Five things to know about US VP Mike Pence
1. ON MESSAGE:
If Trump is known for his unpredictability and blunt talk, Pence projects a polite Midwestern humility and is more measured in his speeches, rarely going off-script. Pence’s first foreign trip to Europe included steady assurances that the US would honour its commitment to NATO even after Trump said the military alliance was “obsolete.”
2. INDIANA ROOTS:
Pence is a former Indiana governor and congressman. He was a prominent conservative member of Congress during the presidencies of George W Bush and Barack Obama, frequently championing anti-abortion causes and reducing federal spending. He unsuccessfully challenged future House Speaker John Boehner in a leadership election. Elected Indiana’s governor in 2012, Pence signed a controversial “religious freedom” bill in 2015 that critics said allowed businesses to discriminate against gays and lesbians by allowing them to cite religious beliefs as a reason for denying services. After a backlash from corporations, Pence softened the law.
3. FAITH AND FAMILY:
Pence often describes himself as “a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order.” Pence and his wife, Karen, a former elementary school teacher, have been married since 1985 and have three adult children. The couple’s son, Michael, is serving as an officer in the US Marines, and their two daughters, Charlotte, a recent college graduate and filmmaker, and Audrey, a college senior, are travelling to Asia with their parents. Pence was raised in a devout Catholic family, but he became an evangelical Christian.
4. ASIA TIES:
Pence’s late father, Edward, served in the US Army during the Korean War and was awarded the Bronze Star on April 15, 1953. The vice president displays in his office his father’s Bronze Star, accommodation letter and a photograph of his father receiving his pin. Indiana has a significant Japanese manufacturing hub and Pence conducted two trade missions to Japan while serving as governor.
5. TALK RADIO, ART THERAPY:
Before serving in Congress, Pence was a conservative radio and television talk show host in Indiana during the 1990s. His shows were not known for a combative style that marked conservative talk radio during the era – Pence liked to call himself “Rush Limbaugh on decaf.” Karen Pence is a longtime advocate of art therapy, the use of art in mental health treatment and forms of rehabilitation, and will be attending art therapy events throughout the trip. She will attend such an event in Sydney.