Pence de­fends strike to Latin Amer­ica al­lies

The Standard Journal - - NATIONAL - By Ken Thomas

LIMA, Peru — Thou­sands of miles f rom home, Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence was thrust into a new, more im­me­di­ate, role on the world stage Satur­day: ex­plain­ing Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s mil­i­tary strike in Syria to a sum­mit of Latin Amer­ica lead­ers.

Hours af­ter Trump hailed the mis­sile strike tar­get­ing the Syria’s suspected chem­i­cal weapons — tweet­ing, “Mission Ac­com­plished!” — Pence de­fended the pres­i­dent while build­ing sup­port among U.S. al­lies for the joint strikes with Bri­tain and France.

“The ob­jec­tive of the mission the com­man­der in chief gave our mil­i­tary forces and our al­lies was com­pletely ac­com­plished — with swift pro­fes­sion­al­ism,” Pence told re­porters, not­ing there were “no re­ported civil­ian ca­su­al­ties.”

Later, speak­ing in a cav­ernous hall of world lead­ers at the Sum­mit of the Amer­i­cas, Pence ex­pressed grat­i­tude to Canada, Colom­bia and other na­tions that had voiced sup­port for the strike and urged “ev­ery na­tion in this hemi­sphere of free­dom” to sup­port the mil­i­tary ac­tion.

Pence’s to- do list in­cluded smooth­ing over dif­fer­ences with Mex­ico, Amer­ica’s south­ern neigh­bor, amid un­ease over Trump’s de­ci­sion to send troops to the bor­der and harsh rhetoric on im­mi­gra­tion. And with ten­sions sim­mer­ing over trade, Pence ex­pressed hope along­side Canadian Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau that the three na­tions could soon agree to a rene­go­ti­ated North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment.

And while Trump grap­ples with the on­go­ing Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion led by spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller, Pence sought to draw a bright line against Vladimir Putin’s al­liance with Syria fol­low­ing the suspected chem­i­cal at­tack. “Our mes­sage to Rus­sia is that you’re on the wrong side of his­tory,” Pence said.

Trump of­ten im­pro­vises his re­marks and is known for bold dec­la­ra­tions in per­son and on his Twit­ter ac­count. Pence, mean­while, tends to be more scripted in his ex­changes and fre­quently glanced down at high­lighted index cards as he spoke to Latin Amer­i­can lead­ers here.

Shortly be­fore Trump’s ad­dress to the na­tion Fri­day night, Pence was whisked away from the sum­mit in his mo­tor­cade so he could re­turn to his ho­tel to in­form con­gres­sional lead­ers of the pend­ing mis­sile strikes. Pence watched Trump’s speech from his ho­tel suite, joined by aides.

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