Pence says presidential ambitions on hold until next year
By DOUGLAS BURNS
Former Vice President Mike Pence instinctively inhabited the role of an all-but-announced presidential candidate as he chatted with Iowa Republican activists from a sweeping collection of counties at a key GOP event in Carroll Saturday.
He’s not in the race, though — yet.
All of the Indiana Republican’s political energies are on the 2022 election cycle with Statehouses and Congress in the balance, Pence said in a 15-minute interview with the Carroll Times Herald at Carroll High School where Iowa’s 4th Congressional District Republicans were holding their convention.
“Come 2023 we will look at where we feel called and my wife and I will approach it as we always have — with prayer, with counsel — and see where we might be able to contribute to the life of the nation,” Pence said of a potential 2024 presidential bid. “But for as long as the Lord gives me breath I am going to be in this fight. I’m going to be fighting for conservative values. I’ve dedicated my life to those issues.”
Pence, a former congressman, governor of Indiana and talk-radio host, sought to portray himself as a reliable, from-the-heart conservative, an anti-abortion voice with economic and cultural views informed by former President Ronald Reagan, whom he referenced in the interview.
When asked if he viewed former President Donald Trump as more of a “transactional conservative” Pence said, “It was the greatest honor of my life to serve as vice president with President Donald Trump. We rebuilt our military. We revived our economy. We appointed conservatives to our courts at every level. We stood with our allies and stood up to our enemies.”
In the the interview Pence addressed consolidation in the meatpacking industry. Four companies — Tyson, Cargill, National Beef and JBS — have a stranglehold on beef supply, for example.
“Let me say that the meatpacking industry in the first year of COVID were unsung heroes,” Pence said.
He said the Trump Administration surged resources and testing and materials to allow continued production at U.S. meatpacking plants.
“We kept meat on the shelves,” he said.
With Indiana, farm-country roots, Pence said he understands the dynamics of the livestock industry. It’s important to strike a balance in it, the former vice president said.
“I really believe in family farming,” Pence said. “I grew up in a state very much like Iowa. But at the same time I understand we have to let the market breathe, but what we don’t want to do is have agricuture programs, counter-cyclical programs, that create an incentive for consolidation.”
Pence said the nation should pursue a raft of policies that make it possible for family farms to thrive.
“Ultimately, what’s really pressing down on agriculture today is what’s pressing down on every American family and that is the input costs, the impact of inflation,” Pence said. “Probably the greatest input cost for farmers today is fuel and to see gasoline prices skyrocketing as an administration tries to blame that on the war in Ukraine.”
The nation must return to energy independence and promoting policies that will lower the cost of doing business, Pence said.
Pence also offered strong views on social media. In the salad days of development of companies like Facebook and other Internet giants, Pence served on the House Judiciary Committee, he noted. The goal: allow growth and innovation. But he warned Internet companies that if Republicans take back Congress, such “carve outs” in regulations may not remain in place unless they improve their practices on a host of fronts.
“There is no question that we have seen those social media platforms used as a means to advance ‘cancel culture,’” Pence said.
Pence said there are examples after examples of people with a variety of views being banned from major platforms — what he refers to as a cancelling of voices.
“I think as the Republicans prepare to take over the Congress they’ve got to make it clear to these social media platforms that they are either going to act as a town square, have a level playing for all voices, apart from those things that every American would agree were objectionable — and if they don’t, I think we need to visit those long-term protections that the industry has had,” Pence said.
One of the major protections is under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act which defines Internet companies like Facebook as platforms that are not responsible for content from third parties, or in other words, users who post on the sites. Newspapers and traditional media, on the other hand, must stand behind content and can be sued for libel.
Reforming Section 230 has gained bipartisan support but remains controversial. Pence did not comment specifically on Section 230, but he did say, “I think we’ve got to have a level playing field in the media.”