**NOTE** This was done as an on-air segment on Tony Katz and the Morning News on Wednesday, April 10th 2019. It has been edited for appearance, and Tony has updates to make it easier for the reader. He also made a name change where he made a mistake on-air. No change to the intent or the message has been made. The full audio recording is below, and is unedited.
It took me some time to figure out what it is that Pete Buttigieg is doing. The South Bend, IN Mayor is having a wonderful presidential run; he's going to make his official announcement sometime next week. The media and social media are fawning all over him: He’s cool, he's calm, he's collected. Obama-esqe, you could say. And, he's got a unique strategy. #NeverPence.
He's taking the fight directly to Vice President Mike Pence, even though the Vice President didn't ask for it, didn't want it and didn't start it. Well, Buttigieg is a Hoosier and Pence is a Hoosier, so maybe it gets him a lot more play in the state of Indiana. Do you need this play in the state of Indiana? No, that can't be it (although you never want to take your home state for granted), but what else could explain this conversation that he likes to have now about faith? This line of attack that he, Pete Buttigieg, is a man of faith, and he can't understand how the Vice President supports a President who is most well-known for paying hush money to an adult film actress.
That's what Trump is most well-known for? (The rational person who ever watched "The Apprentice" or stayed a casino in Vegas or in a hotel in New York or DC or Chicago with that giant gold TRUMP logo on it said, "That's ridiculous. What a foolhardy thing to say!") Yet, no one in the media has said anything. No voices on the usual suspect cable news channels refuted the idea.
Then, it became much more directed, and much more pointed from Mayor Buttigieg about the Vice President:
You know, I think people are responding to it because hopefully it's a reminder that all of us deserve an equal claim on the blessings of life in this country. Just because you're LGBTQ doesn't mean it's okay to discriminate against you.
I think most people get that, I think most Christians get that, and it's time for us to move on toward a more inclusive and more humane vision of faith than what this Vice President represents.
A more humane vision of faith? That's not just a commentary, that's a punch in the face. That is not good humor, nor is it some valuable look at his supposed intellect. "What is it that I'm watching?" I ask myself. I played that audio clip on my radio show, and didn't really engage that much commentary on it as I look back, because it was more confusing than anything else. What is Mayor Buttigieg doing? Why even go down this road?
Then, Second Lady Karen Pence appeared on Brian Kilmeade's radio show saying, "They've always had a great relationship," referring to the Vice President and the Mayor. "It's funny because I don't think the Vice President does have a problem with him, but I think it's helping Pete to get some notoriety by saying that about the Vice President."
Certainly, Buttigieg is trying to ‘punch up’ hoping Pence or President Trump will ‘punch down,’ and therefore elevate him. That's a standard ploy when people are trying to grow their notoriety. But, still, nothing was sitting right with me about this strategy. Then I read this tweet from The Hill, "Karen Pence takes shot at Buttigieg."
Is that a shot? Is what you just read from Second Lady Karen Pence a shot? Her saying, "I'm like, Pete, did you not like it when the Vice President referred to you as a dedicated public servant, and a patriot because that's what the Vice President said about him, so what's the problem with that?"
Mayor Buttigieg has responded to those comments, and the comments from the Vice President's Press Secretary, Alyssa Farah, saying, "People will often be polite to you in person while advancing policies that harm you and your family. You'll be polite to them in turn, but you need not stand for such harms. Instead, you push back honestly, emphatically so it goes in the public square."
That's not inspiriational. It's not uplifting. This is the Mayor of South Bend running for President of the United States, calling Mike Pence a liar and duplicitous, directly to his face but not actually to his face.
And then it clicked. "Oh, this is the plan." And that plan is #NeverPence. You 'punch up’ and get the conversation to be about you, elevating yourself. You engage this conversation about faith, demonizing others while heightening your own morality thus taking focus off of policy because, as (as even the casual observer has noticed,) Pete Buttigieg is no different than Elizabeth Warren, nor Beto O'Rourke, nor Bernie Sanders. He has the same far-left, pro-government, anti-individual policies.
(His conversation about ‘democratic capitalism,’ where he states that capitalism comes into tension with democracy, is wholly untrue. But, it puts him in the same ranks of the others Democrat candidates in eschewing and discrediting capitalism.)
#NeverPence allows him to create a moment of differentiation from the candidates he’s exactly like, because he's talking about faith when nobody else is, and he's talking about morality when nobody else really is, in a way nobody else is. Yet no one asks in a meaningful way how his faith has shaped his views or his policies. Like how California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein asked Judge Amy Coney Barrett if her Catholicism meant she couldn't be objective. ("The dogma lives loudly within you," said Feinstein to Barrett. Translation: You're too Catholic to be a judge!)
The press is complicit; they don't ask serious questions about his policies, nor his self-proclaimed morality and his faith. Rather, they are fully engaged in the ‘Obama-izing, or the ‘Obama-tization’ of Buttigieg. "Oh wow, what a cool, calm, collected guy." "He could be the first gay President." "Look how he's taking it to Mike Pence!" "Such leadership qualities." "Did you know, he speaks five languages?" "Pete, let me ask you a tough question - how hard is it to love who you want in today's America?” Plenty of questions, but nothing about substance. Not about his policies, about his beliefs nor about his past.
Pete Buttigieg is engaging in fear mongering and hate, pushing the idea that Mike Pence is somehow attacking you, actively hurting you and coming after you when, of course, that is not the case. Buttigieg wants you to believe that the Vice President hates you, when that is also not the case.
As I have said very often about President Donald Trump, and how the 2018 election went in favor of the Democrats in the House and in many state elections, the people's hatred of, and vitriol towards, the President is a highly effective motivator. That’s Pete’s plan for Mike.
It took me some time to figure it out, but Pete Buttigieg's plan for 2020 is #NeverPence. It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off.