Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Pence Sounded Good, but Said Very Little

Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Pence Sounded Good, but Said Very Little

Article excerpt

Abraham Lincoln once delivered a devastating description of an opponent's weak argument. The Great Emancipator said it was "thinner than a soup made from the shadow of a pigeon that had starved to death."

For some reason, Lincoln's words came to mind as I watched Indiana Gov. Mike Pence's second State of the State address.

It wasn't that the speech was bad. It, in fact, had many of the distinctive Pence-does-Reagan touches - the aw-shucks shoulder shrugs, the thoughtful pursing of the lips before delivering a "ya know" transition to a sound bite, the references to exemplary citizens in the gallery, the homey way of breaking through the camera's fourth wall to directly address the audience.

It's just that the speech was buoyantly, determinedly insubstantial. To paraphrase Gertrude Stein's famous put-down of Oakland, there was no "there" there.

Even Pence partisans inadvertently acknowledged as much.

When I talked on the radio a few minutes after the speech with Indiana Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis, Merritt focused not on what Pence had said but instead on Pence's delivery.

Merritt noted that Pence was a polished political performer, one who had been giving speeches since he was 7 years old. Merritt also noted that the governor had a gift for using words and that he knew the way to hold an audience.

Merritt didn't have nearly as much to say about the substance of the speech, probably because there wasn't much substance about which to speak.

In a speech that lasted 27 minutes, the governor once again called for the elimination of the business personal property tax. He said that doing so would spur economic growth but also demanded that the search to replace the revenue the tax's elimination not place additional burdens on either local governments or on ordinary taxpayers.

About how this could or would be done, Pence said nary a word. That heavy lifting he left to the legislature.

It's possible he ducked offering a plan for reconciling these two seeming irreconcilables because, as a former legislator himself, the governor wants to show deference to the state's lawmakers, whom he labeled the best in the nation. …

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