Democratic vice-presidential nominee Sen. Tim Kaine, left, answers a question as Republican vice-presidential nominee Gov. Mike Pence listens.
AP Photo
Democratic vice-presidential nominee Sen. Tim Kaine, left, answers a question as Republican vice-presidential nominee Gov. Mike Pence listens.

VP Debate: Pence Wins on Style; Kaine on Substance

Steve Russell

We are unlikely to see another William Henry Harrison, the old Indian fighter who was elected on the strength of his defeat of Tecumseh’s Rebellion and served for 30 days, 12 hours, and 30 minutes before passing the office to his VP, John Tyler.

We hope never to see another John F. Kennedy, struck down by an assassin with his agenda mostly unfinished, an agenda that fared well with his VP, the legislative bone crusher Lyndon B. Johnson.

However, the reality is that the winner of the Trump-Clinton smackdown will be either the oldest (Trump) or the second oldest (Clinton) POTUS in history. Trump and Clinton are also the most unpopular pair ever to face off for the office, and each has enemies that are completely irrational.

Trump has taken entertainment value to a whole new level in politics this year, so the VP debate was bound to suffer by comparison. Historically, the highest rated VP debate was between Sarah Palin and Joe Biden; the lowest pitted Al Gore against Jack Kemp. Even though none of those four candidates became POTUS, they all cut a swath through the history of their times.

Playing Tonto to Trump’s and Clinton’s Long Ranger are Indiana Governor Mike Pence for Trump and Virginia Senator Tim Kaine for Clinton. Both have solid resumes but neither is likely to overshadow the top of the ticket.

Pence was selected to be a moderating influence on Trump, to make mainstream Republicans comfortable. He earned a B.A. in history from Hanover College and a law degree from Indiana University at Indianapolis. Pence is indeed moderate in style, but his substance is vintage Tea Party.

Pence was a climate change denier until September 27, 2016, when he appeared to change his tune without explanation. He favors a flat tax and favors having a debate about a return to the gold standard. He opposed President Obama’s economic stimulus package even after it was watered down and he opposed the bail-out of the U.S. auto industry.

Pence carried 90 bills during his 12 years in Congress without passing one.

As Governor of Indiana, Pence got national notice for signing a bill to encourage discrimination against gay people under the guise of religious freedom, and for quickly backing down as businesses began to cancel projects in Indiana (proving himself more sensible than Gov. Pat McCrory of North Carolina). Pence has also been on the losing end of court battles over his efforts to prevent Syrian refugees from settling in Indiana.

Kaine earned a B.A. in economics, summa cum laude, from the University of Missouri and a law degree from Harvard. He has served on the Richmond, Virginia city council and as mayor. He served as Lt. Governor of Virginia from 2001 to 2005, when he became Governor. He was Chairman of the Democratic National Committee from 2009 to 2011 and was elected to the Senate in 2012.

Kaine’s early legal career was dedicated to litigating open housing issues. His election as mayor was a bit of a shock, since the mayor is selected by the majority-black city council and there had not been a white mayor in over a decade.

Kaine has had a couple of “scandals.” He spent $6,000 in public funds to charter busses for the anti-gun violence Million Mom March. After an outcry, he reimbursed the city from private donations. He was attacked in his run for governor for 10 years of free work as court appointed lawyer for a death row inmate.

Kaine and Pence—unlike Trump (Presbyterian) and Clinton (Methodist)—are both overtly guided by their religious faith. Both were raised Roman Catholics, but Pence converted to the sort of evangelical Protestantism that aspires to rule by Christian mullahs. Pence brings his religion into policy full force; Kaine takes the John Kennedy view that he is not running for Pope.

Elected to the Senate after the legislative lockdown the Republicans imposed to keep President Obama from doing anything, Kaine would not have much chance to pass legislation. His work has focused on working with Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio to found the Career and Technical Education Caucus. In 2014, he and Portman sponsored legislation to appropriate $500 million to high schools for CTE programs.

Kaine spent time as a missionary in Honduras, where he became fluent in Spanish. He’s the rare non-native speaker in the same league as Jeb Bush, who speaks clear and excellent Spanish with a Mexican colloquial flavor.

The moderator was Elaine Quijano of CBS.  Trump promised to live tweet the event, but the talking heads were unanimously of the opinion he would only do it with a “minder.” The GOP website put up an evaluation that Pence won decisively—an hour before the debate started. It was taken down before Quijano kicked off the festivities.


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Story should be re-titled,

100IndigenousAmerican's picture
Submitted by 100IndigenousAm... on
Story should be re-titled, "Vice Presidential Resumes, life experiences and debate minutes". Pence had no style, thing that stood out was his fake smile, Kaine was nervous at the beginning as he was measuring Pence. Elaine Quijano politely let Pence ramble off topic. The whole thing revealed nothing and questions were not about revealing critical thought abilities but a rehash of old topics and a typical structuring of old questions. Pence answered Kaine and not the moderator on almost all questions. Alternating questions to both candidates would have made more sense. Folks, it was about the money for PBS and never about giving us all the information to keep the two party system. It left me liking simple with integrity – Gary Johnson.

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William Henry Harrison
Lyndon B. Johnson
Sarah Palin
Joe Biden
Jack Kemp
Gov. Mike Pence
Sen. Tim Kaine
Gov. Pat McCrory
Sen. Rob Portman
VP Debate
Vice President Debate