The word 'nice' is a persistent problem for journalists Michael D'Antonio and Peter Eisner in their new, hostile biography of Mike Pence, The Shadow President: The Truth About Mike Pence. The truth about Pence, according to them, is that he is a sinister zealot, an opportunist, and a 'Christian supremacist' biding his time until he can take over the presidency from Donald Trump. But here's the problem: Sources keep calling Pence things like 'nice.' Luckily, D'Antonio and Eisner have a strategy — they just pretend that 'nice' means its opposite ... The Shadow President looks like a book, but belongs firmly in the world of partisan TV. It induces the same kind of inert, glazed irritation as cable, that feeling of wanting to leave but being caught by the graphics and hyperbole, the perpetual promise that the next segment will be more horrible, more outrageous, more shocking than the last — after this short break. Nuance is flattened, everyone has a camp, and words seem to unmoor from their meanings and drift away.
The Shadow President: The Truth About Mike Pence is a deeply reported book, with 23 pages of footnotes. The narrative begins as a tale of a 'nice' Catholic boy with a 'tender heart' from the folksy Midwest: 'His personality set point was toasty warm,' write D’Antonio and Eisner. Then, after losing his first race for Congress in 1988, Pence not so gradually becomes a cunning, self-righteous, self-lauding extremist ... The opening salvo of the new book by journalists Michael D’Antonio and Peter Eisner makes clear their reason for writing it: 'With his oath of office, Vice President Pence became...the most successful Christian supremacist in American history.' And, the authors argue, in pursuit of his lifelong ambition to become president of the United States, Mike Pence has abandoned the values he claims to hold dear.
Eisner and D’Antonio do an aggressive, careful job of reporting Pence’s record. This relatively short book is crammed with details of Pence’s political history, though readers will have to look hard for anything that shows their subject in a flattering light ... [Eisner and D’Antonio] go too far in confusing Pence’s hypocrisy and apparent moral blindness with the actual tenets of the faith he espouses ... That said, the authors’ apparent bias against Pence’s faith takes nothing away from their rich — and troubling — depiction of his political history, his character, and his role thus far in the Trump administration... There’s more than enough solid information in The Shadow President to give any thinking American pause at the idea of a Pence presidency.