Our next vice president may well be chip off the old block

Thursday, July 14, 2016
Eric Bernsee

Oh my gosh, as Yogi Berra supposedly once so aptly quipped, it's deja vu all over again. Really.

I mean, Pokemon (for some reason known only to the card-carrying Pikachu) is popular again. Evan Bayh is back running for office. And the next vice president of the United States could be a Hoosier.

What the heck? Is it 1988 all over again?

The media frenzy surrounding Don Trump's supposed selection of Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his running mate brings to mind the fervor over the selection of Dan Quayle by George Herbert Walker Bush. The Pence selection seems pretty well confirmed now with a likely anti-climactic announcement sometime today.

Back on the day the Quayle selection was announced, the national media basically knew he was from Indiana and had Robert Redford looks. They started calling the Banner Graphic and the DePauw University (he's a 1969 graduate) campus for whatever tidbit of info they could get.

Of course, my favorite story in all that involves the retired former administrator who told The Washington Post or The New York Times or some other huge publication that Quayle was "a fine student."

But 24 hours later, when the world learned Quayle was closer to a C student than the Walker Cup winner, the backtracking began. "Did I say 'fine student'? I meant to say 'he was a student.'"

So Thursday afternoon my phone rings and it's an old friend still in the business and working out of Chicago. He's the same guy who questioned my glowing assessment of Larry Bird when Indiana State was heading unbeaten to the Final Four and I'd told him that Bird just might win it all with four guys off the street. And he nearly did.

So Thursday he asks, "About this Pence guy ..."

Not buying into all the hype just yet, I offer, "Yea, he's got about a 50-50 chance of being re-elected governor, or so I've been hearing."

Silence greets my attempt at humor.

He wants some insight into Pence's politics and the vice presidential possibility.

So I tell him what I know. Strong convictions. Smart. Conservative. Well-spoken.

But then there's that crazy moment we shared when Pence visited Crown Equipment during the early days of what now appears will be his one term as Hoosier governor.

For now, I'm not sharing this yet with my old Chitown buddy. Instead I'm thinking maybe I should tip off Greta Van Susteren. Or get in touch with Geraldo. Maybe give Dan Rather something to come out of retirement for.

Heck, am I a factor in Bill O'Reilly's thinking?

After all, I don't just have a story, I have pain and suffering. And photos. Wonder what the national media would do with that?

In reality, Mike Pence laid his hands on me, so to speak. A love tap, yes, but it was no healing moment. Not at all like the reassuring tap I got from Bill Clinton as I took photos of him making his way through the Dixie Chopper Business Center en route to his DePauw speaking engagement in 2011.

No, my brush-with-greatest moment with Pence came just days after -- unbeknownst to me -- I had torn my rotator cuff and shredded the biceps tendon in my left arm.

On just his fifth day in office, Gov. Pence was in town. It was actually his first road trip as governor, and he chose to come to Greencastle. Nice little coup for us.

At that point, however, I had been wearing a black arm sling given to me in the PCH Emergency Room. But I'm determined not to wear that dorky thing out to Crown to interview the governor and tour the plant.

Not a bad decision really since the whole program takes about an hour, and I easily survive the tour and his talk without any pain or difficulty.

But as everybody's leaving, Gov. Pence and I are chatting, recalling how his very first campaign stop came in June 2011 at the Putnam Inn and we shared some time there after the breakfast crowd departed.

So we're giving each other our parting shots, so to speak, when suddenly he reaches out and playfully smacks me on the arm and shoulder. The injured one, of course.

Now I didn't know whether to scream or call Keller & Keller but I manage to hold it together. It is the governor, after all.

Meanwhile, Assistant Editor Jared Jernagan, taking photos that day, captures the exact moment that hand-to-shoulder contact creates a pained look on my face for posterity.

So what about Mike Pence, I'm asked again.

Thinking about my little story and what I could tell the world, all I can share is ...

Uh, he was "a fine student" ...

And I don't know how you can trump that.