for the same reasons as Kim Jong Un: to show off “strength” when so much of the public has witnessed political impotence and incompetence.
Even several of his fellow Republicans think the idea is stupid and counterproductive.
But Pence is incapable in public, at least of such independence. So instead, while representing America at the Olympics, he has taken the most outrageous and counterintuitive position, so he can remain in Trump’s good graces.
The underlying idea remains childish, useless, and embarrassing.