- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Though the press wishes it was otherwise, he has firmly assumed the role of Donald Trump’s running mate. Gov. Mike Pence is blazing down the campaign trail and countering the melodramatic, often imaginative media narratives about Mr. Trump — which are both caustic and plentiful.

Chuck Todd, host of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” insisted during an appearance on sister network MSNBC that the Republican Party was in “chaos” and “turmoil” over the Trump campaign, and that panicked GOP insiders were wondering how to “right this ship.” CNN’s “New Day” meanwhile aired one hour and 24 minutes on “Trump-related controversies” but only 27 seconds about the Obama administration’s $400 million cash payment to Iran — this according to a close study by Newsbusters.com, a conservative press watchdog.

A calm Mr. Pence is handy as a boots-on-the-ground guy, and has the makings of an able messenger. He is a solo act Thursday, starting with a campaign event in North Carolina, followed by two more in Virginia. Mr. Trump himself will be in Maine; the two will host a jumbo rally together on Friday. Meanwhile, Mr. Pence clarified things during an appearance on Fox News.

He downplayed the idea that there was a rift in Trump/Pence 2016. Mr. Pence noted that Mr. Trump “strongly encouraged” him to support House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, and firmly dismissed repeated press suggestions that Mr. Trump’s indecision on supporting Mr. Ryan was a sign the GOP was in shambles. Mr. Pence also rejected the idea that certain Republicans were planning an “intervention” against Mr. Trump’s campaign. He stayed on message — and with civility.

“This is an extraordinarily challenging time in the life of our country. Literally 71/2 years of President Obama and Hillary Clinton’s policies have weakened America’s place in the world and stifled our nation’s economy. Donald Trump has a vision to get this economy moving again, to rebuild our military, to stand with our allies and stand up to our enemies,” said Mr. Pence. “Ensuring that we bring everyone together on the team is going to continue to be a work in process. But it’s all going to come together. I’m confident, based on the crowds we are seeing. I was in Nevada yesterday, I was in Arizona, in Colorado — the enthusiasm out there for Donald Trump’s message and his vision is just overwhelming.”

OBAMA’S LAST BIRTHDAY IN OFFICE

Democrats appear melancholy over the fact that, as of Thursday, President Obama only has 95 days left in office. And Thursday is the president’s 55th birthday. There are several online birthday cards for Mr. Obama’s fans to sign, and the greetings suggest that a certain kind of ceremonial farewell has begun, as well as some early legacy-building.

“This is your chance to sign the Organizing for Action’s birthday card for President Obama — the very last one he’ll celebrate as President of the United States,” the organization advises to those who want to wish “the organizer in chief” well.

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton herself leads the charge for the Democratic Party for their birthday card, which is purposeful indeed.

“I’ve often said that President Obama doesn’t get the credit he deserves for saving our country from the worst economic crisis in decades. Because of his leadership, we have 15 million new jobs, the Affordable Care Act, marriage equality, and so much more,” Mrs. Clinton says in her outreach, done on behalf of the Democratic National Committee, which also includes a fundraising option.

“On Thursday, let’s show him that we’re grateful for all he’s done for our country, that we’re excited to work with him to win this November, and that we’re committed to working together to protect and build on his remarkable legacy.”

Mr. Obama lunches with Vice President Joseph R. Biden, meets with national security advisers and has a late-afternoon press conference Thursday. But there is no word from the White House on his plans for his evening.

‘FUSIONISM’

“Libertarians and conservatives both claim to be advocates of individual liberty, limited government, and free markets. Sometimes these shared values lead libertarians and conservatives to similar conclusions about public policy. As a result, American political discourse often conflates libertarianism with conservatism, and proponents of ‘fusionism’ go so far as to regard a libertarian-conservative alliance as being both natural and politically useful,” proclaims the Cato Institute.

The organization also says the two ideologies often disagree on national security, drugs, gay rights, religion and other matters, however — and voila. A clash is born, and so is a spirited event Thursday evening: a two-hour debate between libertarian interns from Cato against conservative interns from The Heritage Foundation. This young crowd is sharp; they plan to grapple over which political philosophy is “superior.” Ben Domenech, publisher of The Federalist, is the moderator. Watch them live at 6:30 p.m. EDT at Cato.org/Live.

JOHN R. BOLTON AT THE READY

Some significant support for a pair of security-minded Republicans: through his super PAC, former U.N. Ambassador John R. Bolton is making an independent expenditure f $700,000 to the re-election campaigns of Rep. Joseph J. Heck of Nevada and Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire.

The funds, divided evenly between the two lawmakers, go for some spiffy video ads for the two candidates that start a run Thursday on major social media and news sites.

“We want leaders who believe that America’s continuing presence in the world is good for America, good for our freedoms, good for our economy and good for our future. We believe that it is not American strength that is provocative, but American weakness, as the Obama administration has unfortunately proven again and again,” says Mr. Bolton.

POLL DU JOUR

62 percent of registered U.S. voters say they have not had a “major argument” with someone over the presidential election.

30 percent have had a minor argument, 8 percent a major one.

59 percent say their most recent conversations about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were focused on their personalities and comments.

32 percent say their conversations were focused on issues or policies.

58 percent say they don’t mind if people know which candidate they like, but they don’t “go out of their way” to tell others.

33 percent say they are outspoken about their preference; 7 percent say they would rather others not know who they support.

Source: A Pew Research Center poll of 3,834 registered U.S. voters conducted June 7 to July 5 and released Wednesday.

• Churlish remarks and tepid accolades to jharper@washingtontimes.com

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