Indiana Gov. Mike Pence won Tuesday night’s vice-presidential debate hands down and, in doing, not only vanquished his opponent, Sen. Tim Kaine, but also made the man at the top of the GOP ticket, businessman Donald Trump, appear decidedly unpresidential.
What impressed us about Pence, with whom we disagree on many issues?
He remained calm, and he was respectful of Kaine. And he largely treated the debate as if it were a debate – not an extended episode of “The Jerry Springer Show.”
In contrast, Kaine came off as rude, snarky and, at times, juvenile. He repeated some of his lines about Trump’s xenophobia, insults of women, admiration of Russian strongman Vladimir Putin, and refusal to release his taxes so many times, we wondered if a parrot was inhabiting the body of Hillary Clinton’s running mate.
Loyal soldier that he is, Kaine likely was following the script of the Clinton campaign. But in doing so, he soiled his reputation as a thoughtful leader capable of bringing people of different political stripes together for the betterment of our country.
Kaine’s attack-dog performance, which was underpinned by memorized sound bites, helped Pence appear to be a cool hand in stormy waters. And it made Kaine appear to be the more desperate of the candidates, even though Clinton leads Trump in the polls and has an easier route to winning the 270 Electoral College votes she needs to become president.
It was unfortunate for voters – especially those who weigh policy in marking their presidential ballot – that both vice-presidential candidates ducked many of the questions posed by moderator Elaine Quijano.
Both talked about “safe zones” for civilians in war-ravaged Syria without providing an inkling of how they would be set up. Both talked about saving Social Security without offering plans. Neither addressed our nation’s spiraling federal debt in a meaningful way.
And it must be said that, when pressed for a defense of Trump’s many outrageous statements, assaults on decency and policy shortcomings, Pence simply didn’t engage or dealt with them in as few words as possible. This silence was more indicting of Trump than most everything Kaine said in the debate.
The experts tell us that vice presidential debates barely – if at all – influence the election of a president. And despite Pence’s solid performance at Longwood University in Farmville, Va., Trump’s biggest hurdles remain Trump himself, his half-baked ideas, his repudiation of long-held American ideals and his fear-mongering.
With President Barack Obama terming out, the economic recovery failing to reach the poor and middle class, and many Americans fed up with Washington, D.C., politicians in general, 2016 brought genuine promise of a Republican outsider or even a Republican insider occupying the White House. Trump has nullified many of those factors favoring the GOP.
Pence might have helped the Republican ticket with his stellar performance in the lone vice-presidential debate. Without question, he helped his own presidential ambitions in the years ahead.