Mike Pence is finally breaking with Donald Trump. Trump’s farewell ceremony, for which Trump is trying to drum up a crowd, will take place at 8 a.m. on Wednesday. Pence is not expected to attend the almost-ex-president’s send-off. He’s going to Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony instead. The reasoning, according to Washington Post reporter Josh Dawsey, is that “aides say it would be logistically challenging for the vice president to do both.”
Would it be logistically challenging? Presidents themselves typically pack both the inauguration of their predecessor, at the White House, and their own send-off, at Joint Air Force Base Andrews, into the same day. Bill Clinton, for example, attended the inauguration for George W. Bush, which started at 11:30 a.m. He’s seen parting ways with George W. Bush at roughly 12:38 p.m., before arriving at the base at 1:17 p.m. He made the journey in an armored limo, the New York Times reported, which “actually stopped for traffic lights.” According to Google Maps, the 15-mile drive from the White House to the base takes just 33 minutes. That’s not very far! It’s also a pretty routine trip: Andrews has been the official “home of Air Force One” since John F. Kennedy started parking his plane there in 1962.
Pence wouldn’t even have to take a car back to the White House to make it in time. For one thing, maybe the helicopter that flies Trump to the base in the morning could give Pence a lift back to the inauguration. Or, to think a little outside of the box, he could expense an electric scooter—a state-of-the-art Bird can hold enough battery to make the entire round trip. Pence could almost walk and make it, honestly; according to Google Maps, the trip would take about 5 hours on foot. Say Pence leaves the farewell a little early, gets a little bit of a jog in his step, and then ducks into the inauguration slightly late—done. Maybe he’s worried about making it through the heightened security measures? That makes no sense—he’s literally the vice president (for now).
Or maybe this is not actually related to logistics. Maybe Mike Pence is finally giving up his duties of authoritarian sidekick. Because 15 miles—it’s just not that much.
Update, Jan. 19, 2021, at 5:35 p.m.: Typically the outgoing president and vice president meet their incoming replacements at the White House, and then they head to the Capitol for the ceremony. Biden will be met by an usher; it’s unclear whether Pence will meet the party at the White House or the Capitol, though the latter would be a slightly shorter and easier trip for him to make from the base.