Jane Mayer’s October 23 article in The New Yorker, “The Danger of President Pence,” gently rattled some cages around here. It was a gentle rattle in Indiana because most of us already know plenty about Vice President Pence. And the tone communicated and the picture painted of Mike Pence in this article is squarely on the money.
This is exactly the Mike Pence Indiana knows.
Unless you’re Gary Varvel.
The long-time editorial cartoonist at the Indianapolis Star has been writing columns lately. For me, his columns have been far more provocative than the Jane Mayer article. He has also been more agitating to me than anything written by Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code, but that’s because I haven’t read any of his books yet. Mayer and Brown are award winning authors that our local cartoonist has taken to task in the last two weeks.
He really needs to stop it.
On October 17, the Star published “Varvel: Dan Brown says humanity doesn’t need God.” Varvel appears to be advocating on behalf of God because Brown’s new book, Origin, was inspired by the question: “Will God survive science?” This question and Brown’s writings about it, seem to bother Indy’s newest, self appointed, spiritual leader. He spends much of the column explaining why the question itself is absurd and then goes on to cite polling numbers and truly awful films like “The Case for Christ,” as his backing for his original bias.
If you want to feel silly for spending $10, find a way to go see “The Case for Christ” like I did. I was duped into believing it was a serious journalistic investigation, like “Spotlight” was, only to find out that it was more of an evangelical journey. Like the one Varvel seems to be on. Don’t waste two hours or two dollars on one of the worst movies I have seen in the last decade.
Varvel gives this pointed advice at the end. He writes:
“I suggest Brown try reading the all-time best seller. It’s called the Bible and claims to offer the only hope for life after death.”
Wow. I didn’t know that the Holy Bible offered the “only hope for life after death.” Mainly because it doesn’t. That is offensively incorrect.
Then on Tuesday, October 23, the Star published “Varvel: Rebutting The New Yorker caricature of Mike Pence.”
Let me point to this paragraph of his column first, though it came almost last:
“(Mayer) drew her conclusions from descriptions by friends, family and political enemies. That may be why Mayer’s portrait of Pence didn’t resemble the man I know.”
Yes, Gary, there was extensive discussion with Pence’s mom and brother. Hilarious discussion. I actually like those two for their candor and good humor. And yes, there were interviews with friends, like Kellyanne Conway, Harry McCawley and Marc Short. Oh, and yes, political enemies make up a bit of the interviewee list. I guess I’m on that list, though the quotes attributable to me in the article could not be construed as hostile.
Plenty of my own columns are unflattering of the vice president, but not my quotes in The New Yorker.
Varvel takes issues with two things in the Mayer piece in particular: Pence’s sexist and throwback approach to meeting, or not meeting, with women; and the closeness Pence has with GOP financiers, Charles and David Koch.
First regarding women, Mike Pence observes the “Billy Graham rule” in that he does not dine alone with another woman without his wife. Varvel connects this rule to a biblical principle in 1 Thessalonians 5:22 which says “Abstain from all appearance of evil.”
Seriously? Donald Trump certainly has the appearance of evil far beyond any woman I’ve ever had dinner with. Maybe Varvel will understand this if we speak his lingo and insert a cartoon interpretation of said evil:
Or maybe Varvel could understand what’s happening contextually with American women these days with a different illustration:
The Billy Graham rule may well be rooted in biblical lore, but it is offensive to many women, and to at least one man: me.
Second, standing up to claims of excessive influence as a result of any big money donor is an old school criticism that all politicians must face. I mean, those politicians who have donors who stick out as prominently as the Kochs do. Even Steve Bannon worries that the Kochs will “own” Pence, though Hoosiers had that worry before last Election Day. The Kochs are not a new issue around here, and pretending that it is, at least for a long time Indiana “journalist,” must feel like the proverbial ostrich unburying its own head.
There is at least one inaccuracy in the Mayer article. But since Varvel didn’t identify it, I’m not going to give him a flashlight so he can find it.
Come on Indy Star. You should be better than this. I want you to be better than this. I really do.
These last two columns from your newest columnist don’t measure up. And if no one else is complaining about them, the only rational conclusion that can be drawn is that no one has actually been reading them.