As the federal government in Washington, D.C., grappled with the Senate stalling in its efforts to fund the government to the point of it shutting down over the weekend, Vice President Mike Pence went overseas, kicking off his time there with a disturbingly politicized address to U.S. troops stationed near the Syrian border.
Following his address to the troops, Pence went to Israel, where he spoke to the Israeli parliament, where he told those assembled that the president would ensure the U.S. Embassy in Israel moved to Jerusalem by the end of next year.
Pence’s comments come after the president made the incendiary, controversial move to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, even though the status of Jerusalem is one of the items at the center of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Effectively taking Jerusalem off the negotiating table serves as yet another obstacle in the way forward for the Middle East.
After speaking to the Knesset, Pence spoke to the Associated Press, defending his boss President Trump both from allegations of racism and of an extramarital affair with adult film star Stephanie Clifford, known as Stormy Daniels.
The allegations of racism against the president arose after, following a recent meeting between the president and lawmakers about immigration policy, Trump was reported to have referred to countries including Haiti, El Salvador, and some African nations as “shithole countries.”
Trump eventually offered a relatively halfhearted denial of the allegations, although national leaders and meeting participants backed up press reports about what the president had said.
Addressing the president’s alleged comments while speaking to the AP, Pence claimed that it’s clear that Trump’s “heart” is in the right place because of his vocal commitment to a merit-based immigration system over the presently in place, more family and national origin based immigration system.
Pence said that he knows “the president’s heart” and knows “that what President Trump wants to do is reform immigration to make our system one that puts the interests of America first.”
Trump has touted his commitment to the idea of a merit-based immigration system numerous times, including in the aftermath of the meeting wherein he was reported to have made the “shithole countries” remark.
The idea of a merit-based system sounds nice to Trump and Pence, no doubt, and claiming to “not see race” gives them an easy out when accused of being a racist, but it’s not that simple.
Who is going to be the judge of what “merits” an immigrant has? What if their “merits” can only be fully realized once they have access to the opportunities available in the United States?
Considering these questions in light of the president’s commitment to such policy proposals as the U.S./ Mexico border wall and the Muslim ban makes his intentions clear — he simply wants people who will conform to his vision of the United States.
As mentioned, Pence also addressed the allegations of Trump having had an affair with adult film star Stormy Daniels, who is alleged to have been delivered a large sum of hush money by the Trump team.
Speaking of these allegations, Pence said:
‘I’m just not going to comment on the latest baseless allegations against the president. My focus is on serving the president, advancing the priorities of the administration, advancing American interests and that’s where it will stay.’
Featured Image via Sara D. Davis/Getty Images