Mike Pence adjusting to bigger spotlight
WASHINGTON — Vice President-elect Mike Pence was familiar from his days as governor how any trip to the drug store or grocery store could lead to extended conversations with constituents.
But he’s had to adjust to a much bigger spotlight since becoming Donald Trump’s running mate.
Traveling back to his temporary home in the Washington, D.C., area this past week, Pence got a call from his wife, Karen, telling him they were out of ice cream.
“So me and 12 or 13 other cars pulled over to the Safeway,” Pence said recently when speaking to the U.S. Conference of Mayors. “I dashed in. I picked up a couple gallons of ice cream for my family. And it became a national news story.”
A Washington Post reporter tweeted that he’d just seen Pence buying two cartons of Turkey Hill ice cream.
“I’ve got a feeling I’m going to miss those days when only 10 people stopped me at the supermarket to talk about issues,” Pence told the mayors.
In an interview with IndyStar on Wednesday, Pence talked about the adjustment to his new life, whether he’s been practicing the oath he’ll say Friday and what the verse that the Bible he’ll use will be open to means to him.
Question: Was there a moment recently when you realized how different your life is going to be?
Answer: I don’t know that there’s been a specific moment. There really is a great advantage in having served as a governor both in the day-to-day job and also in the personal impact on family. We’re already accustomed to having security people around us. Our Indiana state troopers have really become kind of a part of our family.
But the magnitude of this started to become real to me at the Republican National Convention when I traveled over for my first speech after I was named. … I just drove over and I had my head in my notes and was preparing. … We pulled into an alley and I’ll never forget, getting out of the car and I saw, like, 10 cars in the alley. And I turned to our Secret Service agent and I said, “Are they all with us?”
He said, “Welcome to your new world.”
So that was kind of my first moment.
But at the end of the day, our ambition is to just continue to live our life as normally as we can.
Q: Are you nervous about any aspect of your new job? Have you been practicing your oath of office?
A: I am going to practice it. I told the team.
But the president-elect just exudes confidence, and it’s contagious. And it’s really been his confidence and his energy that’s driven all of the efforts during the course of this transition.
I approach Friday with great humility and no small amount of emotion.
But I have boundless confidence in our president-elect and in the team that we’ve assembled around us to begin on day one to really revive the American economy, rebuild our military, keep all the promises that we made to the American people over the course of this campaign.
Q: What did you learn from the challenging issues you faced as governor, such as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act controversy, which will help you in your new role?
A: I hope that my experiences as governor will inform my ability to support the president’s agenda in every respect. I look at the totality of my career, as a chief executive of Indiana and for 12 years as a legislator, as hopefully being able to give me the chance to counsel him.
I do think that my years as governor, the successes that we experienced, the fact that we were able to cut taxes every year for Hoosiers, that we reached record employment, the advances we made in education from first-ever pre-K funding to expanding career and vocational education and even some of the challenges that we faced, I know that the more that you engage legislators on a very broad basis, and the more you listen, the more successful you are. So I hope to bring that practice as I serve the president in any role that he asks me to serve.
Q: When you spoke at the Family Research Council’s Values Voters Summit, you promised to be their champion in the White House, particularly on fighting abortion and Planned Parenthood. How are you doing that?
A: The president will be their champion. The president has taken a strong stand on the sanctity of life and you know I share that conviction. But my job as vice president will be to support the president-elect’s agenda, and to reach out to the Congress and to the American people and to groups across the country to make sure that as we move that agenda forward, that we marshal the support necessary to achieve those successes.
Q: I understand you spoke recently with former President George H.W. Bush (who has since been hospitalized). Did he give you any advice on being vice president?
A: I did speak very briefly with him, and of course he’s in our prayers this morning for a quick recovery and hope that he gets to go home soon. We chatted a little bit about his tenure. He gave me some advice that I’ll cherish in my heart. I have to tell you, while Vice President (Dan) Quayle and I are close friends and have been for many years, and I admire his whole career, (and) Vice President (Dick) Cheney worked together when I was in the Congress, and I deeply respect him. When I think of the kind of president that I’ll be serving, I find myself more and more drawn to the example and the experience of then-Vice President Bush. Because then, as now, there was a transformational leader.
Q: You’re making the same argument you made during the campaign that Trump is similar to Ronald Reagan?
A: Ronald Reagan offered that kind of broad-shouldered leadership that said on that January day in 1981 that he’d come to Washington, D.C., to change it. A generation later, we’ve come to a very similar time, with a very similar leader whose optimism, whose bold leadership, whose commitment to having government as good as our people — it just informs me that that last administration that revived the country and literally changed the world, is a good place for me to look for an example of a vice president who supports a president like that.
Q: You’re using the Reagan family Bible to be sworn in, and recently discovered that the verse the Bible was open to during Reagan’s inaugurations is the same verse (II Chronicles 7:14) you often recited on the campaign trail. What does that verse mean to you?
A: It was very moving to me to learn that — that that was the verse that he took his oath of office on both times. It’s an ancient verse that encourages people to pray with a promise that God will hear from heaven and heal their land. And in this time when there’s too much division in America and great challenges in the world, I would often close speeches with that verse. You can imagine what it meant to me when the Reagan Library agreed to loan the Bible. It will actually rest on top of the Bible that I open every morning.
Q: You’ll be using two Bibles?
A: I will. Just as when I was sworn in, we used two Bibles as governor. It’s going to be very moving to me to know that that was a verse that was uniquely inspiring to him and will be a verse that continues, I hope, to (be) put into practice in my own life as I begin every day with that same prayer.
Contact Maureen Groppe at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter: @mgroppe.