The vice president is at “wits’ end,” a Pence loyalist told The Washington Post’s Ashley Parker, following Thursday’s news that the vice president has hired outside legal counsel to deal with inquiries related to the Russia investigation. Pence might also hire another aide, the Post reports: “The moves seemed aimed, in part, at returning the vice president to his most comfortable role—supporting and defending the president—while also helping to insulate him from the turmoil that has enveloped the White House. Some believe that the vice president is being ill-served by the chronic chaos inside the West Wing and could benefit from a more forceful advocate on his staff.”
A much more experienced and polished politician than his boss, Pence has always been one of President Donald Trump’s slicker defenders. But according to the Post, “One senior White House adviser said Pence was exasperated with the West Wing communications shop, which sent him out with a half-baked talking points” after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. In a particularly damning passage, the paper reported that “Pence, who heaps plaudits on Trump and frequently refers to his ‘broad-shouldered leadership,’ has in some ways become a parody of a deferential vice president—a servant in waiting, eager to serve his master’s whims.”
Loyalty has certainly served Pence. Politico Magazine’s Tim Alberta reported that the president “has come to trust his second in command above everyone else in the White House.” Pence “has been empowered like no vice president before him to establish, sell and execute the administration’s agenda,” and, in the process, “become the most popular Republican in the country and accumulated an astonishing amount of power.” And yet, reporter Alberta wrote, “it has been a trying five months, and there are 43 to go in Trump’s first term. Based on the jittery reactions and hushed tones of the Pence associates I spoke with for this story, they are often walking on eggshells, worrying that something might be perceived as a slight to his mercurial boss. It is unsustainable, they concede, and much of the situation is beyond their control.”
The nervousness is warranted, as Pence is walking a political tightrope. He may be Cheney-esque in his power, but as Ken Blackwell, the former Ohio secretary of state, told Alberta, “Cheney’s relationship with W. became fragile when people started to project Cheney as being in charge.” On the other hand, as the Russia scandal intensifies, Pence is surely cognizant that he likely would be the beneficiary of a presidential downfall. If Trump were to be impeached, then Pence’s terrible, worsening job would somehow become even more awful: He’d be the president that has to clean up Trump’s mess.