Pence and Kaine Engage in Spirited Vice-Presidential Debate
By John Ubaldi
Contributor, In Homeland Security
In last night’s vice-presidential debate, both Mike Pence and Tim Kaine spent the evening defending the temperament and judgment of the presidential candidates. During much of the night, Pence and Kaine talked over each other. The moderator lost control early in the debate and never regained it.
Each candidate had a different set of goals going into the debate. Kaine approached the debate as typical vice presidents have in the past. He routinely attacked Pence for all the obnoxious statements by Donald Trump and questioned his temperament for serving as President of the United States.
Pence entered the vice-presidential debate questioning the judgment of Hillary Clinton. Pence discussed her use of a private email server while serving as secretary of state, the role the Clinton Foundation played in her tenure as America’s top diplomat and her stewardship as the architect of the Obama administration’s “feckless” foreign policy.
Mike Pence Scores A Win
Unlike the presidential debate, where Trump and Clinton scored a tie, Pence clearly emerged as the winner of the debate. He made himself look plausible and reinforced the fact that Trump picked a stable, intelligent choice for vice president.
From the outset, Pence was more comfortable and seemed to sense that the real audience was not in the room, but across America. Kaine looked nervous and unsure of himself, forcing himself to be more aggressive in his tone and manner and overcompensating for his nervousness.
Far too often, Kaine came across as the aggressor. He consistently interrupted and talked over Pence with prepared attacks on Trump. But Kaine never gave a vision on what a Clinton presidency would look like or how it would be different from the Obama administration.
The strategy Kaine used was to consistently pepper Pence about all the inflammatory rhetoric from Trump, but Kaine was too antagonistic. He never seemed to unnerve Pence.
Moderator Loses Control of Vice-Presidential Debate
Like other moderators, Elaine Quijano of CBS News was in a difficult position in this vice-presidential debate. But she lost control of the event in its early stages and repeatedly had to interrupt the candidates so they could move on to other topics.
However, Quijano’s attempts to regain control over the two vice-presidential candidates just seemed awkward. Overall, Quijano never got her footing and seemed overwhelmed, often choosing poor questions with little or no detailed follow-up.
American Voters Are Debate Losers
If one is truly looking for winners and losers from this debate, it would be the American people. Like last month’s presidential debate, neither candidate was pressed for additional details with follow-up questions on their proposed policies, especially regarding the economy.
When Quijano asked Kaine questions about the economy, Kaine responded that a Clinton administration would “invest in manufacturing, infrastructure and research in the clean energy jobs of tomorrow. Second thing is we invest in our workforce, from pre-K education to great teachers to debt-free college and tuition-free college for families that make less than $125,000 a year.”
Kaine continued that a Clinton plan would “have a tax plan that targets tax relief to middle-class individuals and small businesses and asks those at the very top who’ve benefited as we’ve come out of recession to pay more.”
There was no follow-up on how Clinton’s economic policies would be different from the economic policies of President Obama. Quijano lost the opportunity to ask Kaine how a Clinton administration would expand Obamacare. Premiums and deductibles are rising at a record rate, with many insurance providers abandoning the healthcare exchanges altogether.
Pence never mentioned trade, either. He remarked that a Trump administration would focus on a reduction in taxes, repeal Obamacare and repeal all the executive orders issued by President Obama, which stifled economic growth.
The one area Pence wasn’t pressed on was Trump’s trade policies. How would our allies react to an “America first” trade policy? Many economists have stated that this type of trade policy would be devastating to the U.S. economy.
What about The National Debt?
Quijano asked both candidates: “According to the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, neither of your economic plans will reduce the growing $19 trillion gross national debt. In fact, your plans would add even more to it.
Both of you were governors who balanced state budgets. Are you concerned that adding more to the debt could be disastrous for the country?”
[Related: Will Clinton or Trump Revive Urban America?]
Both candidates failed to answer this question. Neither Kaine nor Pence addressed the real driver of the national debt: the increase in entitlement spending.
The Congressional Budget Office, a non-partisan group based in Washington, DC, reported in August that the federal deficit will rise to around $580 billion this year. The deficit will continue to rise each year with the increases coming from the entitlement programs of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other healthcare-related costs.
Both Pence and Kaine focused primarily on the raising and lowering of taxes without any mention of how would they reform the entitlement programs. These programs account for over 60% of the federal budget.
Kaine and Pence Fail to Understand The Middle East
Finally, it is obvious that Pence and Kaine lack conceptual knowledge of the Middle East. Both Pence and Kaine followed Trump and Clinton in not fully understanding the situation with Iran and ISIS.
Kaine mentioned that a Clinton administration would start a strategy of defeating ISIS by working with our Arab allies and Israel to develop a plan for defeating the Islamic State. Unfortunately, American allies don’t see ISIS as the real threat in the same way as the U.S.
Our allies in the region view the real threat as Iran. Eliminating the nuclear threat posed by Iran is paramount to their own security.
Kaine mentioned that Clinton has a plan where Trump does not. This statement is true, but her plan is deeply flawed. Our allies have strongly rebuked Clinton for her support for the Iran nuclear deal. Additional support for Iran will alienate these allies even further.
Instead of a nuclear-free Middle East, this deal just delayed the inevitable arrival of nuclear devices. Iran will have a nuclear weapon and other nations are prepared to join the nuclear club to counter Tehran.
For all his bluster, Trump has no plan to defeat ISIS. Pence never articulated a plan to deal with ISIS, either.
With this one and only vice-presidential debate now on the books, there are two more presidential debates to look forward to. Upcoming moderators need to get more aggressive in their questioning and ask detailed, follow-up questions. The stakes are too high for them not to further press the candidates.
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