In the canine world, Mike Pence would be the Standard Poodle and Tim Kaine the yappy Chihuahua.
Republican Vice Presidential candidate Pence was dignified, smart and likeable during Tuesday night’s debate, while opponent Kaine was jumpy and annoying. But the differences went beyond style.
Kaine presented a mini-me version of the Hillary Clinton campaign, focused on slamming and demeaning Donald Trump. Pressed to tell voters how his running mate would improve the lives of everyday Americans or rectify the mess she helped create in Syria, Kaine resorted to what Pence correctly described as the “insult-driven” campaign.
While Pence delivered concrete ideas and policies, Kaine fell back on well-practiced one-liners which, oft-repeated, began to sound silly; it turns out you can actually practice too much.
But then there is not much substance to the Clinton campaign. When challenged on her lack of accomplishments as Secretary of State, Tim Kaine offered up the killing of Usama bin Laden.
When asked how she might make the world safer, he offered up the killing of Usama bin Laden.
When asked about temperament and credentials, Kaine volunteered the killing of Usama bin Laden.
I could be wrong but I’m pretty sure bin Laden only died once, and that Hillary had virtually nothing to do with it. True, she didn’t throw herself in the way of the military personnel directing the mission and refuse to let them go forward. Instead, she was in the room consuming oxygen and converting it into CO2. Like a lot of other people.
Kaine attempted throughout the evening to put Pence on the defensive over some of the more incendiary comments made over the past year by running mate Trump; Pence skillfully avoided being drawn into a pointless controversy. He also managed to avoid blaming the media for its unprecedented assault on a national candidate. That would have played well to Trump followers, but Pence did not need to go there.
Instead, he went where few have dared to tread – into a heartfelt conversation about faith and abortion, without a doubt convincing anyone who was watching that he believed in the sanctity of life, and would try to persuade others to forego abortion in favor of adoption.
He also criticized Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine for their support of partial-birth abortion, and good for him. Most of the country agrees the practice is heinous, but the pro-choice crowd goes along with it under cover of “slippery slope” concerns. No, it should be banned and Pence was totally credible on the topic.
Pence also managed to do what Trump conspicuously failed to do in the first presidential debate – go after the numerous scandals that have destroyed the country’s confidence in the credibility of Hillary Clinton.
He reminded viewers of the Clinton Foundation’s role as Bill and Hillary’s political handmaiden and the apparent pay-to-play activities of Clinton while she served as Secretary of State. He also got in some zingers about the Clinton 30,000 emails that were destroyed.
Asked how his ticket would get tough on Russia, Kaine trotted out (numerous times) the absurd charge that Trump is a fan of Vladimir Putin. (Yes, Trump has noted that Putin, head of a failing state, has enormously high approval ratings. He has also noted that by comparison President Obama looks and is toothless, as Russia elbows the U.S. out of Syria. )
Pence failed to note that Hillary Clinton enabled the Russians to take over half of America’s uranium supplies, while accepting substantial donations from the purchaser into the Clinton Foundation. But he had plenty of material to charge Hillary as corrupt and, as Secretary of State, inconsequential.
Pence made mincemeat out of the Iran deal; Kaine parried that one official in Israel thought it was helpful.
Pence noted that Kaine had boycotted Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech to Congress; Kaine squirmed.
Kaine said blocking refugees by country was unconstitutional; Pence rightly noted that was not true.
Pence talked about the ground lost in Iraq under Obama and Clinton’s failed policies – ground won through the sacrifice of American soldiers.
Kaine parried by lauding the Iran deal. Oops; American fourth-graders know the nuke deal with Tehran is already falling apart and that a desperate President Obama was taken for a ride by the mullahs. And then he mentioned the killing of Usama bin Laden.
And so it went, with Pence combing the fertile fields of Clintonian hypocrisy and scandal, and with Kaine trying to remember the best insults his team has launched against Trump.
Perhaps the best line of the night was on the topic of Hillary’s “careless” handling of classified information. He said, as one father of a military man to another: “If your son or mine had done this, he would have been court martialed.” Just so.
The vice presidential candidates are more than nominally important in this election. Both candidates are long in the tooth, and Hillary Clinton, in particular, has suffered some health problems.
It is not far-fetched to imagine that either Tim Kaine or Mike Pence could someday have to take over as president. Based on Tuesday night’s performance, only Mike Pence is up to the task.