“So Help Me God,” the title of Mike Pence’s memoir released last week, can be interpreted in a few different ways.
You could say it’s a testament to his Christian faith. Placed at the center of his political ambitions, his faith has helped take him from Congress to the Indiana Statehouse as governor and to the White House as vice president.
Or, you might say his book’s title alludes to the oath that Pence swore, which ends with those four words, and includes a solemn vow to uphold the Constitution and faithfully execute the nation’s laws.
Pence lived up to that oath on Jan. 6, 2021, when he presided over the joint session of Congress that declared Joe Biden the president-elect. It would have and should have been routine, except that a mob of would-be seditionists whipped up by former President Donald Trump had rioted outside and then marauded through the Capitol, some chanting “Hang Mike Pence!”
But you certainly couldn’t interpret the title as one taken slightly in vain by someone so fed up with an untenable situation that finally, after much reflection, he set himself to bold purpose. Pence, with his book, certainly is not saying, “So help me God, I am going to tell the full truth about Donald Trump.”
Anyone seeking revelations in Pence’s book will be disappointed. Instead, we get typical partisan spin, plus a bit of confirmation of what we already knew about the darkest day in recent American history, where Pence, his family and members of Congress were in imminent danger. After more than 500 pages, Pence’s book largely fails to look back honestly and dispassionately at the chaos that reigned during most of what he likes to call “The Trump-Pence administration.”
“For four years, we had a close working relationship,” Pence writes of his time with Trump, and in perhaps the understatement of this young century, concludes, “It did not end well.”
Pence, like Trump, has never really stopped campaigning, and his book is an extension of that. Unlike Trump, Pence hasn’t formally announced a Republican presidential bid in 2024, but most observers believe it’s a foregone conclusion that he’s running.
That said, Pence missed an opportunity in his book to step out of Trump’s dark shadow by casting light on the former president’s transgressions. Pence was in a unique position to do so. But after everything, he remains more loyal to Trump than to a clear, true telling of his time in the White House. Pence’s forthrightness is essential to ensure something like Jan. 6 never happens again, but he declines.
The Atlantic book reviewer Tim Alberta wrote, “Even now, with the full benefit of hindsight, nearly two years after fleeing for his very life, Pence refuses to consider the connection between the manipulative propaganda of Trump’s administration and the people wearing Make America Great Again hats who wanted to murder him for doing his constitutional duty.”
We lived through traumatic, tumultuous times during the Trump-Pence administration. Given the mood of the nation, it feels like we simply wish to turn the page and move on.
Yet Tuesday night, the evening that Pence’s book was released, Trump announced he was running for president again. Pence probably will do likewise in time.
So help us God.