Revelation: What If the Rumors About Replacing the Vice President Are True?

Fiction by Thomas Mallon

From the headline

“Vice President Mike Pence Dispels Talk About Being Replaced as Trump’s Running Mate for 2020”

Read the original story

“Thank you, sir. For everything.”

After managing to get the words out, he hangs up the phone and looks through the window to the dome of the Naval Observatory. He wonders how much houses in Muncie, or maybe Carmel, are going for.

The conversation took maybe two minutes, less than half the time he’d been on hold, but now here he is with everything changed. He turns to regard the framed pictures of his three grown children, consoling himself with the thought that all those tweets calling them Half and Six and Tup—and offering them conversion therapy to homosexuality—will now, after almost four years, start to subside.

Karen had warned him that, when the end came, loyalty would be no defense. He’d be dropped no matter how many times he had displayed that reverent gaze when listening to the Prodigal’s speeches. The look had been modeled on something he had the chance to witness at an event in ’88, during his first, failed congressional campaign: Nancy Reagan watching her husband. Twenty-eight years later, during the fall of 2016, he trained himself to stare serenely at the back of the Prodigal’s head while silently reciting the biblical verses inside his own.

He wasn’t told who’ll be replacing him. Haley, he thinks, is too smart to say yes, and Jim Jordan will make the mistake of appearing lustfully eager when the prize is dangled. But after a minute or two he’s bored with trying to predict his successor on the ticket. Long before he underwent his own sort of conversion therapy—being slowly born again from Catholic to Evangelical—he’d been taught that despair is a mortal sin, and maybe despair is what he’s starting to feel, because he knows there’s no longer any political place for him to go. He had known the end was near a week ago, when the Prodigal put the coronavirus in his portfolio—to infect him with it politically.

Tonight, however, from Maddow to Hannity, all talk will be of the Prodigal, the disrupter, of whatever bold calculation supposedly lies behind the switch.

But did the end really lie all the way back at the beginning—four weeks before the last election, when the Access Hollywood tape came out and Priebus panicked into thinking that the RNC could dump the Prodigal and give him the nomination, with Condi Rice taking over the VP slot? That wasn’t the exact scheme that had been floated, and (much as he liked the idea of merely having pawned his soul instead of sold it) he hadn’t exactly agreed to it. But it’s what Woodward put in his book, and the Prodigal always believes reports of treachery no matter the source. He’s saved his vengeance until now, not because he has the patience or subtlety to serve such a thing cold, but because he needed three years of blind fealty in between.

It had to happen in any case. With too much hair and too much weight and too much mouth, the Prodigal is like Blagojevich, who rotted in federal prison in Colorado because of an inability to resist selling Obama’s Senate seat in ’08: I mean, I’ve got this thing and it’s fucking golden. How could the Prodigal, who’d once put Blagojevich on The Celebrity Apprentice, resist the sheer showbiz spectacle of snatching and re-bestowing a vice-presidential nomination that was indisputably his to giveth or taketh away? (Job 1:21) Last month’s pardon of Blago was like a promo for what’s happening now.

When will he announce the change? Today, of course—more show business: the day before Super Tuesday, when the Democrats will be trying to decide, in fourteen states, between Bernie’s Bolshevism and Biden’s blarney. Tonight, however, from Maddow to Hannity and from sea to shining sea, all talk will be of the Prodigal, the disrupter, of whatever bold calculation supposedly lies behind the switch. And when someone asks him why the 48th vice president of the United States will not be on the ballot this fall—will instead be dust returning to Hoosier dust—the Prodigal will say, as he always says, whether you’re Sondland or Scaramucci or Manafort or Jeffrey Epstein: “I really didn’t know Mike Pence very well.”

Go Deeper

  • God’s Plan for Mike Pence

    By McKay Coppins • The Atlantic • January/February 2018

    When he was younger, Mike Pence thought God’s calling was for him to join the priesthood, until he realized that, no, it was for him to enter politics instead. In his telling of how Pence’s religion has informed his political ambition, Coppins asks big, pressing questions: “What happens when manifest destiny replaces humility and the line between faith and hubris blurs? What unseemly compromises get made? What means become tolerable in pursuit of an end?”

  • The Danger of President Pence

    By Jane Mayer • The New Yorker • October 16, 2017

    Jane Mayer has long investigated the Koch network, and here, she compellingly traces the well-heeled conservative-donor class’s time-honored connection to—and influence over—the vice president. The Kochs have been particularly instrumental in Pence’s rise, reportedly encouraging his presidential ambitions for 2012 and 2016. As veep, Pence has remained loyal by populating the administration with establishment conservatives. The result of these efforts, Mayer writes, is that “Trump’s populist, nationalist agenda has largely been replaced by the agenda of the corporate right.”

  • This Is Nikki Haley’s Last Interview Before Her Mysterious Resignation

    By Lisa Miller • New York • October 10, 2018

    Long rumored to be a potential replacement for Pence on the 2020 ticket, Nikki Haley’s unexpected resignation from her position as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations only further stirred the pot—even inspiring speculation that she could replace Trump in the upcoming election. Days before she stepped down, Lisa Miller interviewed the notoriously savvy former governor of South Carolina. “I’ve always thought that silence is power and that discipline is power,” she told Miller. And of Trump: “Sometimes he listens, and sometimes he says, ‘That’s who I am. They love it.’ Look, he’s not gonna change for me. And he’s not gonna change now, and, frankly, whatever he’s doing is working.”