If you didn’t catch it yourself, allow me to give you my brief summary of last night’s Vice Presidential debate: Pence won it handily.
My dad was up from Glendive and watched the 2016 Vice Presidential debate with me last night. And we are agreed. If Trump wins the election next month and something tragic happens to him early in his presidency, Governor Pence will be extremely good at fireside chats with the American people.
Pence was calm, measured, dignified, composed, and steady. He didn’t rush his words or statements. His performance was credible throughout. He was soothing, even; or perhaps the word is reassuring.
Meanwhile, Senator Kaine was a creepy, constantly interrupting, obnoxious liberal clown. I kept inadvertently catching myself arguing at him through the laptop screen to just shut up already. But he would not stop for anything. He didn’t stop when the moderator repeatedly asked him to stop interrupting and respect Pence’s time. He didn’t stop when Pence politely and patiently reminded him it was his turn to speak. Kaine just kept talking the entire time. He was completely out of control, unhinged even.
Yet the surprise upside is that Kaine was so bad even the Democrats are admitting it. And Pence was so extremely patient with him, but not in a weak sort of way, that it was believable. Unarguably, the Trump ticket looks stronger and more mature for how Pence handled himself last night.
Watching Bloomberg’s live stream on Twitter, even their pundits were quick to say as the debate ended: “Pence was at his best. Kaine looked very bad tonight.”
Unfortunately, the actual issues took a backseat to displays of good and bad temperament and manners.
1. The Clinton Foundation
Pence did a great job bringing up the Clinton Foundation’s pay-to-play scandals. This did not happen at all during Trump and Clinton’s first debate, but it should have. Though disappointing, I think Trump’s oversight was primarily because he was on his heels the entire night with “moderator” Lester Holt and Secretary Clinton double-teaming him.
But Pence finally went there, and he did a fine job of it too. Kaine made repeated allegations of Trump engaging in pay-to-play crony-capitalism, or having some sort of tenuous link to Russian oligarchs, or not paying taxes. And in response, both Pence’s timing and demeanor in bringing up the Clinton Foundation’s role as a front for funneling donations from foreign governments and businessmen in exchange for political favors during Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State was just right. It was ‘le mot juste,’ as they say in the French.
Pence even pointed out how only 10 cents of every dollar donated to the Clinton Foundation is actually spent on charity work. The rest goes to the Clintons and their political machinery and staff. In a reasonable country with a respectable and unbiased media, this would mean the Clintons being forced to either look still more crooked and dishonest than they already do, or trying to get off by playing merely incompetent and inefficient with handling donations to their foundation. But alas, that is not quite the country we live in, so Pence needed to tell the American people about it directly. And that he did.
I was very pleased to hear abortion brought up. Governor Pence handled the Pro-Life/Pro-Choice debate with the utmost sincerity and grace. No, he didn’t blast Kaine for the inane duplicity of claiming to be personally pro-life yet defending legalized abortion for secular reasons. He could have, I would have. And perhaps he should have! But he didn’t.
No, Governor Pence repeatedly said he wanted to be gentle and that he respected Kaine’s stated personal views on abortion, and that was very big of him.
Taking the high road, Pence expressed how proud he is to be on a Pro-Life ticket with Donald Trump. He kept it positive. His Pro-Life convictions on the unborn could not allow him to belong to or support a party that sacrifices infants on the altar of human convenience and political expedience.
And it was at this point more than any other in the debate that Senator Kaine seemed briefly lost in a thousand-yard stare, hopefully questioning the state of his own soul at least briefly before snapping out of it with the sad recollection that he cannot say such things for himself as Pence can. Kaine has chosen instead to defend arguably the greatest enemies to American babies that ever were in Secretary Clinton and the Democratic party.
I really hope the topic of abortion comes up in the next Trump versus Clinton debate too because it should be central to our distinguishing between the two parties. It should be the deciding factor in how we perceive a candidate’s or party’s heart and soul and whether they’re fit to lead us. It must be.
For the time being, I say good on Governor Pence for standing up for the unborn in last night’s debate.
3. National Security
On national security, Senator Kaine predictably tried to paint Donald Trump into a corner. Trump is the unhinged loon. If elected, he would immediately throw America and the world into thermonuclear war. You could summarize his attacks on the Republican candidate with the implanted question: “Is this really who you want holding the launch codes?”
Meanwhile Secretary Clinton’s “right-hand person” defended her experience. “We got Osama Bin Laden” under President Obama. Punishing sanctions were placed on Iran to halt its nuclear program. Secretary Clinton globe-trotted to get countries around the world on board with those sanctions.
And yet Governor Pence deftly countered this supposed upper-hand and turned it appropriately to Clinton’s disadvantage.
Yes, Bin Laden may be dead, but we’re not even talking about Al Qaeda anymore. The big terrorist threat on the world stage today is ISIS, a far graver threat than Bin Laden ever was. They have territory and modern American weapons, yes. But perhaps most importantly they have a Caliph. Because of this they are able to recruit homegrown jihadists all over the U.S. and Europe.
And who do we have to thank for this? How did ISIS come to be in the first place? Was it not the bungling of President Obama and Secretary Clinton? Yes indeed!
This is to say nothing of Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea. Pence articulated very boldly and matter-of-factly where we’re at and what’s needed now. In short, Obama and Clinton have made America weak and feckless, thus emboldening bad actors in Putin, the mullahs, Beijing, and Kim Jong-un. Instead of ensuring a lasting peace, this weakness has invited aggression in Crimea, Syria, Iraq, the South China Sea, and elsewhere.
What America needs now is strength. And Trump and Pence have that in spades.
My summary of the 2016 Vice Presidential debate is that Pence won it handily.
Moreover, Governor Pence essentially won the debate by not being an obnoxious jerk.
Pence often smiled bemusedly and shook his head when Senator Kaine insinuated Trump had said and done shameful and outrageous things. Sometimes Pence chose to point out a detail essential to accurately interpreting Trump’s original remarks. Other times he explained how Trump was absolutely in the right in saying or doing just what Kaine had said he did. Still other times, when Kaine’s remarks were so absurd as to be not worth answering – which was very often, mind you – Pence wasn’t afraid of passing entirely. That is to say that Pence did a lot of parrying. But he did it very well, naturally even. And it came across all the smoother because Kaine was so egregiously and unceasingly obnoxious.
I suspect many will be quick to note after last night that Pence’s self-composure by contrast highlights Trump’s lack thereof. And I would agree. We can all wish Trump were so calm and dignified and respectable as Pence. The ticket, the party, and the country will be better off if Trump takes a page from his running mate’s playbook for responding to attacks and insults.
Yet even as it is, Trump picking Pence as VP is a reflection on Trump’s own character as well. Pence’s performance as vice presidential nominee reflects well on Donald Trump as presidential nominee. And I believe it says something of Trump’s own self-awareness that he picked someone in Pence whose temperament balances him out so well. Trump needed someone with more patience, restraint, and dignity, and he found that in Pence.
But hey, don’t take my word for it. Watch a YouTube recording of last night’s debate and let us know what you think.