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Wow, so much Trump impeachment talk. People, how would you feel about a President Mike Pence?
Never thought much about Mike, did you? But if Trump gets tossed out of office, he’s next in line. We’d have a chief executive who reportedly calls his wife “Mother.” Who has a rule that he won’t drink in a room where there’s a mixed company unless his wife is present, or eat a meal alone with any woman he’s not married to?
The least alarming interpretation of the vice president’s rules of sexual separation is that this guy is such a wild man, he can’t control himself unless there’s somebody else there to guard a female in his near proximity.
Then we’ll have to presume that Pence is living in a world of the old order when women weren’t seen as normal employees, employers, and colleagues, but as a different species entirely, defined by their gender, deserving of special treatment and special discrimination.
On a practical basis, if he became president, would that mean no private lunch with Nancy Pelosi unless Chuck Schumer came, too? If Theresa May wanted to sit down with him and confer about Brexit, would he be able to offer her a snack?
Wow, this is not beginning well.
The big Pence news this week was that Mother — er, Karen Pence — has taken a job teaching at a school that bans gay students and requires employees to declare that God does not believe in same-sex marriage.
It was a reminder that Pence spent most of his political career running against gay rights. It’s part of a larger opposition to all sex outside of traditional wedlock. In Indiana, Pence tried to drive Planned Parenthood clinics out of business. In one county, that left no free services providing testing for H.I.V. and it helped trigger an epidemic.
But hey, the Second Couple feel strongly about this, as a matter of faith. I’m sure they share their convictions with all their colleagues, neighbors and their good friend the thrice-married president. Maybe, while they’re sharing, Donald entertains them with stories about how he used to encourage New York City tabloids to run headlines about his adulterous relationships, and his fantastic ability to grab women by their private parts.
Religion aside, Pence is a pretty run-of-the-mill conservative Republican. He’s a great pal of the Koch brothers. He’s not any more likely than his current boss to want to do anything about climate change. When he was governor, his sympathy for immigrants was demonstrated by an attempt to prevent Syrian refugee families from settling in Indiana.
On the plus side, the Pences have a snake, a dog, a cat, and a rabbit. As president, Mike would presumably put an end to the pet-free White House.
He’s been vice president for two years, and contrary to general impressions, his duties have not been limited to following the president around and bobbing his head. Although he does have a tendency to hyperventilate when his boss’s name comes up. You will remember that cabinet meeting at the end of 2017 when he gave a speech praising Trump that included 14 swoony plaudits, or — as Aaron Blake of The Washington Post calculated — one every 12.5 seconds. They ranged from “You’ve restored American credibility on the world stage” to “I’m deeply humbled, as your vice president, to be able to be here.”
Among Pence’s major achievements as veep was flying back to Indianapolis at taxpayer expense so he could go to an N.F.L. game and walk out when some players took a knee during the national anthem.
Also, organizing a Bible study group for cabinet officials led by a pastor who has described Catholicism as a “false” religion and who believes it’s a sin for women with children to work outside the home.
So what do you think? If Trump gets impeached, would we be in worse shape than ever? Some people think the succession would be fine. Like, um, Ann Coulter. (“If we’re not getting a wall, I’d prefer President Pence.”)
If you did an in-depth scientific study of all the American dinner-table arguments in favor of impeachment, I’ll bet when Pence’s name came up, two-thirds would include the words “Well, at least he wouldn’t bomb anybody.”
Good point! Still, we’ve had Donald Trump in charge for a while now and he hasn’t actually been all that bellicose. In fact, he seems to be wandering in the other direction, pulling troops out of Syria and bragging, albeit somewhat irrationally, that he’s ended the nuclear threat from North Korea.
Meanwhile, this week Pence announced to the world that “the caliphate has crumbled and ISIS has been defeated.” We are used to that sort of loopy bragging in this administration. However, it seemed super peculiar coming only an hour after the world learned that U.S. service members had been killed in an ISIS attack in Syria.
So impeachment isn’t necessarily the door to a happy ending. But it would at least mean taking a stand against the idea that a president can obstruct justice and just keep sitting in the White House. And if Pence takes over, maybe nothing much would happen. Remember, this is a guy who spent 12 years in Congress without passing a single piece of legislation.
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Gail Collins is an Op-Ed columnist, a former member of the editorial board and was the first woman to serve as Times editorial page editor, from 2001 to 2007. @GailCollins • Facebook
(A version of this article appears in print on Jan. 19, 2019, on Page A19)