Award-winning, veteran journalists collaborate on a well-researched and moderately toned yet searing biography of Vice President Mike Pence (b. 1959).
D’Antonio (A Consequential President: The Legacy of Barack Obama, 2017, etc.) and Eisner (MacArthur's Spies: The Soldier, the Singer, and the Spymaster Who Defied the Japanese in World War II, 2017, etc.) begin with Pence’s middle-class, Catholic, politically moderate Indiana upbringing before tracing how the ambitious, polite young man turned toward increasingly exclusionary politics during the presidency of Ronald Reagan. As for the religious component, Pence’s mainstream Catholicism morphed into evangelical zealotry with a heavy emphasis on the inerrancy of the Bible. Pence came to believe that God decided the path of every human; while still a student, he also adopted the notion that God would elevate him to the presidency. Of course, at such an early age, he did not foresee that serving as vice president to Donald Trump would constitute part of God’s plan. When that became reality much later, Pence tolerated Trump’s vitriol and scandals as preordained by God, simply a means to an end. The authors devote the final third of the book to the Trump-Pence partnership. In the middle sections, they document Pence’s marriage; an unfocused, meandering work history during his 20s; and impatient attempts to join the House of Representatives by defeating an entrenched Democratic incumbent. Pence lost twice before starting a career as an Indiana radio personality, which, a decade later, provided the name recognition he needed to become a Congressman. The authors provide copious evidence of Pence’s lackluster legislative accomplishments in Washington, D.C.; nonetheless, Pence won the governorship of Indiana in 2012. He demonstrated a low level of interest in actually governing, and he was often evasive or heartless when confronted with hot-button issues. Trump showed little interest in Pence’s legislative record, focusing instead on Pence’s patina of inoffensive behavior, pleasant physical appearance, and faith-based zealotry.
Producing a biography of a living, controversial politician is always difficult. D’Antonio and Eisner have succeeded in this well-documented, damning book. Cue the outrage from Sean Hannity et al.