Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

2016 Vice Presidential Debate: My Assessment

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Last night (October 4, 2016), I watched the vice presidential debate between Democratic VP candidate Tim Kaine and Republican VP candidate Mike Pence. It was a contentious affair, where both candidates interrupted each other over and over again…but who did better, and why?

My thought process tends to go like this:

If you are a regular member of the GOP, you probably liked how Mike Pence behaved last night. Pence seemed thoughtful in certain respects, and certainly came off as a far more serious candidate than his running mate, Donald Trump. Pence understood enough about national security that he didn’t have a “what is Aleppo?” moment (a la Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson), and his domestic policy credentials are sound.

However, if you are a Democrat or left-leaning Independent, you probably did not like what Pence had to say. While Pence is undoubtedly more serious-minded than Trump, most of Pence’s domestic policy relies on two things: Cut taxes, and anti-abortion rhetoric. Both of these have been hallmarks of the GOP for years, and Pence is no different in this regard. Pence did make a case for his faith informing his public policy that seemed authentic, and I’ll give him points for that; however, the fact that his faith seems to tell him that LGBT individuals don’t seem to have the same rights as straight ones, and that women can’t choose what to do with their own bodies with regards to making the toughest choices of all — staying with a tough pregnancy or terminating it — is definitely antithetical to most D or left-leaning Indy voters.

Now, if you are a member of the GOP or a right-leaning Indy, you probably did not like much of what Tim Kaine had to say. Kaine was much more fiery than I’ve ever seen him, and seemed almost apoplectic at the thought of a Trump Presidency. (For which, to be honest, I cannot blame him whatsoever.) The policies Kaine discussed — immigration, for example, where he believes we must find a solution to the millions of undocumented immigrants (otherwise known by the GOP as illegal aliens) — are not ones you’re likely to rally around, even if you admire his Christian faith and moral values.

Though small-c conservatives may indeed admire Kaine’s passionate advocacy for upholding the law, even when Kaine’s faith has led him elsewhere. (Kaine used the example of the death penalty in Virginia. He does not like the death penalty at all, but as Governor, he upheld its use, as that’s the law of his state.) Kaine said it’s important to remember that we’re a country that separates Church and State for a reason, and implied that we must use our brains and hearts to make better public policy all the way around. (This is something that perhaps small-c conservatives and mainline Ds or left-leaning Indys can agree with, or use to find common ground.)

Kaine didn’t talk much about what he’d do, beyond supporting Hillary Clinton; then again, Pence didn’t talk much about what he’d do, either. (Then again, how much can you do as a VP? Joe Biden and Dick Cheney aside, most VPs just don’t do much.)

But from a D or left-leaning Indy perspective, what Kaine did was outstanding. Kaine did not take what Trump has said lying down; instead, Kaine used Trump’s own words to make the case as to just how bad a President Donald Trump would be. (Mike Pence did not do this as well, to my mind, in trying to show how bad a President Hillary Clinton would be from Pence’s perspective.) Kaine’s stance on immigration reform is up-to-the-minute, compassionate, and careful. Best of all, Kaine regularly challenged Pence’s assertions, even though in doing that he interrupted over and over again; fact-checkers at MSNBC and CNN today have said that Kaine’s assertions were factual, whereas Pence (like his running mate, Trump) often said things that made absolutely no sense. (Such as this whopper: “We’ve never said Vladimir Putin is a strong leader,” when both Pence and Trump have said just that.)

To my mind, the winner of the night, on facts, was Kaine. But the winner of the night as far as style was Pence.

In other words, it was a draw, of sorts…which is par for the course for these VP debates.

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Written by Barb Caffrey

October 5, 2016 at 10:43 am

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