REYKJAVIK, Iceland — Vice President Mike Pence is receiving a tongue-lashing from European allies as he plays understudy to the president on the world stage.
From the Taoiseach of Ireland to the mayor of Reykjavik, leaders have been publicly confronting Pence on issues such as the U.K.’s exit from the E.U., nuclear disarmament and climate change.
The appeals appear part of a desperate effort to try to get through to a Trump administration that follows its own norms and rules, and find someone — anyone — who might be able to change the president’s mind.
But again and again, Pence has appeared to brush off the efforts, which spilled into public view before he’d even left the airport in Shannon, Ireland.
There, Simon Coveney, the country’s foreign minister, confronted Pence with an urgent message about the potential impact of Brexit. He warned a return to hard borders between Ireland and Northern Ireland would not only disrupt commerce, but could also threaten a fragile peace.
“As somebody who understands Ireland well, I think you understand why it’s such an emotional issue,” Coveney said, trying to leverage Pence’s personal connections to the country. “It’s a huge issue for this country right now. It’s dominating politics here. It’s about trying to mitigate against potential damage.”
Pence, appearing less than amused by the public confrontation, said he was “grateful” for Coveney’s “candor” and quickly pivoted. But the pleas continued in Pence’s meetings with other Irish leaders, including Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.
“All I ask is that you bring that message back to Washington with you,” Varadkar said.
The efforts continued in Iceland on Wednesday, with the mayor of Reykjavik pressing him on denuclearization and the prime minister pushing on climate change. They appear driven by a desire to confront the administration as well as, perhaps, a perception that Pence might be more open to persuasion and hold more traditional foreign policy views than the mercurial Trump.
Toeing the line
For nearly three years now, Pence has traveled the world on Trump’s behalf, dutifully toeing the White House line while delivering a toned-down version of Trump’s message, translating his “America First” ideology into language rattled allies can better understand.
And Pence has appeared increasingly willing to veer from Trump not only on style, but on policy and emphasis. The trip began in Poland at a ceremony commemorating the 80th anniversary of the start of World War II, with Pence filling in for Trump because of Hurricane Dorian.
Pence raised the thorny issue of human rights during a meeting with Polish President Andrzej Duda — something Trump has been criticized for avoiding. And he repeatedly denounced Russian aggression, including the annexation of Crimea, just days after Trump tried to persuade world leaders at a Group of Seven summit to allow Russia to rejoin the group. Russia was expelled from the G-7 for taking Crimea.