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Wineke: Pence is the cardboard face of gloom at the Olympics

Vice President Mike Pence seems to be this nation's designated public events buffoon.

In October, he flew to Indiana to attend an Indianapolis Colts game and then walked out before it began because some of the players knelt during the national anthem. Pence accused them of not respecting the flag.

Last week, he flew to Korea to lead this country's delegation to the Olympic games, but gained notoriety by remaining seated when the Korean teams -- North Korea and South Korea together -- marched into the stadium.

Pence and his wife were seated next to South Korean President Moon Jae-in and in front of Kim Yo Jong, sister of North Korea's dictator Kim Jong Un. The Koreans rose and the Americans didn't. They just sat there like cardboard cutouts.

I have to cut Pence a bit of slack. Had he stood with the Koreans, the right wing in this nation would have been so outraged that Pence might not have been allowed on the vice presidential airplane to return home.

It was all theater, but these things are always theater. The problem with the current American administration is that it doesn't understand the play.

For the past year, Kim and Trump have been threatening nuclear war with one another, something which, understandably, has a lot of people unnerved. Some of those unnerved are the South Koreans, who could lose millions of innocent citizens as collateral damage in such a war.

So, when the athletes of the two Koreas marched into the stadium together and carried the Olympic torch up an impossibly steep flight of stairs, that was an inspiring thing. It gave the entire world a vision of what could be in a world better than the one we now endure.

Is that world likely to emerge anytime soon? Will North Korea stop starving its population in order to provide sufficient luxury for the Kims? Will North Korea give up its nukes?

Not bloody likely.

The concept of those athletes marching hand in hand is an image of peace, not the reality of peace.

But honest to God, it's a better image than that of Trump and of Kim arguing about who has the bigger nuclear button.

And, what the world saw as that image was broadcast was the vice president of the United States sitting stone-faced while everyone else cheered.

What should Pence have done? Nothing. He should not have been in that box. He was in a no-win situation and he didn't have to be there. He could have arranged to sit with the American athletes. There are a lot of things he could have done, but he chose to make a statement by ignoring the situation around him.

The whole world saw that. It was a gesture that surely pleased the pundits on Fox News, but it didn't do a thing to convince anyone else in the world that this country actually is interested in avoiding war.


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