© 2024 WSHU
NPR News & Classical Music
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Opinion: Trump said Pence is 'too honest'

Vice President Mike Pence speaks alongside President Donald Trump in 2020. As Trump was being arraigned in Washington on yet another round of criminal charges this week, his former runningmate-turned-rival Mike Pence unveiled merchandise that quotes "Too Honest," a reference to Trump's response when Pence rebuffed his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
Patrick Semansky
/
AP
Vice President Mike Pence speaks alongside President Donald Trump in 2020. As Trump was being arraigned in Washington on yet another round of criminal charges this week, his former runningmate-turned-rival Mike Pence unveiled merchandise that quotes "Too Honest," a reference to Trump's response when Pence rebuffed his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

Donald Trump has uttered many colorful phrases. But his best-known may now become what this week's indictment reports he said when Vice President Mike Pence refused to comply with a scheme to overturn the lawful result of the 2020 election. Donald Trump told him, "You're too honest."

It reminded me of a moment in Shakespeare's Macbeth, when Lady Macbeth despairs Macbeth has lost the appetite to slaughter their rivals.

"Yet, I do fear thy nature," she tells him. "It is too full o' the milk of human kindness."

The crimes and compromises people can be tempted to commit for power is a hallowed theme in literature. Those stories tell us how such misdeeds can be perpetrated by people who convince themselves they're doing good for what they insist is some larger cause.

Donald Trump told the Faith and Freedom Coalition this spring, "I'm being indicted for you! And I believe the 'you' is more than 200 million people that love our country." It has just about become the theme of his campaign.

Robert Penn Warren's much honored 1946 novel, All The King's Men, created an indelible character out of the red clay of the Depression-era: Willie Stark, who rises from a hard-scrabble life to become a popular governor, who builds roads, hospitals, and schools. He also wrecks lives and laws, and grows rich from payoffs — all for the good of the people, he says, the people, made of his same common clay.

"Man is conceived in sin and born in corruption," Willie Stark tells an aide, "and he passeth from the stink of the didie to the stench of the shroud."

Gore Vidal's 1960 play, The Best Man, has a merry-eyed, old ex-president who tries to convince his favored candidate to smear an opponent with an ugly rumor he knows to be false. It will help you win, he says, and accomplish good, noble things. The candidate wonders if this wouldn't betray the principles that brought him into politics. But the old, war-horse of an ex-president finds that naïve. He admonishes his candidate, "Power is not a toy we give to good children."

Donald Trump has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him. Mike Pence's presidential campaign has begun to sell campaign swag with the slogan, "Too Honest."

On an opponent's campaign merchandise and in an indictment are probably not places Donald Trump expected to see those words when he uttered them. But they're part of history now.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.