Trump's Ego Makes Him So Daft About Pence

Donald Trump's colossal ego makes him incredibly susceptible to flattery, and Mike Pence is basically Andy Bernard to Trump's Michael Scott, even literally using personality mirroring to ingratiate himself to the president, whose job Pence wants so badly he will do anything to get it.

Because Pence is such a sophisticated manipulator, the mercurial Trump remained solid on Pence far longer than the average dirtbag in his fetid administration, despite the fact that Pence is resolutely disloyal. But, as Team Pence increasingly makes its moves, Trump's trust in Pence has wavered. Especially because the people for whom Pence is coming are buzzing in Trump's ear that Pence won't help him get reelected — an oblique argument that avoids the outright accusation that Pence is a snake that "allows" Trump to come to that conclusion all the same, as if it's his own idea.

I always take Gabriel Sherman's palace intrigue pieces for Vanity Fair with a grain of salt, but, irrespective of this item's veracity, the fact that someone at the White House wants this stuff public is telling, especially given what I've been noting about Pence's subtle but observable maneuvering:
On Monday, Trump hosted a 2020 strategy meeting with a group of advisers. Among the topics discussed was whether Mike Pence should remain on the ticket, given the hurricane-force political headwinds Trump will face, as demonstrated by the midterms, a source briefed on the session told me. "They're beginning to think about whether Mike Pence should be running again," the source said, adding that the advisers presented Trump with new polling that shows Pence doesn't expand Trump's coalition. "He doesn't detract from it, but he doesn't add anything either," the source said.

Last month, The New York Times reported that Trump had been privately asking advisers if Pence could be trusted, and that outside advisers have been pushing Nikki Haley to replace Pence. One veteran of Trump's 2016 campaign who's still advising Trump told me the president hasn't been focused enough on 2020. "What he needs to do is consider his team for 2020 and make sure it's in place," the adviser said. "He has to have people on his team that are loyal to his agenda."

Trump's doubts about Pence are surprising given Pence's frequent public encomiums and professions of loyalty. "Trump waxes and wanes on everyone," a prominent Republican close to the White House explained. Part of what's driving the debate over Pence's political value is Trump's stalled search for a chief of staff to replace John Kelly. According to a source, Kelly has recently been telling Trump that Pence doesn't help him politically.

The theory is that Kelly is unhappy that Pence's 36-year-old chief of staff, Nick Ayers, has been openly campaigning for Kelly's job. "Kelly has started to get more political and he's whispering to Trump that Trump needs a running mate who can help him more politically," the source said.
If I had to guess, Kelly or one of his allies was the source for this item. It's a public shot over the bow at Pence, warning that if he keeps coming for Kelly's job, Kelly will keep coming for his.

These sorts of internecine politics are not something that Trump is capable of managing. So it will just keep getting more toxic, until Trump impetuously picks a side, for reasons that are significantly less than well considered.

And, at that moment, whomever he chooses — John Kelly or Mike Pence — is going to get a lot more powerful. Dangerously so.

Which is not to say that both of them aren't dangerous already. They are.

As always, I will end with the same advice I have been urgently broadcasting for years: Keep your eyes on Pence.

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