Vice President Mike Pence is in Ireland right now, staying at the Doonbeg resort owned by his boss, President Donald Trump.
Which would make sense! Except that Doonbeg is on the extreme western coast of Ireland and Pence’s official government business is in Dublin, which is in eastern Ireland. To get from the Trump resort to Dublin involves an hourlong car ride and a 40-minute flight! It’s 181 miles!
So why did Pence (or his staff) purposely inconvenience themselves?
“If you have a chance to get to Doonbeg you’ll find it’s a fairly small place. The opportunity to stay at Trump National in Doonbeg, to accommodate the unique footprint that comes with our security detail and other personnel made it logical,” he explained in Ireland on Tuesday.
Marc Short, chief of staff to Pence, also noted by way of explanation that Pence has roots in the town – his great-grandmother was from Doonbeg and another distant relative operates a pub in the town. Plus, Short added, Pence’s schedule was scrambled somewhat because he had to go to Poland over Labor Day weekend as a stand-in for Trump, who canceled his trip due to Hurricane Dorian.
Which, uh, OK? I mean, it makes sense that Pence would want to see the town where his great-grandmother was from. And that his travel schedule got a little wacky with the last-minute addition of a trip to Poland. But Short said something else in explaining Pence’s two-night stay at Doonbeg that gets to the real story.
“When we went through the trip, it’s like, well, he’s going to Doonbeg because that’s where the Pence family is from. It’s like, ‘Well, you should stay at my place,’ ” said Short, acknowledging that Trump himself suggested that the vice president should stay at a hotel with his name on it.
A spokesperson for the vice president later said in a statement that the decision to stay at the property was “solely” a decision by the vice president’s office and “at no time did the President direct our office to stay at his Doonbeg resort.”
Before I go any further, let’s stop here and take this totally out of the political context. Let’s say your boss suggests that you be at a meeting in Ireland next week. She doesn’t tell you that you have to be at the meeting but just suggests it. Even if you have a bunch of other stuff going on next week, you go, right? Because you know that a suggestion from your boss isn’t exactly a suggestion. It’s more of a very strong recommendation.
Now back to Pence. The former Indiana governor has understood from the day he accepted the vice presidential nomination back in the summer of 2016 that his political future – and any chance of him getting elected to the big office – was entirely tied to Trump’s. Pence’s path to the White House in 2024 runs directly through Trump endorsing him and the President’s political allies signing on too. And because Pence isn’t dumb, he knows that the best (only?) way to stay in Trump’s good graces is to always do what the President wants.
Which is exactly what Pence has done so far during the Trump presidency. The veep is always standing stalwartly right off of Trump’s right shoulder when the President is signing a bill or making a proclamation. Pence is, quite literally, Trump’s right-hand man.
And so, if the President “suggests” it might be a good idea for Pence to spend two nights at a Trump hotel, then Pence does it. No questions asked.
Which is sort of remarkable on two levels.
1) It’s a MASSIVE inconvenience. By way of comparison, Pence staying in Doonbeg for meetings in Dublin (181 miles apart) is the equivalent of me staying in Annapolis, Maryland, for meetings in New York City (179 miles). And you are telling me that there isn’t a single hotel between Doonbeg and Dublin that could accommodate the vice presidential retinue? None? Like, come on, man. What are we even doing out here, man?
2) How does no one on Pence’s team (or Trump’s for that matter!!!) quickly realize that this might not look so good – particularly given the criticism (and lawsuits) directed at Trump for the possibility that he is violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution? Whether or not Pence thinks there is any merit to these claims, he and his people have to know that it’s a bad look to go WAY out of his way to stay at a Trump property while abroad. Right? Right?!
Who cares where Pence stays? And whether or not it has a “TRUMP” name on the hotel?
Well, you should. After all, the costs for these trips are paid for by taxpayers. (And Trump is not giving away the rooms at Doonbeg for free; Short confirmed that Tuesday.) And if you think that transporting the vice president from one side of Ireland to the other is cheap, well then you are unfamiliar with the massive undertaking it is to move a dignitary even a few city blocks.
Which is why Pence’s if-you-get-a-chance-to-stay-at-a-TRUMP-hotel-you-take-it explanation doesn’t wash. He’s doing this because the one guy who can break (and maybe make) his political future told, er, suggested he do so. Period.