52 things I learned from the vice-presidential debate

by John English
by John English

Let’s see how the Battle of the Bland Dads Vice-Presidential Debate goes.

1. Heh. Moderator Elaine Quijano starts out by name-dropping Lloyd Bentsen, reminding all of us that a VP debate could contain an eternal moment.
2. Kaine’s humbled to be here. So’s Pence. These two seem so gosh-darn reasonable.
3. Kaine asked to defend Hillary’s trustworthiness; Pence asked to defend Trump’s insults.
4. Kaine interrupts Pence three times. Looks like this is the new normal. Whoever interrupts more is seen as the winner.
5. Kaine has a few zingers ready to go, and Pence calls him on it.
7. Quijano points out that neither tax plan will cut the growing $19 trillion deficit.
8. Kaine says their plan will create tuition-free college for families making less than $125,000 a year.
9. As soon as Pence tries to talk, Kaine just interrupts and interrupts. And interrupts.
10. Kaine says they’ll protect Social Security, says Pence was “chief cheerleader” to privatize Social Security. Kaine has a hundred buzzy zingers in his head and they’re all coming out.
11. Quijano really, really wants to get to all of her questions, but they talk over her as she tries to move on.
12. Pence has this way of ignoring the question and just giving the answer to what he wishes the question was.
13. They’re talking about law enforcement, and Kaine uses that as an excuse to repeat all of Trump’s greatest insults (he called women slobs, pigs, etc.).
14. On immigration, Pence says the Clinton/Kaine plan is amnesty, open borders, sanctuary cities, and so forth. Says ICE endorsed Trump. (They didn’t; it was the National ICE Council.) Then he does this incredulous thing where he brushes aside Trump’s insults and says all of it if true isn’t a fraction as insulting as Hillary calling half of Trump supporters a basket of deplorables. Says Clinton’s running the insult campaign. Meanwhile on Twitter, Trump retweets someone comparing Kaine to a Batman villain.
15. (Those beady eyes, arched brows, dimpled cheeks… he ain’t wrong…)
16. Kaine says Trump believes in making America a deportation nation. Hey, look, another totally unscripted zinger. He says they want to go door to door, house to house, school to school to kick out 16 million people, at which point Pence interrupts to say that’s nonsense.

18. Topic changes to terrorism. Kaine says terror threat has decreased because Bin Laden is dead, because Iran’s progress toward a nuclear weapon has been stopped, because there aren’t as many US troops in the Middle East. Says Hillary’s the best candidate to fight terror because she was a New York senator on 9/11. Kaine says Trump loves dictators, has a Mt. Rushmore of personal favorites in Putin, Kim Jong-Un, (Pence: “Oh please.”), Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein.
19. When Kaine is finally done, Pence says “Did you work on that one a long time?” Pence says it’s “inarguable” that the world is less safe now than it was when Obama first took office. Pence goes to share his own 9/11 story, and Kaine even interrupts that.
21. Kaine: “Hillary and I want to do enforcement based on, are people dangerous? These guys say all Mexicans are bad.” Pence: “That’s absolutely false.”
23. Pence wants to talk about cyber security but Quijana really wants to move on to Syria now.
24. No context for this exchange – Kaine: “That is absolutely false and you know that.” Pence: “Absolutely true.”
26. Quijano: “Senator Kaine, Governor Pence, please.”
27. Pence says Hillary’s Russian reset led to Russia invading Ukraine and taking over Crimea. Calls Putin small and bullying. (Trump must be livid.)
28. Kaine: “Donald Trump, again and again, has praised Vladimir Putin.”
29. Kaine is going on about Trump not paying taxes, and Quijano reminds him the question was about Aleppo.
31. Pence says Trump supports the trooCROSSTALKps. Kaine says he doesn’CROSSTALKt pay taxes, so he must not suppCROSSTALKort the troops. Pence asks KaCROSSTALKine if he takes deductions.
33. Kaine wants CROSSTALK about the Iranian CROSSTALK and Pence CROSSTALK Reagan and CROSSTALK Middle East. Kaine says Trump’s a madman. Pence says that’s beneath him.
36. Pence says Kaine boycotted Netanyahu’s speech.
38. “…ransom payment…”
40. Kaine says Trump suggested Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Japen should get their own nukes. Pence says he didn’t say that. (Does pence purposefully avoid listening to anything Trump says so he can have plausible deniability?)
41. Kaine says Hillary will stand toe-to-toe with Russia. Trump’s too pro-Putin. Trump should release his tax returns.
42. Pence: “This isn’t the old days where you can just say stuff and people believe it.” Huh.
44. Now they talk about the Clinton Foundation vs. the Trump Foundation. Fact-checkers can vet what they said because they describe two alternaCROSSTALKte universes.
45. They have a very nice exchange of ideas on abortion – Kaine is for, Pence is against – that is respectful and articulates their positions.
46. Kaine says Trump said there should be punishment for women who get abortions. (Trump did say that, walked it back the next day.) Then Kaine says the Trump-Pence plan is to punish women, which is false.
48. Kaine brings up that Trump called Mexicans rapists and criminals again, and Pence says “you’ve whipped out that Mexican thing again.”
50. Kaine: Hillary can reach across the aisle.
51. Pence: Trump’s entire career has been about building.
52. And we’re done.

My goodness, that was painful. I could feel my stress levels rising from all the interruption and crosstalk. I wanted Quijano to just stop the debate and make it very, very clear that this constant interrupting will no longer be tolerated.

Mike Pence won. Hillary Clinton won. Tim Kaine lost. Donald Trump lost.

Pence won on style, and he might have calmed some fears from some conservatives who still can’t fathom that Donald Trump is the Republican nominee. Pence sent sginals that hey, he’ll be sitting next to Trump, helping with the decision-making. Of course, he also described Trump in ways that just aren’t Trump.

Kaine lost on style. He sacrificed his likeability in the name of getting out all of his catch-phrases and zingers and just repeating over and over all of the bad things Trump has said over the years.

Hillary Clinton won, because the debate provided more fodder for TV ads, showing Pence saying he or Trump didn’t say things they’ve said. More reinforcements that they have a problem with truth-telling. Pence didn’t overwhelmingly win; it was more a modest victory.

Donald Trump lost, because he did say most of those things Kaine said he did, context be damned, and Pence didn’t defend Trump so much as refused to answer or counter. Pence showed Trump “Hey, this is what you look like when you actually prepare for a debate.” It’s really all up to Trump in the second debate.

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