Critic's Notebook: Donald Trump Brags, Mike Pence Swoons on Joint '60 Minutes' Interview

trump/pence 60 minutes -- H 2016

 trump/pence 60 minutes -- H 2016

The two candidates bobbed, weaved, bragged and blushed in their first joint interview shortly after Mike Pence won the VP competition.

Donald Trump showed off his latest acquisition — uh, vice-presidential running mate — Sunday night in a 60 Minutes joint interview featuring him and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence. Viewers, who had no doubt prepared for the broadcast by Googling "Who is Mike Pence?" were probably left as befuddled by interviewer Lesley Stahl, who at times seemed to want to wink at the camera and ask, "Can you believe this?"

Trump explained his choice of Pence in his typical businessman fashion, eschewing such traditional approaches as say, having shared political views. "I looked at the numbers," he explained, referring to Pence's economic record but sounding more like he had just picked up a particularly choice piece of real estate. "I think we will have very good chemistry," he added, as if forgetting that he was on 60 Minutes, not The Dating Game.

Stahl began the proceedings by asking the not-so-hardball question, "Are you ready for the world we are facing today?" Trump unsurprisingly assured her he was, disappointing the anchor who was apparently hoping that he would suddenly be gripped by a panic attack, mutter an anguished "no," and slink off, never to be seen again.

As for Pence, Trump is getting his money's worth, with the politician — who describes himself as "a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order" (Trump barely qualifies in any of the three categories) — acting so lovestruck and moony-eyed that at times he seemed ready to jump onto Trump's lap. He gushed that the businessman candidate embodied "broad-shouldered American strength," as if Trump was running for the title of Mr. Universe, not president. He later described his running mate as "one of the best negotiators in the world" as Trump's orange tresses began to expand like a peacock's feathers.

But if anyone was hoping to get a better idea of who Pence is — and that includes pretty much everyone — they were left disappointed by the interview, which, like all things Trump, inevitably focused on Trump. He dominated the discussion while the handsome, square-jawed, white-haired Pence looked on adoringly.

To her credit, Stahl pressed hard on the policy differences between the two men, which are legion. Trump brushed off Pence's strong support of the Iraq War, including his vote to authorize it while he was in Congress. "I don't care," Trump said dismissively. "He's entitled to make a mistake once in a while."

Pence, not as adept at duplicity, had a harder time dealing with the subject. He was bobbing and weaving throughout, shamelessly reversing his previous positions on such issues as free trade, suspending immigration of Muslims and waterboarding. Donald tried to help him out by altering his language, among other things. "I'm all for free trade," he announced, utterly contradicting himself. And he backed off his stance on banning Muslims from entering the country, explaining that potential immigrants would instead be subjected to "extreme vetting," which he'll probably soon be pitching as a new reality series.

When he was asked if he would be willing to criticize Trump for such things as going too far in his name-calling, Pence managed to turn even that response into a compliment. "One of the things I found out about this man is that he appreciates candor," he gushed.

Trump returned the favor when Stahl followed up by asking if Pence agreed with Trump's insulting John McCain for having been "captured." "You can say yes," Trump graciously instructed Pence, who was beginning to take on the glazed look of a battered wife.

The political shotgun marriage was sealed by the end of the segment, with Pence declaring, "This good man, I believe, will be a great president of the United States."

For any other politician, that statement would have been the cue for a similarly effusive remark. But Trump, of course, is not your ordinary politician. "I love what he just said," he crowed. You could tell he was already figuring out how to emblazon his name on Pence's forehead.