(REVIEW) Tell-all books have become a staple of our political conversation. They give readers a chance to see what took place in private during some of history’s most trying times. That’s the case of former Vice President Mike Pence’s new book about his time in the White House with former President Donald Trump.
If there’s anything that can derail Trump’s bid for another term as president, it could be a book by his former running mate. A week after the midterms and on the eve of Trump’s expected announcement that he may run for president for a third time, Pence’s book will become a must read in the coming days and weeks.
In the 560-page memoir, “So Help Me God,” (Simon & Schuster), which will be on sale starting Tuesday, Pence tells all about what went on in the White House during the Trump years. Pence’s book doesn’t shy away from his Christian faith — there are Bible verses quoted throughout — and gives readers a glimpse into his mind during some very trying times for this country.
Trump enjoyed great popularity and support by evangelicals and other Christians. This book may change minds. Pence recounts that in January 2021 he urged Trump to make a farewell address to the nation. He wanted Trump to encourage unity after the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
Pence, who grew up Catholic but became an evangelical in college, writes that he prayed for Trump throughout his presidency. Days after the conversation about a farewell address, Pence recalls, he reminded Trump that he was praying for him.
“Don’t bother,” Trump said, according to the book.
The book gives readers Pence’s version of events, a powerful account that might have been more effective under oath to the Jan. 6 Select Committee rather than in a book intended to make a profit.
Nonetheless, it is a compelling read. Pence writes that Trump told him to overthrow the results of the 2020 presidential election won by Joe Biden. Pence refused. Trump supporters who ransacked the Capitol were looking to hang Pence.
“The president’s words (on Jan. 6) were reckless and his actions were reckless,” Pence writes. “The president’s words that day at the rally endangered me and my family and everyone at the Capitol building.”
The book features Pence’s early life, his political rise as a member of the House in 2001 and his election to Indiana’s governor’s mansion in 2012. But the most telling, and interesting, parts of the book are Pence’s interactions with Trump after the 2020 election.
“‘You can be a historic figure, but if you wimp out, you’re just another somebody,’” Pence says Trump told him after the election.
Pence writes that Trump warned him on Jan. 6, 2021, that he would “go down as a wimp” if he certified the election results. Pence initially said he welcomed debate to the presidential results but did not believe he should reject electors once those legal challenges were exhausted.
“You’re too honest,” Pence says Trump told him. “Hundreds of thousands are gonna hate your guts. … People are gonna think you’re stupid.”
Despite that, Pence’s book tries to strike a balancing act between loyalty to Trump, his Christian faith and the Constitution.
“Thirteen days after the 2020 election,” Pence writes, “I had lunch with President Trump. I told him that if his legal challenges came up short, he could simply accept the results, move forward with the transition and start a political comeback, winning the Senate runoffs in Georgia, the 2021 Virginia governor’s race, and the House and Senate in 2022. Then he could run for president in 2024 and win. He seemed unmoved, even weary: ‘I don’t know, 2024 is so far off.’”
Republicans lost those races and control of the Senate. It’s now only two years later, and Trump is again flirting with a White House run. I wrote in 2020 that Pence had given Trump credibility among a set of values voters. This book reverses much of that.
This book does further damage to Trump among the voters he needs most. In an age when Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has become the new darling among conservative voters, this book further damages Trump’s 2024 chances. Even Trump supporters, however, can’t deny that Pence has credibility. Democrats, meanwhile, may not agree with Pence’s politics, but they can’t deny that he is a loyal American.
Clemente Lisi is a senior editor at Religion Unplugged and teaches journalism at The King’s College in New York City. He is the author of “The FIFA World Cup: A History of the Planet’s Biggest Sporting Event.” Follow him on Twitter @ClementeLisi.