“I know we can beat Joe Biden, but we must resist the politics of personality and the siren song of populism unmoored to conservative principles.” So said former Vice President Mike Pence, announcing his presidential campaign at a June 7 rally in Ankeny, Iowa.
“We are here because we know that Iowa was the right place to start our engines for the great American comeback,” he said. “The new president of the United States will get their start right here in the Hawkeye State.”
Pence’s brother, Greg, and wife, Karen, spoke before he took the stage, as did Todd Huston, speaker of the Indiana House.
The former second lady addressed Pence’s failed early runs for Congress in 1988 and 1990. “We were very arrogant, and we were very full of ourselves. We thought Mike and Karen Pence are God’s gift to Washington, D.C.,” she said. “And we were humbled.”
In 2000, he was elected to the House, where he served until 2013, after which he served as Indiana governor. In 2016, he was elected vice president on the ticket with Donald Trump.
At the Iowa event, Pence said that he began “in another party” before joining the Ronald Reagan revolution and “never looked back.”
Pence comes in his Christian faith “and I started a lifelong love affair with the Constitution of the United States,” he said.
“I’m a Christian, Conservative and a Republican in that order,” Pence said in his largely reserved remarks, during which he raised his voice for emphasis at times. “It has been my honor to serve you, the people of this state and nation.”
Wherever he has gone, Pence has heard “weariness” when he talks to Americans.
“President Joe Biden and the radical left have weakened America” at home and internationally, he said, citing high inflation, rising gas prices, urban crime and “that disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan,” which has “emboldened the enemies of freedom all around the world.”
He remarked that it would be easy to remain on the sidelines, he said, but then said
“that’s not how I was raised. I’ve long believed to whom much is given, much will be required,” he said.
‘A tragic day in the life of our nation’
Pence told the Iowa audience of his role in the Trump administration, “I’m incredibly proud of everything we accomplished for the American people.” But he called Jan. 6, 2021 “a tragic day in the life of our nation.”
“President Trump’s words were reckless. He endangered my family and everyone in the Capitol,” he said.
Pence defended his decision to certify the election that day, insisting that he followed his sworn oath to defend the Constitution.
“My former running mate continues to insist I had the right to overturn the election. President Trump was wrong then, and he is wrong now,” Pence said. “I had hoped he would come around and see that he had been misled about my role in that day. But that was not to be.”
Anyone who puts himself over the Constitution should never be the U.S. president, according to Pence, saying “our liberties have been bought at too high a price.”
He also expressed his support of Ukraine, contrasting himself with Trump, who has called Russian President Vladimir Putin a “genius.”
Also in contrast with Trump, Pence said: “I believe that democracy depends on heavy doses of civility,” and he is “not convinced our country is as divided as our politics. We will restore a threshold of civility in public life, so we can bring real solutions to the challenges facing our nation.”
Israel’s cause is ‘our cause’
A noted evangelical Christian, Pence has spoken often about Israel’s significance.
“We stand with Israel because her cause is our cause,” he said last year at the Iranian American Jewish Federation of New York gala. “Her values are our values. Her fight is our fight. We stand with Israel because we believe in right over wrong, in good over evil. We stand with Israel because, like millions of Americans through all generations, we hold fast to that ancient promise, that those who bless her will be blessed.”
Also last year, Pence became the most senior world leader to visit Hebron. “It was a beautiful tour of a biblical site by a great leader, who has stood up for Israel in the past against anti-Hebron decisions,” Yishai Fleisher, an international spokesman for the city’s Jewish community, told JNS at the time, after leading the tour.
Also at the time, Fleisher noted that Pence opposed the 2017 World Heritage Center of the U.N. Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (UNESCO) decision to declare the Machpehalah—the Cave of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs in Hebron—a Palestinian heritage site, claiming that Israel has endangered it.
During the vice presidential debate in 2020, Kamala Harris said the Trump administration had made America less safe. Pence responded that Trump “kept his word when we moved the American embassy to Jerusalem, the capital of the State of Israel.” When Biden was vice president, he said, “they promised to do that and never did.”
When Pence received an honorary doctorate in 2022 from Ariel University, he said: “I’m told that some people say that you shouldn’t go to Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. I obviously have a different opinion.”