By Richard E. Vatz
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine faced off at the Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia, Kaine’s state, but the audience stayed quiet, thank goodness, following the rules in contrast to the first Clinton-Trump debate.
Kaine interrupted Pence serially, and never stopped. Pence interrupted Kaine but not as consistently.
CBSN’s Elaine Quijano was the moderator, and simply could not stop the interruptions. It is difficult to know what she could have done.
Tim Kaine set a misleading symbol of comity by a warm shake of the hand and apparently kind words to Pence at the beginning of the debate. He quoted Hillary as choosing him to make people’s lives better. That, he said, is what he brings to the ticket. We trust Hillary, Kaine said, to do what’s best to serve his son in the military.
Pence warmly greets the audience and went through alleged weaknesses of the Obama Administration in domestic and foreign policy.
Inability to defend running mates
The key to the debate was that throughout, Kaine could not defend his presidential nominee from all of the accusations that Trump never was able to make in their last debate but that Pence made.
Pence not only couldn’t defend Trump on his erratic rhetoric, but he simply denied that Trump had said things that he had said.
Quijano asked Kaine why so many do not trust Hillary Clinton. Kaine talked of her dedication to putting others first; he didn’t answer the question. Instead, he went on to recount Trump’s misstatements and “lies,” but Quijano did not pursue the point or many other points evaded by the debaters.
Pence pointed out that under President Obama, we have nearly doubled our national debt; Kaine ignored the charge, perhaps unable to counter it. There was a short discussion of Obamacare, but inexplicably Pence did not bring up the recent comments by Bill Clinton relating to the problems with Obamacare.
When Kaine brought up Hillary’s plan for debt-free college, Pence did not reference its fiscal irresponsibility.
Quijano asked about Trump’s tax situation, but Pence first tried to avoid the question. As Kaine forced the issue, he interrupted to insist that Trump arrogantly paid no taxes, hurting the country. Pence made his own interrupting remarks of dissent.
Pence rightly criticized Hillary for her unsupported generalizations of ubiquitous racism in the country.
The greater weakness of the two was when Kaine insisted that Pence defend irresponsible statement after statement by Trump, many of which were at odds with Pence’s decent positions.
Kaine also pointed out Trump’s lack of apologies as well, which is literally true, as they are nonexistent.
He asked about Trump’s consistent insults, the attacks on a Mexican-American jurist, attacks on Mexicans, his announced plans to eject 16 million illegal immigrants (thought it was 11), his winking at proliferation of nuclear weapons, his ignoring of Russia’s growing aggressiveness (while Pence is quite concerned), his not knowing Russia took Crimea and others.
Pence denied some of these, but unconvincingly, and accused Clinton and Kaine of a campaign of insults.
Kaine could not defend the weakness of the Obama-Clinton foreign policy, and what it has wrought or the e-mail situation which he falsely implied was vindicated by the FBI director’s report.
There was a good exchange on the religious questions pertaining to abortion, but the president really has little to do with abortion, save appointing Supreme Court justices who can rule on the constitutionality of it. Again, Kaine brought up that Trump had said that he wished to punish women who sought abortions, which Pence said was not true.
Pence was the winner on style; Kaine was the winner on substance. The dishonesty of the two major candidates stands in stark contrast to the general ingenuousness of their vice presidential running mates.
On to next Sunday, Oct. 9, the next presidential debate. It remains a sad Hobson’s choice of an election for America, but the vice presidential nominees are not bad.
Professor Richard Vatz teaches political persuasion at Towson University and is author of “The Only Authentic Book of Persuasion: the Agenda-Spin Model.”