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Opinion: Mike Pence’s bombshell announcement

Editor’s Note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is the host of SiriusXM radio’s daily program “The Dean Obeidallah Show.” Follow him on Threads. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. Read more opinion at CNN.

Former Vice President Mike Pence’s announcement last week that he would not endorse Donald Trump for president in 2024 was truly a bombshell.

Dean Obeidallah - CNN
Dean Obeidallah - CNN

Pence — who during the first GOP presidential debate last year pledged to endorse Trump even if the former president was convicted of a crime — has now reached the conclusion that he can no longer in “good conscience” support the person who was once his running mate.

However, the reasons Pence offered for his decision were little more than a bland litany of policy issues. Pence said, for example, that he disagreed with Trump for “walking away from our commitment to confronting the national debt.”

Pence went on to say, “I’ve seen him starting to shy away from a commitment to the sanctity of human life. And this last week, his reversal on getting tough on China and supporting our administration’s efforts to force a sale of ByteDance’s TikTok.”

This is a far cry from Pence’s own words when he repeatedly rang the alarm bells about Trump’s character and the danger he poses to our republic. Given that Pence has already done the hard part — publicly breaking from Trump and speaking out against the former president — he needs to go further, hammering home his experience instead of watering down his message with policy differences.

Pence has repeatedly slammed Trump’s efforts to pressure him to wrongly block the certification of Joe Biden’s election victory on January 6, 2021. (Trump has been charged with conspiracy and obstruction in the election interference case as a result of his efforts to remain in the White House following his 2020 loss. Trump, of course, denies wrongdoing.)

When Pence announced his run for president in June 2023, for example, he told voters about what happened on January 6 with a great deal of passion. “The American people deserve to know, on that day, President Trump also demanded I choose between him and the Constitution.” Pence continued, “I chose the Constitution, and I always will.”

Pence made the point even more bluntly in August, stating on Fox News that, “The American people deserve to know that President Trump and his advisers didn’t just ask me to pause. They asked me to reject votes … essentially to overturn the [2020] election.”

These comments offer far more compelling reasons to take a stand against Trump than the policy disagreements Pence listed on Friday.

And then there’s the fact that Trump’s actions leading up to the January 6 attack put Pence and his family’s life at risk. Indeed, Pence told us that point blank at the annual Gridiron Club Dinner in Washington, DC last year. He said, “Trump was wrong. I had no right to overturn the election.” Pence then added the bone-chilling line that Trump’s “reckless words endangered my family and everyone at the Capitol that day.”

Pence was not being hyperbolic. As we know from the evidence gathered by the House committee investigating the January 6 attack, Trump had a “heated” phone call with Pence the morning of the attack on the US Capitol. Shortly after, Trump added lines to the speech he delivered at the Ellipse that explicitly called on Pence to join his effort to overturn the election.

And after the crowd began flooding into the Capitol building, Trump took to social media to slam Pence yet again, writing, “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution.” Many rioters reacted to that tweet just before there was a new push to storm the building in various locations — as documented by the Jan 6 committee. And when Trump heard that his supporters were chanting “Hang Mike Pence,” the then-president responded that his vice president “deserves it,” a former White House aide testified.

Pence has spoken candidly about his break from Trump, often citing the events of January 6. And this is what Pence should be reiterating now to ensure that voters fully understand just how dangerous Trump is to our republic.

As a long-time Republican, Pence can speak to those mainstream patriotic conservatives who were thinking of holding their noses and voting for Trump — and make the case that to do so would be a grave mistake.

Pence already has the perfect message for past and present Trump supporters, as well as anyone undecided about Trump.

It’s what he shared when he announced his 2024 presidential run: “Anyone who puts themselves over the Constitution should never be president of the United States. And anyone who asks someone else to put them over the Constitution should never be president of the United States again.” Amen.

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