INDIANAPOLIS — I wish I could have left too.
Reporters and columnists should be allowed to be sanctimonious about having to watch two bad NFL teams fail to execute for four quarters and an overtime.
But Vice President Mike Pence has no problem with sanctimony. And it seems like his boss loved him leaving Sunday’s game early, too.
Pence, the former governor of Indiana, used taxpayer money to fly him and the whole vice presidential entourage to his home state for Sunday’s game — and just Sunday’s game — so he could stage his own protest against protesting NFL players.
We’re through the looking glass here, folks — we’ve entered a world where the Vice President of the United States is going to sporting events strictly for the reason of making a political point.
Make no mistake — Pence leaving Sunday’s game was not a spur-of-the-moment burst of outrage at the 23 members of the 49ers who knelt during the national anthem. This was a contrived stunt.
Why else would reporters covering Pence be told to stay in the van that brought them to Lucas Oil Stadium, because, as a staffer told NBC’s Vaughn Hillyard, the VP may depart the game early?
Why else would Pence have a well-crafted statement — in photo form, no less — ready to tweet out almost immediately after he left? (Pence also tweeted out a photo that claimed he and his wife [Karen “Mother” Pence] were excited to be in attendance for Sunday’s game — the photo was from 2014.)
It was a reality TV stunt from a reality TV administration.
If Pence wants to protest — at Donald Trump’s behest or not — he’s more than entitled to do so.
But the double negative that’s created by the vice president protesting black men, who are protesting against racial injustice and police brutality against people of color in this nation (anyone who says that’s not what the protest is about has an agenda they’re trying to sell) doesn’t create the kind of unity Pence says he wants.
It creates quite the opposite, in fact.
But just as it is the players’ right to protest, Pence had the right to leave Sunday’s game.
I just wish he didn’t waste my money to do it.
Pence could have tweeted how upset he was from anywhere.
[…] I’m also conflicted — because while I’m repulsed by Pence’s nonsense, at the same time, there’s a begrudging respect for the vice president after his stunt:
I wish I had thought of something so creative as to get out of having to watch the Colts and 49ers play.
“President Trump and I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our flag or our national anthem,” Pence’s statement said.
In case anyone missed how righteously indignant he was, he quickly updated the background photo on his Twitter profile to one of him standing for Sunday’s anthem, hand over his heart, next to someone in a military uniform.
This isn’t about patriotism or love of country or any other garbage excuse. This was a carefully orchestrated PR move — one staged at no small expense to taxpayers, given Pence flew to Indianapolis from Las Vegas on Saturday night and was heading back out West to Los Angeles later Sunday.
“After all the scandals involving unnecessarily expensive travel by cabinet secretaries, how much taxpayer money was wasted on this stunt?” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., asked on Twitter.
This was pure political theater, as disingenuous as it was calculated.
Pence knew exactly what he was walking into in Indianapolis. The protests started with then-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick more than a year ago. San Francisco safety Eric Reid, the first to join Kaepernick in taking a knee during the anthem, has made it clear his protest will continue this season.
The 49ers have also been the most staunch defenders of both their players’ activism and reasons for it. They donated $1 million last year to Bay Area organizations that promote social justice, and have left no doubt in the wake of President Donald Trump’s rant two weeks ago that they consider the protests appropriate.
If there was any team Pence was guaranteed of seeing protest, it would be the 49ers. Yet he went to the game, anyway.
Pence knew what he would see and he knew what his response would be. Trump confirmed that, saying on Twitter that he “asked (Pence) to leave stadium if any players kneeled, disrespected our country.”
Some of the 49ers knelt, but the disrespect came from Pence. In a shameless bid for political points, he tried to play the country for a fool.
The trip that Vice President Mike Pence took this weekend to see the Indianapolis Colts play in his home state — which he later left in protest after players did not stand for the national anthem — cost taxpayers nearly $250,000, according to an ABC News estimate.
Pence’s costly trip comes as a number of Trump administration officials have come under scrutiny in recent weeks over the cost of their travel on private and military planes.
The vice president traveled to Indiana’s capital in an Air Force C-32 that costs $30,290 per hour to operate. Flying from Las Vegas, where he was visiting those affected by last week’s mass shooting, the trip took approximately three-and-a-half hours, totaling $106,015.
After leaving the game, Pence left for Los Angeles, a four-and-a-half-hour flight that cost $136,305, bringing the total for the two legs of the trip to $242,320. Had Pence skipped the trip to Indianapolis and flown straight to Los Angeles from Las Vegas — a 1 hour, 15 minute flight — the expense would have been $37,862.50.
The attention on Pence’s travel costs comes just over a week after Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price resigned in the wake of revelations that he broke precedent by repeatedly utilizing charter and military aircraft for his government travel during his cabinet tenure.
Several other administration officials, including Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and EPA Administrator [Scott] Pruitt, are the subject of inquiries by their departments’ inspectors general over their travel aboard private or government aircraft.