Pence Latin America

Vice President Mike Pence speaks at the Organization of American States, Monday, May 7, 2018, in Washington. AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Wordsmith and Washington Post columnist George F. Will, who rejected and dropped out of the Republican Party in 2016 when it became clear that Donald Trump would become the Republican presidential nominee, hasn’t had a lot of nice things to say about the president — never has and probably never Will (pun intended). But he’ll at least concede that the president is who he is: An open book that has been on international display for more than 30 years that we all know cover to cover and nothing surprises us anymore.

Will has developed a particular intolerance for Vice President Mike Pence, though, who he feels puts on a pious and moral bearing and yet has walked down the primrose path to a Faustian bargain as Trump’s de facto surrogate and yes man.

Although I don’t agree with Will’s thesis, his op-ed syndicated piece on the vice president that appeared in the P&C a couple of weeks ago is probably the most spectacular and intriguing slap down column I’ve ever read on an op-ed page. Letters to the editor have roundly panned the column, yet I’d say it’s spectacular and intriguing simply because it’s so brutal.

Consider the opening sentences: “Donald Trump, with his feral cunning, knew. The oleaginous Mike Pence, with his talent for toadyism and appetite for obsequiousness, could, Trump knew, become America’s most repulsive public figure.”

The column concludes as follows: “Trump is who he is, a floundering, inarticulate jumble of gnawing insecurities and not-at-all compensating vanities, which is pathetic. Pence is what he has chosen to be, which is horrifying.”

Well, no matter your personal beliefs that kind of thing would be difficult to put down. And although I personally feel Pence is only doing what is usually expected of any vice president, I was particularly interested in the number of synonymous words and phrases Will could utilize for one column to express himself. Here’s a list of what I’ve come up with: oleaginous, toadyism, obsequiousness, lickspittle, forelock-tugging, worship service, hosannas poured forth, incontinent enthusiasm, ecstasy of public service, conspicuously devout, refined sense of right and wrong, oozing unctuousness from every pore, pandering, ingratiate, and harmonizing voices.

The whole column is so insulting as to wonder what else is there? Not that there’s any comparison, but the very question reminds me of a story (possibly apocryphal) about a tycoon who sent Pablo Picasso a blank check to paint something for him. The artist is supposed to have drawn a caricature of a pitchfork-wielding demon on the check and inscribed it with “Go to hell!” The check was returned and — not surprisingly — framed and hung on a wall.

Another scam attempt

So ... imagine this. You’re a Charleston small business owner of a local ice cream shop, typically staffed with 1-3 young people of high school and college age. The phone rings and one of the young employees speaks with a caller who identifies herself as a representative from SCE&G. Seemingly a very nice lady who regrettably informs the youngster that this month’s bill has not been paid, that today is the deadline and unless things are settled up by 4 p.m. the electricity will be cut off.

The young employee, horrified by the urgency of the deadline and the thought of all that ice cream melting, forwards the call to you, the owner. Coincidentally, you are aware one of your credit cards recently expired and it must have been from that card that the power company drew its monthly fee.

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“Here’s what I need you to do,” the caller says. “The best way to handle this is to go to a CVS or a Food Lion. You’ll see an Express Payment section and there you will find green Money Pak cards. Please purchase enough cards sufficient to cover your monthly bill, call me back at this number and read to me the numbers on those cards. It’s that simple and there won’t be any interruption in service. But if I don’t hear from you by 4, I can assure you the power will go off.”

The lady seemingly tries to be nice and understanding; she doesn’t know why payment wasn’t received and hates putting you in this awkward situation. But this would be the most reliable and expeditious way to forestall a potential disaster.

But something doesn’t feel quite right, so you ask for her name and if you might not be able to speak with her personally at the local SCE&G office building — or if she’s not there you’ll deal with someone else.


True story — and another scam attempt — involving the owners of the local Ben & Jerry’s franchise. And proving once again that just when you thought you’ve heard everything ... you haven’t.

Edward M. Gilbreth is a Charleston physician. Reach him at

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