The VP Debate was billed as the Thrilla from Vanilla. As it turned out, not so much.
Both Senator Tim Kaine and Governor Mike Pence came out to do their duty defending the top of the ticket as designated Rottweilers. Both barked and pulled the tow chain taut.
Pence, a former radio talk show host, had a better stage presence, mostly calm and collected. Kaine had that nervous on a big stage fast talking, caffeine overdose style going. An interesting contrast indeed.
We saw Kaine come out as everyone’s favorite Dad get a bit aggressive. He was, at times, like Pop talking to the son coming in at 3 AM smelling of Ripple and reefer. Pence was the guy at the office trying to justify the ten AM meeting as being actually productive. It got a bit bumpy.
The ideological differences permeated the exchanges to come.
Pence has made a career as someone trying to channel Ronald Reagan right down to going for folksy to hide how awful his views are. After all Governor Pence signed the discriminate your heart out LBGTQ bill in Indiana. A bill that had to be reworked as the economic costs and the accompanying backlash became apparent. He also signed into law and wholeheartedly supported draconian abortion bills, slightly surpassing Ohio’s, with the aim to make abortion so difficult to obtain as to be outlawed. His support of defunding Planned Parenthood resulted in a HIV/Aids epidemic Indiana ignored until it was in full bloom. And he did all of this wearing his faith on his sleeve like a badge of honor because the majority religion in this nation is being discriminated against.
Kaine’s record in Virginia was pragmatic progressive resulting in the Commonwealth becoming the best state for business and raising a family. As a Senator he’s well liked and respected by his colleagues in both parties. That impression stretches back to his legal and early political career. Basically Tim comes off as a swell guy who’ll loan you tools out of his garage and not bug you about getting them back.
Two very different men were going to show us the stark differences between views and policies existing at the tickets top.
The fireworks started early as the moderator Elaine Quijano completely lost control of the debate. The result was Kaine and Pence stepping on each other and her. At times all three were talking with the result being an almost unintelligible litany of opposing comments and pleas for order.
Aside from losing control of the nascent donnybrook Quijano’s questions, on the whole, seemed uninspired. They appeared to bounce around between topics with some not getting follow ups they deserved, such as abortion, Social Security or policies to combat terrorism. Some issues were not mentioned at all like virulent LBGTQ equality opposition, climate change or income equality.
Pence pushed a lot of debunked talking points. He trotted out the idea of the Clinton Foundation as a slush fund that only spent 10% on charity. Mikey ran with the “ransom” paid to Iran to free a hostage trope.. He dutifully went with the tried and true GOP misinformation on the Iran Nuke deal, acting as if Hillary, Kerry and PBO were alone in negotiating the treaty. As usual the fact it was done with the UK, Russia, China, France and Germany as partners was ignored. Pushing the Trump candidacy locked Pence into a litany of support for nonexistent policy and contradictory stances.
Tim repeatedly pushed Pence into a box where he had to defend Trump, deny Donnie’s statements or break with the Donald. As it turned out Pence went with the two out of three ain’t bad strategy. Mike repeatedly denied things both him and Trump are on record as saying. (As a science denier Pence may not be aware audio and video recording is an actual thing). Mike over and over was unable to defend Trump’s outright lies, attacks and terrifying policies falling back on deflection.. His constant denial of his and Trump’s statements and positions with the condescending head shaking I knew was going to be an instant Clinton ad. The ad dropped Wednesday morning.
As a nice guy playing attack dog Kaine got a bit excited and tended to interrupt Pence. It wasn’t a good idea as it put Pence in a light as a serious person. Though compared to Trump’s interruption fest with HRC, Tim Kaine was a paragon of decorum.
Pence in desperation to do something other than deny Trump has ever said anything at all started spelling out policy. Such as possibly firing on Russian aircraft over Syria. He mentioned building a missile shield in Poland. The Kremlin won’t likely respond well to either. Pence called Putin a small bully in contrast to Trump’s bromance. His calling for a very hard line towards Russia seems to be Mike setting his own policy initiatives cutting Trump loose.
Kaine made impassioned statements about faith and not forcing it on others through law. His defense of the right to choose was spot on by pointing out we trust women, as anyone should, to make their own decisions. Pence told Kaine he couldn’t understand a person of faith not agreeing with him.
All in all both did their job. Unfortunately Pence’s job was to reinforce Trumps lies as reality. Fact checkers were hard pressed to keep up.
The pundits are giving the debate to Pence on style points. They ignore Kaine boxing him in forcing him to deflect, deny, lie or go off on his own contradicting Trumps stated policy plans.
Did this move voters. Not likely. Did it put the differences in the spotlight? Of course.
Pence didn’t help Trump and highlighting the denial of reality regarding what has been said gave Clinton room to light them up in ads. That can’t help Trump to woo the swing voters.
Tim Kaine did his job. He went after Pence/Trump stances hard exposing the way they play fast and loose with the facts. He drew a hard line in the sand to highlight the differences in point of view, beliefs and solutions.
Time to move on to the homestretch as this fades like every other VP debate has. Just keep in mind the stakes Daddy Tim reminded us about.