Former Vice President Mike Pence accused the Biden administration of showing weakness before China, promising that as president he would opt away from appeasement and isolationism to ensure America is “prepared for the next great power competition,” while also promising to ban transgender service members throughout the American military.
Pence’s speech Monday, before an assembled group at the conservative Hudson Institute think tank in Washington, was the first in the organization’s speaker series, inviting presidential candidates to “share their views on America’s role in the world and the principles that would guide their foreign and defense policies.”
China and Russia were Pence’s top foreign targets in Monday’s speech; the former, he said, is America’s rival and economic adversary.
“But whether China becomes our enemy depends on choices the American people will make in leadership for our country over the next four years,” Pence added.
He cast the Trump-Pence administration as one that “never hesitated to punish aggressors,” while positioning Biden as “weak and feckless,” ultimately making the world a “much more dangerous place.”
Pence also chided his fellow Republican presidential candidates — such as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy — for their own isolationist leanings.
“I believe isolationism is just another word for appeasement on the world stage, and appeasement has never worked,” he said. “The new appeasement Republicans say that America should retreat from her leadership position in the world, turn inward and focus solely on domestic concerns. But I say that anyone that says that America cannot solve the challenges facing our people…and also be a leader of the free world has a pretty small view of the greatest nation on Earth.”
The isolationist, nationalistic position that many Republicans are taking, Pence said, including his “former running mate,” Donald Trump, could make the world even more dangerous.
“If America were to step back from her leadership role on the world stage, it would create a vacuum that I have no doubt China and Russia and other hostile nations would be more than happy to fill,” he said. Pulling support from Ukraine, he said, would similarly lead to Russia invading a NATO treaty ally — and therefore an American military response under the mutual defense clause of the treaty.
Pence went on to criticize the past decade of American presidential administrations for slow-pedaling defense spending, promising to “reverse the administration’s efforts to cut military spending” — an incorrect assessment, given that the Biden administration requested $886 billion in the defense budget for the fiscal year 2024 budget, a 3.3% increase over the year before.
That funding request was memorialized in Biden’s agreement with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, which the speaker acknowledged as “fully funding national defense.” Pence immediately clarified his statement, saying that American defense spending is not growing as quickly as that of China or Russia — without noting that the U.S. spent nearly three times as much on defense as China did in 2022, and two years ago spent more on defense than the next closest 10 countries combined.
Instead, Pence would move to tie the defense budget to the economy, ensuring a “minimum of 3.5% of our GDP on defense” — a move he said would “infuse an immediate $1.2 trillion in defense spending into our budget, and it would be offset by other cuts.”
A Pence administration, he said, would recognize TikTok as a “communist Chinese platform” that he would ban on “day 1,” would sell weapons to Taipei, stand with a “free and democratic Taiwan” and seek to decouple American supply chains from China.
He also promised to continue backing Ukraine, to continue the American relationship with Israel and to militarize the American border with Mexico as part of his plan to prove that “good fences make good neighbors.”
“We’ll give states National Guard units to end the wave of drugs and human smuggling crashing across the border and, make no mistake about it, the violation of the American border will end one way or another, even if we have to demand that the Mexican government partner with American special forces to hunt down and destroy the cartels wherever they are,” Pence promised.
The former Vice President also promised to “end woke nonsense” in America’s military, blaming “political correctness” for lowering military recruitment. As such, Pence would “restore the ban on transgender service members,” saying that the military “must focus on preparedness, not pronouns.”