“You can’t handle the truth!” That’s the famous line spoken from the witness stand by Jack Nicholson in his portrayal of Colonel Nathan Jessup in the 1992 hit movie, “A Few Good Men.” That was 30 years ago, in a make-believe story of a governmental cover up, and long before the line became so true for a big chunk of Americans.
In fact, Fox News, the most watched cable “news” network in the country, believes that telling the truth to its viewers is just too big a risk to their bottom line to consider actually doing it. That became clear last week through discovery in the Dominion Voting Systems’ $1.6 billion defamation suit against Fox.
Internal communications show that the channel’s biggest personalities and its owner, Rupert Murdoch, knew the now infamous “big lie” about election fraud in 2020 was not true. But within a week of the election the channel also knew its viewers didn’t want to hear the truth about it and have since spent more than two years energetically perpetuating that lie.
Mike Pence knows that the voters he needs are the same people Fox News fears. What really is the difference between voters, constituents and customers anyway? In Pence’s case, that question isn’t even sarcastic.
When the former Indiana governor became the vice president in 2017, he was far from wealthy. In June of 2021, he purchased a $1.93 million home in Carmel. He also signed a book deal reportedly worth between $3 million and $4 million. Being the VP has blessed Pence with a profitable platform, albeit, one with a rather troubling need.
Pence’s book buying customers apparently need to be lied to. And in grand fashion. And in the midst of facts and truths that engulf them. At least that’s what Pence appears to think. Why else would he fight so hard to avoid appearing before Jack Smith, the Department of Justice special counsel assigned to investigate all matters related to the assault on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021? For someone who has been hailed by many for so boldly doing the right thing that fateful day, one would think Pence would want to tell his heroic story every chance he gets.
But he doesn’t. He really doesn’t.
If all the facts only Pence possesses have already been disclosed, there’s no reason not to disclose them again. The novel argument he is making to be exempt from complying with the subpoena is an irrelevant one.
When the January 6 Committee sought Pence testimony, the argument was that he was exempt due to the separation of powers provisions of the constitution. He was part of the executive branch, and the committee was in the legislative branch. Now that the executive branch, through the DOJ, has issued the subpoena, Pence is arguing he was a member of the legislature at the time.
Don’t be fooled by Pence’s earnestness that it’s just a deep, moral commitment to our governing document driving his elusiveness. It’s all about the fear that the segment of Americans who he is trying to persuade to vote for him, won’t approve of him cooperating.
These aren’t new moves for our former governor. It feels like a long form version of Pence’s infamous interview with George Stephanopoulos during the national debacle of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 2015. The question was simple: Did the original version of RFRA discriminate or not? The obvious and correct answer was “yes.” I considered counting how many times Stephanopoulos asked him the question, but I couldn’t relive the whole thing again. I’ll estimate it at about a dozen.
Pence didn’t claim any privilege, but he knew the truth was awful, so he never gave it.
Today’s Republican party would love Nicholson’s version of Colonel Jessup. A real tough guy who always understood what the right thing was. It was whatever he said it was, and therefore, “the truth.”
It makes for a wildly entertaining movie that “A Few Good Men” still is. Of course, it’s important to note that in the movie, in the end, Jessup goes to jail.
Michael Leppert is an author, educator and a communication consultant in Indianapolis. He writes about government, politics and culture at MichaelLeppert.com. This commentary was originally published at indianacapitalchronicle.com. Send comments to [email protected]