Mike Pence’s Sunday Stunt

Mike Pence's Sunday Stunt

The vice president's gesture of 'respect' for the flag betrays disrespect for the Americans he's supposed to be serving

I don’t know about you, but I’m kind of wondering.

What kind of “conservative” hops on his personal government jet in Las Vegas on Sunday morning, flies to Indianapolis to watch his hometown pro football team from a luxury box, then leaves just as the game is starting and flies to Los Angeles at a total cost to the taxpayers of close to $250,000?

A phony conservative maybe? That seems about right.

Vice President Mike Pence pulled that stunt yesterday. As a band struck the last notes of the National Anthem and members of the San Francisco 49ers rose from the kneeling position they’d taken for the song, Pence and his wife walked out of Lucas Oil Stadium to protest what he and President Trump say is the players’ disrespect for the American flag and the troops who defend it.

It was the latest act of political theatre in Trump’s campaign to rally his political base by exploiting and expanding racial divisions. While Pence tried to make the walkout appear spontaneous, the president tweeted that he’d asked the veep to leave if any players took a knee. And because Pence’s Indianapolis Colts were playing the 49ers, the team that started the kneeling protest, it was a cinch that some players would kneel.

Now maybe you agree with Pence and Trump that everyone should stand during the anthem. Maybe you admire the players for taking a knee to call attention to police brutality and racial injustice; many of them have been careful to express their love of country and respect for the sacrifices made by members of the military.

Either way, the Constitution protects the vice president’s right to make a political point by leaving the game and the players’ right to make a different point by bowing their heads and quietly taking a knee during the anthem. The First Amendment covers both.

But the 49ers and other players who are kneeling during the anthem every Sunday aren’t asking the taxpayers to foot the bill for their gesture. Indeed, given the president’s public suggestion that they should be fired for kneeling, the players arguably are taking a substantial risk.

Pence meanwhile, used OUR airplane and spent OUR money needlessly to exercise his right. His professed gesture of respect for the flag betrayed a profound disrespect for the people he serves and his and the president’s responsibility to be a careful steward of our hard-earned dollars.

Sadly, we’re getting accustomed to such gestures from this administration.