Keep. Your. Eyes. On. Mike. Pence.

[Content Note: War on agency.]

As I mentioned earlier, one of Donald Trump's first executive orders was to reinstate the Global Gag Rule, also known as the "Mexico City Policy," which "bans recipients of U.S. foreign aid from offering abortion-related services."
Made U.S. policy through an executive order issued by President Ronald Reagan, it restricts family planning providers from offering comprehensive health care and, when in place, denies international family planning organizations the right to:

* Provide abortion-related information to their patients and clients
* Provide referrals to other health care providers who perform safe abortions
* Provide legal abortions or legal abortion-related services
* Advocate for the legalization of abortion in their country

The Mexico City Policy infringes upon women's fundamental right to make informed decisions about their bodies and their health. It denies women access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care that includes abortion care and related information and referrals.
It is a vile policy, rescinded by Democratic presidents and reinstated by Republican presidents like clockwork.

Trump's position on abortion has been inconsistent, to put it politely, but he has made it abundantly clear that, as a Republican president, he will align himself with anti-choice extremists. Including and especially Vice-President Mike Pence, to whom Trump delegated his presidential transition and who has been tasked with taking the lead on policy.

To be clear: I am not suggesting that Trump is stupid. I am observing, based on Trump's own comments, that he doesn't care about policy; that he is willfully ignorant about an enormous amount of policy because to be well-versed in it serves no purpose to him, as it does not cater to his grandiose ego and would steal time from the things that do.

Trump explicitly wanted a vice-president who "would be in charge of domestic and foreign policy," leaving Trump free to "Make America great again," whatever that means on any given day. Tweeting at SNL on one day; provoking China by calling the Taiwanese President on another.

Everything else belongs to Mike Pence, who was a radically conservative governor and has already made several notable trips to Capitol Hill to meet with Congressional Republicans to see what radically conservative legislation—starting with the repeal of the Affordable Care Act—they can bring to Trump's desk for his disinterested signature.

In December, Gallup noted Pence's influence squarely sits on the shoulders of Trump's lack of experience: "As has been true for previous vice presidents, Pence's background complements that of the president. But this seems particularly important for the incoming administration, given that Trump will be one of the few presidents without any elected political experience (the last was Dwight Eisenhower in 1952). Pence's legislative and policy experience may make him the 'quarterback' on the White House legislative team who has to deal with complex congressional processes. And his experience as a state governor may make him someone Trump relies on to help navigate 10th Amendment issues."

Trump's comprehensive inexperience leaves a void that Pence will be happy to fill.

Trump has almost certainly not learned the details of the Global Gag Rule, nor will he, but he didn't need to know them. Pence knew them. He is an extreme anti-choicer who, as Indiana's governor, waged war on Planned Parenthood, defunded clinics, and criminalized miscarriages. You bet he knew the details of the Global Gag Rule. You bet it was one of Mike Pence's priorities.

This, then, is a perfect and terrible example of why I am the brokenest of broken records about keeping our eyes on our most powerful vice-president ever, including even Dick Cheney.

As I wrote previously:
During the campaign, I repeatedly warned about Mike Pence's extremism with a particular urgency, given Donald Trump's desire for a vice-president who "would be in charge of domestic and foreign policy."

And, since the election, I have been carefully watching the role Pence is playing in the emerging Trump administration. He was put in charge of the presidential transition, and, to those who have long been familiar with Pence, his fingerprints are all over the selection of people and policy that is emerging.

…An article in Politico confirms precisely that about which I have been warning. Under the blunt title "Pence's power play," the writers detail his efficacy in building bridges with the Republican Congressional caucus and quote a former Pence aide saying, "He's going to play a more influential role on the policy front than we've seen from vice presidents in recent years."

It is a neat bit of understatement about an already observable fact.

Pence's style has always been less aggressive than it is opportunist — which does not make him any less dangerous. To the contrary, his patience in waiting for effective opportunities in which to implement his extremism, and his willingness to brazenly disregard democratic processes to get it done, makes him all the more toxic.

His stealth is the perfect complement to Trump's theatrical egotism: Pence will exploit every second of being ignored to enact a radical conservative agenda in the long shadow cast by Trump’s attention-grubbing megalomania.

Mike Pence would like nothing more than our inattention. Which is precisely why we must keep our eyes on him.
Pence—who, unlike his boss, does not have an ego rooted in personal glory, but in personal orchestration of a conservative agenda, irrespective of whether he gets the credit—is smart enough to realize that he has more power without scrutiny.

As a vice-president (and thus president of the Senate) who has been handed extraordinary power by the president, and a former member of the House with deep ties to many members of the GOP caucus, Pence is perfectly positioned to simultaneously: Assist Trump with his awful executive agenda; support Congress in their sinister legislative aims; and work with the Cabinet (which he has clearly shaped) to destroy every federal agency.

Trust that Pence does not want any attention that stands to undercut his enormous power at the center of this triangle.

Which is why I will say once more: Pence would like nothing more than our inattention—and that is precisely why we must keep our eyes on him.

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