You’d think there wouldn’t be much appeal in lengthy profile on a man who has the charisma of a used Band-Aid, but McKay Coppins’s story in the The Atlantic on Vice President Mike Pence is quite entertaining, perhaps because it fleshes out the image we already had of Pence as being a stodgy wet blanket. According to the former college classmates, colleagues, and Indiana state political associates interviewed for the piece, Pence is depicted as the kind of pedantic hall monitor of unremarkable intelligence who is still shamelessly sycophantic enough to constantly advocate for a crass and bombastic narcissistic like President Trump, despite the VP’s staunchly held evangelical-Christian beliefs.
Long before Pence met “Mother,” he was apparently the guy who ruined every low key gathering by whipping out his guitar and strumming a few Van Morrison covers. The stories from his stint at Indiana’s Hanover College in the late ’70s and early ’80s are telling.
From The Atlantic:
The yearbooks from his undergraduate days are filled with photos that portray Pence as a kind of campus cliché: the dark-haired, square-jawed stud strumming an acoustic guitar on the quad as he leads a gaggle of coeds in a sing-along. In one picture, Pence mugs for the camera in a fortune-teller costume with a girl draped over his lap; in another, he poses goofily in an unbuttoned shirt that shows off his torso.
Pence was apparently the worst person to invite to a party, because, according to his Phi Gamma brother Dan Murphy, instead of falling on his sword when campus authorities busted the house for having booze, which was strictly forbidden on school grounds, the future vice president was all too happy to rat out the rest of his frat and continue sucking up to the administration.
One night, during a rowdy party, Pence and his fraternity brothers got word that an associate dean was on his way to the house. They scrambled to hide the kegs and plastic cups, and then Pence met the administrator at the door.
“We know you’ve got a keg,” the dean told Pence, according to Murphy. Typically when scenes like this played out, one of the brothers would take the fall, claiming that all the alcohol was his and thus sparing the house from formal discipline. Instead, Pence led the dean straight to the kegs and admitted that they belonged to the fraternity. The resulting punishment was severe. “They really raked us over the coals,” Murphy said. “The whole house was locked down.” Some of Pence’s fraternity brothers were furious with him—but he managed to stay on good terms with the administration. Such good terms, in fact, that after he graduated, in 1981, the school offered him a job in the admissions office.
Whether he was the student who had his frat house “locked down,” the Indiana congressman who lobbied against Planned Parenthood, or the Indiana governor who signed the anti-LGBT Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law, ruining things for everybody is kind of his thing.
Aside from the portrait of the vice president in his formative years, the profile also provided this exquisite piece of self-mythology regarding his turn from lukewarm-take-wielding conservative radio host to ambitious public servant:
By the time a congressional seat opened up ahead of the 2000 election, Pence was a minor Indiana celebrity and state Republicans were urging him to run. In the summer of 1999, as he was mulling the decision, he took his family on a trip to Colorado. One day while horseback riding in the mountains, he and Karen looked heavenward and saw two red-tailed hawks soaring over them. They took it as a sign, Karen recalled years later: Pence would run again, but this time there would be “no flapping.” He would glide to victory.
Sometimes a bird is just a bird.