WASHINGTON – American Pharoah has joined the #Resistance.
Last week, Vice President Pence informed House Republicans that Triple Crown winner American Pharoah “bit me so hard” on the arm during a Kentucky visit last year that he (man, not horse) “almost collapsed.”
Some might disbelieve the vice president’s tale because Pence said nothing about this injury at the time and because the manager of the racehorse-breeding company said if the “sweet” thoroughbred had bitten Pence, “I’d know it.” Pence did show people a bruise on his arm then, but that could have been from one of the many times President Trump walked all over him.
I’ve never known a member of the Trump administration to tell an untruth, so I have no reason to disbelieve Pence’s harrowing account. Besides, there are many reasons the horse would have bitten the hand that leads him:
Pence told the stud that sex is only between one stallion and one mare, whom the stallion should call “mother.”
Pence advised American Pharoah not to eat oats with a mare unless others are present at the same trough.
More likely, it was something in American Pharoah’s horse sense that told him the man in the suit was a weak specimen.
Horse herds are hierarchical, and nobody bites the dominant horse, or alpha, because the perpetrator would be badly hurt or ostracized from the herd. As “animal communicator” Val Heart writes: “Biting you may mean that your stallion/horse doesn’t consider you to be their alpha leader, and that their status is higher than yours. ... And you haven’t earned their respect.”
It is almost as if American Pharoah had seen how Pence is treated around the White House.
Maybe the stable hands play CNN, or maybe American Pharoah’s instincts sense subservience. But the stallion somehow knew Pence was a sycophant. This is the guy who just flew 200 miles out of the way to stay at Trump’s property in Doonbeg, Ireland – at Trump’s, ahem, “suggestion” – dutifully promoting the resort in public appearances.
Days after that, he dismissed “Fake News” reports that he objected to Trump’s outrageous decision to invite the Taliban to Camp David days before the 9/11 anniversary. “I FULLY support your decision,” Pence tweeted to Trump, putting submissiveness above dignity.
Pence has likewise set aside principles to defend Trump’s public vulgarities and blasphemy, the “Access Hollywood” tape, the Stormy Daniels payoff, his comments on racial violence in Charlottesville, his personal profiting from government funds, his chumminess with tyrants worldwide and his praise for WikiLeaks. Pence has gushed repeatedly about his boss’ “broad shoulders,” gazed adoringly at him in public, defended Trump’s falsehoods and showered him with praise about his miraculous and best-ever presidency. Why? Maybe Pence explained it best himself the day he was supposedly bitten by American Pharoah: “I like to be around winners.”
In exchange? Trump publicly contradicts Pence and declines to extinguish fully the possibility he’ll dump Pence from the ticket.
Trump might not have American Pharoah’s speed, but their behaviors are similar. The comedian John Mulaney likens Trump’s presidency to a horse loose in a hospital: “No one knows what the horse is going to do next, least of all the horse. ... So all day long you walk around, ‘What’d the horse do? What’d the horse do?’ The updates, they’re not always bad; sometimes they’re just odd. It’ll be like, ‘The horse used the elevator? I didn’t know he knew how to do that.’ The creepiest days are when you don’t hear from the horse ... those quiet days when people are like, ‘It looks like the horse has finally calmed down.’ And then 10 seconds later the horse is like, ‘I’m gonna run toward the baby incubators and smash ‘em with my hooves.’”
Pence could do something about the untamed equine now running the country. The answer is in the literature of animal husbandry.
“Horses bite because they are afraid. Bullies behave badly because they have poor self-esteem and are fearful,” equine expert Lynn Baber writes. “Horses behave poorly for similar reasons. ... Your horse didn’t bite you because he has excessive self-esteem.”
How to calm the rampaging horse? “Horses, like people, give respect where it is due,” Baber explains. “Horses, like most animals and people, are naturally attracted to calm, confident personalities. One must be worthy to be a good herd leader.”
Maybe that’s what American Pharoah was trying to tell Pence with his bite: Don’t let that orange-maned beast trample you.
Dana Milbank is a columnist for The Washington Post.