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I don’t know if any of y’all had the stomach to watch all or any of last night’s supremely inconsequential Vice President’s debate, but I sure didn’t, tuning in as usual only for the pre and post-game festivities on MSNBC. There appear to have been two really significant takeaways from the 90 minutes of talking. First, and plainly most important, Mike Pence was oblivious to the presence of a fly perched on top of his blindingly white head of immovable hair for what seemed to be an awfully protracted couple of minutes. This was big. Social media lit up like 4th of July fireworks once the highly distracting bug had been sitting there for a while, and at least three quarters of all punditry in the aftermath of the broadcast was about The Fly. Within the hour, The Fly had his own Twitter feed, and was posting witty commentary.

Second, Mike Pence is more civil than Trump, and we should all be very, very pleased about that, and thank the silver-haired dispenser of talking points for his really civil civility, which served as a welcome reminder that Republican politicians can actually be quite civil when they try. This is from Daniel McCarthy in the NYT this morning:

Mike Pence was unyielding in his advocacy of Donald Trump and showed that the case for re-election can be made with both substance and civility. He will have reassured a lot of Republican voters and given wavering voters new reason to think about a G.O.P. ticket that they might have turned against last week.

See, Trump has lowered the bar so far into the sub-basement that talking well past agreed-upon time limits, steamrolling the hapless moderator, and oozing smarmy condescension in a phoney-baloney aw shucks and golly gee-willakers tone of voice while lying through your teeth at ever opportunity, is what passes for “making your case with substance and civility” in the post-Trump apocalyptic hellscape of modern political discourse. Pence didn’t shout and scream, jump up and down, or throw a diaper-filled tantrum, so hooray for normalcy, and gosh wasn’t he Presidential, and all that.

Uh-huh. That’s an improvement, I guess. Yet I find it more triggering than reassuring. Whenever I see a lying sack of smooth talking, smugly patronizing soft soap like Pence – which is to say, your typical GOP politician before Donald took over and turned public life into roller derby – I remember all the times I’ve seen his kind before, going back to when I was a child and Nixon was doing his thing, and I get just about as anxious and upset as when Trump has opened up his sluices. Donald, at least, is transparently an A-hole that only an idiot (or four out of every ten Americans) could possibly take seriously. Pence, though, he’s the quintessential Republican, just another timeless iteration of the Newt Gingrich / Dick Cheney / Mitch McConnell / Bill Barr / Lindsay Graham model GOP-5000ZX, all calm and reasonable and mild, simply telling you in his even tone what’s what, that’s all, and surely all of you watching can see that it’s just common sense, as it always was and ever shall be. He represents nothing but a return to form, as he spews falsehood after distortion after outright whopper, all in the cause of harming the weak, disenfranchising the powerless, ensuring that the rich get richer, and turning America into something reminiscent of the third season of The Handmaid’s Tale. He’s what the Republicans were prior to Trump, and what they will be once again when Donald, inshallah, is gone, which makes him a perfectly plausible Presidential candidate in a way Trump could never be. The vulgarity of Trumpism may be thoroughly repudiated, but Republicanism? Republicanism is forever. In policy terms it isn’t all that different.

At least Pence wouldn’t get us all killed, right? That’s supposed to make us happy, as probably lots of folks are. But dear God, the lies! The bland, unblinking, relentless dishonesty – it must drive somebody like Kamala halfway to the loony bin, trying to get a guy like Pence to own up to a single thing he and his party actually mean to do. Here’s what you get when you “debate” the GOP-5000ZX:

Democrat Who May As Well Bang Head Against Wall: Why are you trying to kill Obamacare and remove protections for people with pre-existing conditions?

GOP-5000ZX: The President has always done more than anyone who ever lived to promote history’s most humane and comprehensive health care coverage for average, decent Americans, and always will, as his comprehensive health care plan makes clear.

Democrat WMAWBHAW: What plan? There’s no plan. You haven’t put forward any –

GOP-5000ZX: There is a plan. Will you pack the Supreme Court with liberal demons if you seize power?

Democrat WMAWBHAW: What – you mean will we respond to your packing the court by packing it right back?

GOP-5000ZX: We didn’t do that. Also you will raise taxes on decent hard-working Americans.

Democrat WMAWBHAW: Only on those making more than $400,000 –

GOP-5000ZX: The Green New Deal is death to our capitalist way of life! Why will you prohibit fracking when we took the prescient and life saving step of banning all travel from China, thus preventing the spread of the China Virus?

Democrat WMAWBHAW: Look, first, something needs to be done about climate change, and while we won’t ban fracking –

GOP-5000ZX: The President loves all servicemen and women in the armed forces!

Democrat WMAWBHAW: He mocked John McCain, attacked Gold Star families, and called American war dead “suckers” and losers”.

GOP-5000ZX: No he didn’t. Mail-in voting is rife with fraud!

MODERATOR: Let’s move on. GOP-5000ZX, what would you do legislatively with respect to abortion rights should the Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade?

GOP-5000ZX: I’m glad you asked that question, Moderator. In response, I would reaffirm that the President’s determination to take out Qasem Soleimani via drone strike was good and proper, and nobody should have any regrets about resisting Islamic extremism and international terrorism.

etc.

Over the course of the evening, Pence lied about Biden’s tax policy, lied about Biden’s environmental proposals, lied about his own administration’s handling of the pandemic, lied about voter fraud, lied about GOP health care policy, lied about the GOP’s denial of climate change science, and did everything short of responding to Kamala’s quoting of Abraham Lincoln by asserting that there never was a President named Lincoln, as all decent and God-fearing Americans know full well. He was, in short, a Republican, demonstrating why the problems of minority misgovernment for the sole benefit of Caucasian plutocrats can’t possibly be solved just by getting rid of Donald. The whole rotten crew has to go, and how likely does that seem?

But, you know, he was civil. And there was this fly, which landed on his head and sat there for two whole minutes, so that happened too. Actually, that’s the main thing that happened.

You should follow the fly on Twitter, he’s a hoot!

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