Ross Perot’s VP nominee and Medal of Honor recipient Admiral James Stockdale made an opening statement in the 1992 Vice Presidential Debate that summed up not only Vice Presidential debates but the Vice Presidency generally. “Who am I, why am I here?”
The first question on many Americans minds prior to Tuesday’s debate was similar: “Who are Mike Pence and Tim Kaine?” The question after the debate ended, however, was whether Pence won or Kaine lost.
Pence seemed calm and focused, a stark contrast to Trump, who seemed erratic and unprepared. When Pence was questioned about Trump, he brought up Clinton’s private e-mail server and the Clinton Foundation and defended Trump without going into the weeds about Trump’s personal financial history.
He did an effective job of countering Kaine on terrorism, Iran, the police, and responding to charges of running an insult-driven campaign. There is no denying that Trump has said some awful things during his campaign, but Clinton is the last person who has any moral authority to call him out on it. In addition to the “basket of deplorables” comment, she also identified Republicans as “the enemy she is most proud of.“ Pence did not do a good job in countering claims regarding Trump’s admiration for Vladimir Putin.
For his part, Tim Kaine could not stop interrupting. He tried to portray a world that was safer from terrorism than it was eight years ago. Kaine reverted back to the killing of Osama Bin Laden over and over again as proof that Hillary Clinton knows how to fight terrorism. He tried to paint Iran as benevolent nation that has been contained by the deal signed between Iran and the P5+1 powers. Additionally, he also attacked Trump for saying that “African-Americans are living in hell” while also saying that police are biased against minorities. Kaine finished off the debate by twisting himself into a moral pretzel on abortion.
The criticism Trump has received on Putin and Russia has been well deserved, but the idea that Hillary Clinton is Winston Churchill jumping up and down in the back of Parliament warning about the rise of Hitler is just as absurd. The fact that Hillary “lodged protests” when Russia invaded Georgia in 2008 was Kaine’s evidence that she will be tough on Putin. When asked what went wrong with the Russian reset, Kaine said “Vladimir Putin.” If Putin was the problem, why did Hillary trust him in the first place?
Mike Pence came out on top in the battle to see who the number twos. If Donald Trump can copy Pence’s calm and collective demeanor, he has a real shot at winning in November. If he does not, then Pence’s win will not matter.