Every serious memoir to emerge from the last administration has revealed the existence of, in essence, two Donald Trumps ... Former Vice President Mike Pence’s memoir captures both iterations of the man better than any previous book ... Mr. Pence faces two major problems as a contender in 2024. So Help Me God illuminates both of them in interesting ways ... Mr. Pence skillfully, and I think credibly, aligns himself with the Trump administration’s achievements and distances himself from his old boss’s reckless personal behavior and postelection madness. There is ample evidence, and not only from this book, that Mr. Pence played a laudable role in the administration by quietly urging the president toward more sensible policies.
Pence...tries his hardest in this memoir to have it all ways at once ... [His] fondness for someone who egged on the mob that threatened to kill him is an especially degrading form of self-abasement that’s embarrassing to watch ... The bulk of So Help Me God”is given over to tracing his relationship with Trump, much of it in minute yet obfuscating detail ... Not that Pence’s explanations amount to much more than self-serving spin ... Some of Pence’s contortions are so elaborate that they’re worthy of Cirque du Soleil. A chapter on Covid gets especially creative. Trump’s bumbling, combative Covid briefings are depicted as wonderfully comforting, instead of utterly confounding ... Pence, who presided over the White House’s troubled coronavirus task force, is relentlessly upbeat, despite a pandemic death toll of more than 377,000 Americans by the end of 2020 ... The most obvious conclusion to draw from So Help Me God is that Pence continues to have political — perhaps presidential — ambitions and so finds himself in bit of a pickle. If he had refused to certify the vote, that would have been it for him — no matter what happened after that, he would forever be seen as Trump’s lackey. But since he did certify the election, he has to find a way to placate the Trump supporters he’ll inevitably need ... Threading such a tiny needle seems impossible on the face of it, but if anybody has had the miraculous experience of failing upward, it’s Pence.
Utterly captivating—and equally unsatisfying ... It does offer a truly distinctive window into the Trump phenomenon, from unlikely election winner to unwilling election loser, recounting conversations and deliberations to which he alone was privy. And yet, the book is also singularly frustrating, tortured in its appraisal of so many history-making moments and reluctant to reflect meaningfully on the author’s view of them ... That it took Pence four years—or, in this case, 446 pages—to reach the startling conclusion that the president cares more about himself than about the country robs the book of the visceral authenticity that flashes throughout the opening and closing passages ... It was fair to wonder whether Pence, who had been insistent on keeping their disagreements private, might finally provide an open, honest assessment of the totality of Trump’s presidency ... Anyone who hoped so...is going to be disappointed.
Almost nowhere else in this book does Pence acknowledge that his running mate lost the election fair and square, and that Biden is his legitimate successor. It’s a significant minimization ... Pence doesn’t convey the full horror of the Capitol invasion, but he writes compellingly of his outrage at how the mob 'desecrated the seat of our democracy' ... The blunt facts of his bravery in remaining at the Capitol and his insistence that Congress reconvene that very evening to complete its work speak for themselves. It’s unclear if Pence intends this memoir as a calling card for some future campaign, but his honorable conduct during a dark and dangerous day for the nation makes for more compelling stump-speech material than most politicians can muster ... Aside from its one remarkable event, and its close-up descriptions of a unique figure in the history of the American presidency, Pence’s memoir resembles those of other politicians ... It is unreliable as history, particularly in its claims for the successes of the administration’s handling of covid-19, where Pence skips over the myriad ways that Trump made the pandemic deadlier by politicizing public health. More generally, Pence portrays the decidedly mixed record of the administration as a nearly unbroken series of political wins, promises made and kept ... Pence’s descriptions of his interactions with Trump are among the most interesting parts of the book, although here too objectivity is not the author’s strong suit ... The tone of Pence’s memoir darkens in its final chapters ... Aside from a small number of passing moments, his memoir also fails to unequivocally deny Trump’s falsehoods. Instead, Pence resorts to weasel-worded half-admissions.