Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence certainly make an odd couple— Trump ran the most vulgar political campaign in recent history and has bragged on tape about how he likes grab women "by the pussy," while Pence is an evangelical Christian who refuses to have one-on-one dinners with women and refers to his wife as "mother."
A recent New Yorker profile of Pence chronicles how the evangelical, Koch-friendly former Indiana governor made his way into the Trump White House—and it reveals that the relationship between the president and his number two is just as uncomfortable as you might imagine. The piece illustrates Pence's fierce political ambitions, and shows how in his journey to one of the most powerful political posts in the United States, he's had to embrace a man who doesn't exactly embody the Christian ideology Pence has spent his life espousing.
As a former member of the Trump transition team put it to New Yorker writer Jane Meyer, "Pence left his backbone in Indiana, if he ever had one."
Working for Trump in itself requires a certain sort of spinelessness no matter who you are, considering he privileges absolute fealty above all else. So like anyone else who Trump has ever interacted with, Mike Pence has not been immune from his boss's insults and wildly inappropriate jokes. As Mayer reports, Trump hasn't been shy about mocking Pence's strident anti-gay beliefs. During a conversation about gay rights, "Trump motioned toward Pence and joked, 'Don't ask that guy—he wants to hang them all!'"
As with many of the president's most brutal putdowns, there's a grain of truth there: Pence is notable mainly for his willingness to embrace anti-LGBTQ policies. When he was governor of Indiana, he signed a bill that "allows for any businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ individuals using religion as a defense, despite existing civil rights protections" and has previously said gay couples are a sign of "societal collapse."
Although Trump hasn't come for Pence on Twitter—as he has for Attorney General Jeff Sessions—the president has given him a lot of shit behind the scenes. Mayer reports that while Trump was deciding between New Jersey governor Chris Christie and Pence for his running mate he was wary of Pence after learning how little money the now vice president has to his name. "In 2016, according to a campaign-finance disclosure form, Pence had one bank account, which held less than fifteen thousand dollars," wrote Mayer.
Pence's brother Gregory told the New Yorker that accepting the VP nomination was a gamble: "If he lost, he had no money, and he had three kids in college. He took out student loans for the kids. He's got a retirement account, but I was afraid he'd run out of money in just a couple of weeks. He'd have to get a job. He was rolling the dice."
If Pence hadn't agreed to become Trump's sidekick, he would have faced an uncertain reelection campaign in Indiana. In accepting, he may have helped reassure social conservatives who doubted Trump's Christian bona fides. Trump was also happy to have a man who looked like a cartoon version of a Republican politician onbaord. While Pence was giving his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, Trump reportedly remarked to Newt Gingrich, "Isn't he just perfect? Straight from central casting."
Once he landed the job, Pence still wasn't safe from Trump's sharp tongue. A longtime Trump associate told the New Yorker that the president likes to "let Pence know who's boss."
He did that, apparently, by employing the same kind of management-by-humiliation strategy that has been his hallmark. A Trump campaign staffer said that the now president would often mock Pence's religious devotion, asking people who had met with his running mate, "Did Mike make you pray?"
Trump was seemingly amused by Pence's mission to outlaw abortion, as illustrated by his flippant remarks during a meeting with the vice president and a legal scholar:
Trump belittled Pence's determination to overturn Roe v. Wade. The legal scholar had said that, if the Supreme Court did so, many states would likely legalize abortion on their own. "You see?" Trump asked Pence. "You've wasted all this time and energy on it, and it's not going to end abortion anyway."
We can only hope Trump is right about that one.
Follow Eve Peyser on Twitter.