Pence missed on easy right answer

SOUTH BEND TRIBUNE

Presidential campaigns aren’t for the weak-willed.

Far too often, unfortunately, they’re also not for the serious-minded and issue-oriented.

Candidates can find themselves embroiled in controversies that seem far removed from the concerns of everyday Americans. Sometimes the controversies are self-inflicted.

The current campaign, featuring two major party nominees with sky-high negatives, and the sort of name-calling you’d expect to hear during third-grade recess, has been like no other in modern history.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, on the campaign trail since joining the Republican ticket in July, has faced his share of difficult questions from the press, usually concerning something running mate Donald Trump has said. Mostly, he’s been able to navigate his way in the rough waters. But this week he struggled with a question that really shouldn’t have been tough.

Is David Duke — white supremacist, anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist and former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan — deplorable? The choice of adjective is deliberate, of course, a reference to Hillary Clinton’s ill-advised remark last week describing half of Donald Trump’s supporters as part of a “basket of deplorables.”

Obviously this is not the question that Pence wants. He’d understandably rather talk about Clinton’s remark, which was nothing less than a gift to her opponent. Instead of answering yes and pivoting to that more preferable line of discussion, Pence refused to answer the question, saying he’s “not in the name-calling business.”

The Indiana governor later took to Twitter to complain that his comments were being taken out of context — and express frustration.

“For all the world I have no idea why this man keeps coming up,” he said, calling Duke a “bad man” and noting that he and Trump have denounced Duke repeatedly.

The subject keeps coming up because appearing reluctant to “deplore” a white supremacist — even in the name of civility — is never a good look.

Perhaps he should have listened to Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, who told CNN that maybe Pence should have called Duke deplorable “to avoid the pile-on of headlines.”

This was an easy question: Is David Duke deplorable? Yes.

Next question?

This was distributed by Hoosier State Press Association. Send comments to awoods@tribtown.com.