So, there I was Tuesday evening, taking full advantage of the 3Ss (Snuggie, ShamWow, and Slap Chop, of course) in the kitchen with the TV on in the background, when Hardball came on. Chris Matthews interviewed Congressman Mike Pence, Republican in the Indiana 6th district (shout out to the Ball State women in Muncie!)
Pence is chairman of the Republican House Conference, making him third highest in Republican leadership, which these days is like being the third best player on the Knicks. Matthews proceeds to playfully interrogate Pence in a long but worthwhile interview. Not so much for the brilliance of Pence’s responses, but for the charade he has to put up because right now his party has few answers and does not want to offend its powerful, if ignorant right flank.
Chris Matthews takes a lot of flack for his outsize persona but he is a dogged interviewer who knows when to cut to the chase. Pence comes across as a somewhat amicable, sensible guy who has to shill garbage talking points. As I slapped some red pepper into submission, they got to it:
Pence on what the GOP needs to do to win: “The key to winning back hearts and minds is a practiced real, commitment to fiscal discipline and limited government. We marry that with a strong commitment to national defense and an unapologetic commitment to traditional moral values and I think we’ll have the agenda that we can carry forward into the future.” McCain/Palin ran on this, it was not new then, and whatever you think of the principles, it did not work. (He also talks about defending utility ratepayers from a cap-and-trade bill increase. Really makes you want to run to your polling place!) Furthermore, as examples of fiscal discipline he offers “opposing the stimulus… and the recent budget bill.” Is pumping money into an ailing economy to retain jobs and services liberalism run amok? Most economists on both sides agreed with the opposite.
On climate change: “I think the science is very mixed on global warming. I’m all for clean air, I’m all for clean coal technology. I’m sure reducing CO2 emissions would be a positive thing.” Then he walks it back, saying that “In the mainstream media there is a denial of the growing skepticism in the scientific community about global warming.” Where are these studies? Is Fox News suppressing them too? If they are out there Geraldo will report them.
Matthews calls out Pence’s split position: you can’t be both passionate and skeptical at the same time. Another standard talking point gets lodged in there: “I’m in the party of Teddy Roosevelt that has a long and storied history in conservation. [TR] created the first National Parks.” Touché, but that was literally over 100 years ago; you need to do something new. Pence also fails to offer a downside to using new energy sources. Since, even if global warming were not real, not being Middle East oil addicts would be well worth it.
Next: he ducks a direct question on if he believes in evolution! “God created the heaven and earth, seas, and all that is in them. The means that he used, I can’t say.” Matthews hilariously follows up with, “Did you take biology in school?” and then gets to the crux of the issue: “If your party is to be credible in science, you have got to accept science.” Pence backs up and makes a hypocrite of himself again by saying “What is science but an exploration of demonstrable fact, isn’t it?”
Pence goes on, explaining, “I think in our schools we should teach all of the facts about all of these controversial areas and let our students, let our children and our children’s children decide based upon the facts.” Rest easy though: he does say he accepts the scientific method.
Matthews extrapolates to a larger theme: “You have people in the Republican party who are against science …they believe in belief itself.” I heard that as I shammed and wowed and thought it was remarkably succinct and articulate. Matthews has a way of pointing out these things without being cold. Or maybe that was the Snuggie.