Just two weeks ago, when Chris Christie and his loyalists were summarily kicked off the Donald Trump transition team as part of the chaotic upheaval that has defined its brief existence, we were told that Mike Pence was taking over. After all, he’s the only member of Trump’s entire ragtag outfit who appears to have any idea what he’s doing when it comes to governing. Instead, apart from one brief and ill conceived appearance at a Broadway play, Mike Pence has become completely invisible – and at this point his disappearance has become a story of its own.
When leaders go into hiding, it causes the public to take notice, and to speculate in all directions. Remember all the hoopla when Vladimir Putin disappeared awhile back? For that matter, Donald Trump himself has raised eyebrows by making virtually no public appearances since being named the winner of the election, instead only appearing in occasional brief videos (which look staged in the eyes of many) and in increasingly strange tweet storms (which many have begun to question are even still coming from him).
The bottom line is that public figures need to regularly show their faces, so the public doesn’t start inventing reasons to explain their absence – and Mike Pence is experienced enough in politics to know this. So his total disappearing act since the Hamilton incident is not only notable, it’s almost surely a calculated strategy on his part. Pence has this weird and ironic email scandal brewing, but that alone seemingly wouldn’t be enough to send him into hiding.
The question becomes just what Pence is up to. If he is indeed running the transition team as we had been told, he’s made a point of having no public fingerprints on it. Kellyanne Conway has been doing all of the on-the-record talking about cabinet appointments, and everything else we’ve gotten has been anonymous sniping from one or more members of Trump’s team who are looking to sabotage each other. Even as that food fight plays out in public, Mike Pence may as well have gone off to Tahiti for all we know. But why?
A few strategies come to mind. One is that because Pence was never part of Donald Trump’s trusted circle to begin with, he’s been pushed aside and no longer has any role. Another is that he can see what a crapfest the Trump transition team has been thus far, and he’s purposely keeping his distance from it all. That way, as the various clowns around Trump end up taking each other out like failed Apprentice contestants, Pence will be the last Trump advisor standing. There’s also the possibility that he’s been orchestrating this entire crapfest since election day, and he’s simply been smart enough to keep his name off it. Either way, his absence from the public eye is a bigger story than if he were showing his face. We just don’t know what the story is yet.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report