With normal comments, Pence highlights how abnormal his party has become

St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial board (TNS)
Churchgoers look on as former Vice President Mike Pence speaks Wednesday, July 20, 2022, at Florence Baptist Temple about abortion restrictions in the wake of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade. (Jason Lee/The Sun News/TNS)

There was a time, not that long ago, when it wouldn’t have been major news for a top Republican to say the party should respect law enforcement and cooperate with a congressional investigation.

In that sense, the buzz over former Vice President Mike Pence’s defense this week of the FBI, and his suggestion he might be willing to testify before the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol, illustrates just how radical and lawless too many other Republicans have become in the Trump era.

It is only in this party, in these frenzied times, that such a bare-minimum acknowledgment of political norms would merit comment, let alone kudos. But, under the circumstances, it does.

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In a speech in New Hampshire, Pence broke with the feverish rhetoric of those in his party who are trashing FBI agents involved in the search of former President Donald Trump’s Florida residence. Armed with a court order, the agents were seeking classified documents that Trump took from the White House and was refusing to give back, even after months of negotiations and a subpoena.

On the very night of the search, before any facts were known, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, the state’s GOP Senate nominee, recklessly vowed to “take a wrecking ball” to the Justice Department. Congressional firebrands like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., in their zeal to side with Trump no matter what laws he may have broken, called for “defunding” the FBI — having apparently forgotten how that word came back to bite hard-left Democrats who used it in reference to local police forces. Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., said the party should “destroy” the agency.

In the face of all this, Pence’s milquetoast comments in New Hampshire sounded almost radically responsible. He criticized Attorney General Merrick Garland and demanded “transparency” from the Justice Department (not an unreasonable demand in any context involving government), but added: “Our party stands with the men and women who stand on the thin blue line at the federal and state and local level, and these attacks on the F.B.I. must stop. Calls to defund the F.B.I. are just as wrong as calls to defund the police.” He asserted that the GOP is still “the party of law and order” — which may be wishful thinking in the Trump era, but was refreshing to hear anyway.

Separately, Pence was quoted saying he “would consider” testifying before the Jan. 6 committee, if asked. This, too, was a once-normal comment that sounded radical in the context of Trump’s GOP, under which ignoring congressional inquiries and even subpoenas has become standard practice. That Pence would come off as almost rebellious by merely talking like a normal Republican highlights just how abnormal his party has become.

— From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial board (TNS).