- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Former Vice President Mike Pence told young conservatives Tuesday to champion pro-life policies and to focus on the future in a speech that hailed his achievements with former President Donald Trump while acknowledging he has a different focus than his former boss.

In a speech to Young America’s Foundation, Mr. Pence said a positive agenda begins with preserving the sanctity of life as he hailed the Supreme Court’s decision to return decisions about abortion policies to the states.

“We sent Roe v. Wade to the ash heap of history where it belongs,” said Mr. Pence. “We save the babies, we’ll save America.”

He hailed the work of the “Trump-Pence administration” in installing three justices who made the ruling possible and called for defunding Planned Parenthood. He said efforts to restrict abortion across the U.S. must be paired with efforts to support birth mothers and adoption services.

Mr. Pence blasted critical race theory as “state-sanctioned racism,” touching on a theme that animated conservatives in the last election cycle, and said every family should have the resources to choose where their child goes to school.

He slammed sports that allow transgender athletes to compete against girls and women. He said the right to carry a firearm averted an Indiana mall shooting when a bystander took out a shooter.

Alienated from Mr. Trump, Mr. Pence focused his remarks on their joint policy wins, the culture wars and stumbles by the Biden administration, as the former vice president makes the rounds in the policy and political world, stirring talk of a 2024 presidential bid.

“Our borders are under siege, our currency has been devalued, our energy independence has been squandered and our booming economy is being brought to a screeching halt by big government socialism. There is a cure for what ails America, and that is leadership committed to American freedom,” he told the foundation, a conservative group for young people founded in 1969.

As Mr. Trump continues to focus on the 2020 election results, the subtext of Mr. Pence‘s speech was a focus on what lies ahead.

“Now some people may choose to focus on the past, but elections are about the future and I believe conservatives must focus on the future to win back America,” he said.

He spoke at length about reciprocal trade deals and deregulation policies that spurred the economy during the Trump administration — arguing it provides a road map for the future — but he did not dwell on the former president or their rift.

“I don’t know that our movement is that divided. I don’t know that the president and I differ on issues, but we may differ on focus,” Mr. Pence said.

He said the U.S. should balance its budget within five years and increase in military spending, saying “only a strong America can lead” and President Biden’s attempt to withdraw from Afghanistan was a disgrace.

He also said the Trump administration managed to keep Russia in check only to see it become aggressive during the Biden presidency.

Mr. Pence said he was honored to outline his agenda for the future to young Americans after a storm had upended his travel schedule and a speech to The Heritage Foundation the prior evening.

Mr. Pence received a warm welcome of applause and cheers of “USA! USA! USA!” from the young audience. He joked about moving back to Indiana and buying a riding mower. He also talked about the perks of no longer serving as vice president.

“You get to drive your own car,” he said. “The bad part is you get to pay for your own gas.”

Mr. Pence has been a central figure in hearings aired by the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol.

Committee members essentially argue that Mr. Trump nearly got Mr. Pence killed after stirring up his supporters ahead of the riot.

Mr. Trump had condemned his own vice president for refusing to send electoral votes, which handed Mr. Biden his victory, back to the states.

Pro-Trump supporters, some chanting “hang Mike Pence,” stormed the Capitol as Mr. Pence was whisked to safety by Secret Service agents.

Marc Short, a former chief of staff to Mr. Pence, confirmed Monday to ABC News that he appeared before a federal grand jury investigating the riot. He said he was served a subpoena and appeared before the grand jury but could not comment further.

Mr. Short is the highest-ranking official from the Trump White House who is known to have spoken to the panel.

Mr. Pence‘s former chief counsel, Greg Jacob, also testified before the grand jury.

The Department of Justice is investigating the events of Jan. 6 while the House select committee gathers its own evidence and holds high-profile hearings.

Mr. Trump has slammed the House committee as a witch hunt designed to thwart his political ambitions. He has floated an early entrance into the 2024 presidential race but has ruled out Mr. Pence as a running mate.

Mr. Pence acknowledged the Capitol riot briefly in his speech, referring to a “divisive election” and a “tragic day at our nation’s Capitol” before pivoting to criticism of the Biden administration.

“But I want to ensure all of you I remain incredibly optimistic,” he said, “because I know the future belongs to freedom and I know the character of the American people.”

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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