Digesting the Pence-Kaine VP Debate

Kaine was clearly not playing to win for himself.  He was playing to damage Mr. Trump by spitting out as many of Clinton’s talking points as he could regardless of the responses and, in that, he was arguably somewhat successful. Pence to be sure handled most of these with aplomb, when he was able to get a word in edgewise.  But the real point is that Kaine aggressively and successfully put all of these and much more out there for the 40 million viewers to hear one more time – often at the expense of Pence being given a chance to make his own points. A pretty sleazy and corrupt tactic, but also a true window on the kind of presidency the nation would see from a Clinton-Kaine administration.

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By Gary Hoitsma | October 8, 2016

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The Vice Presidential debate between Gov. Mike Pence and Sen. Tim Kaine illustrated a stark contrast in campaign tactics and governing styles between the two sides in this year’s presidential election contest.   To say who was the winner begs the question:  What exactly do we mean by “winning.”

Pence was calm and deliberate, competent, authentic and likeable.  Kaine seemed excitable and petulant, at times robotic, rude and quite a bit less likeable.  Pence quite effectively fought off over 70 interruptions aimed at him, and parried about 60 pointed lines of attack aimed quite deliberately at Mr. Trump.

It is not surprising that the conventional Washington wisdom concluded that Pence won the debate in the abstract—especially in the sense that the average onlooker would probably be more likely to vote for him on the likeability factor alone – all things being equal – than for Mr. Kaine.  But the conventional wisdom here is somewhat deceiving, since Kaine was clearly not playing to win for himself.  He was playing to damage Mr. Trump by spitting out as many of Clinton’s talking points as he could regardless of the responses and, in that, he was arguably somewhat successful.

Consider some of Mr. Kaine’s sharpest lines that only mirror the talking points repeatedly put out by the Clinton campaign machine and their friends in the media.

IIMMIGRATION: Trump “called Mexicans rapists and criminals… and says all Mexicans are bad.” (Repeated 4 times)

WOMEN: Trump “called women slobs, pigs, dogs, disgusting.”

AFRICAN AMRECIANS: Trump “said African Americans are living in Hell.” (Repeated 2 times)

BIRTHER CONTROVERSY: Trump “pursued the discredited and outrageous (and bigoted) lie that President Obama wasn’t born in the United States and is not a U.S. citizen.” (Repeated 3 times)

TAX RETURNS: Trump “is not releasing his taxes and not paying his taxes…How can you support the troops if you won’t pay taxes? (Repeated 4 times)

CLINTON FOUNDATION: “The Clinton Foundation is one of the highest rated charities in the world . . . It is a non-profit, and no Clinton family member draws and salary.”

TRUMP FOUNDATION: “The Trump Foundation is an octopus-like organization with tentacles all over the world whose conflicts of interest could only be known if Trump would release his tax returns.”

IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL: Hillary “worked …to (stop and) eliminate the Iranian nuclear weapons program without firing a shot.”  (Repeated 7 times)

NUCLEAR WEAPONS: Trump “believes the world will be safer if more nations have nuclear weapons.” (Repeated 2 times)

PUTIN: Trump “praised Vladimir Putin as a great leader…He said Putin is a better leader than Obama.” (Repeated 4 times)

Pence to be sure handled most of these with aplomb, when he was able to get a word in edgewise.  But the real point is that Kaine aggressively and successfully put all of these and much more out there for the 40 million viewers to hear one more time – often at the expense of Pence being given a chance to make his own points.  A pretty sleazy and corrupt tactic, but also a true window on the kind of presidency the nation would see from a Clinton-Kaine administration.

Just for fun, shall we do one fact check of the sort you will never see in the media?   The Clinton campaign repeated says – as noted above – that Trump called illegal immigrants from Mexico “rapists.”  And if you go to the media transcript of Trump’s announcement speech of June 16, 2015 (there was no official Trump transcript), you will see the words in black and white.  According to the transcripts offered by the media, Trump said, “THEY’RE rapists.” (Emphasis added.) But in fact, the transcripts are wrong.  What Trump actually said was, “THEIR rapists.”  A big difference in context and meaning. No doubt what Trump was referring to was the Mexican government’s complicity in the horrible conditions in which members of the Mexican drug cartels were trafficking in the illegal immigration flows from that country. See this headline and article from the pro-Clinton Huffington Post (9/12/14): “80% Of Central American Women, Girls Are Raped Crossing into the U.S.”


Gary Hoitsma served as special assistant to Ray Barnhart during Barnhart’s tenure as Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration, under President Ronald Reagan and is a former aide to U.S. Senator James Inhofe (R-OK). Mr. Hoitsma is a contributor to SFPPR News & Analysis.