Election 2016: Tim Kaine Challenges Mike Pence to Defend Trump During VP debate  

Vice presidential nominees Mike Pence and Tim Kaine
Photos courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Written by Sarah Toy

Sarah Toy
BU News Service

Seeking to capitalize on Hillary Clinton’s debate performance last Monday, Senator Tim Kaine repeatedly challenged his rival Governor Mike Pence to defend Donald Trump’s controversial statements and refusal to release his taxes during the vice-presidential debate last night.

Kaine pounced on the comments Trump made about Mexicans during the announcement of his campaign, referring to them again and again. Throughout the night, he kept a running list of Trump’s many controversial statements going, trying to goad Pence into saying something indefensible about his candidate.

Pence didn’t bite; he stayed calm. He denied the worst accusations, he dodged, or he diverted attention away.

When moderator Elaine Quijano asked Pence whether it seemed fair to him that Trump said he brilliantly used the laws to pay as little tax as legally possible, Pence told the audience, ”What you all just heard out there is more taxes,” before launching into a critique of Clinton’s economic policy.

When pressed again about Trump’s taxes, Pence said that Trump “is a businessman, not a career politician.”

“But why won’t he release his taxes?” persisted Kaine.

“It’s a business thing,” Pence said.

During the segment on terrorism, Kaine barraged Pence with Trump’s stances on the military and NATO, ending with how he once said the world would be safer if more nations had nuclear weapons.

“Did you work on that one a long time? Because that had a lot of creative lines in it,” Pence quipped, before diverting to the topic of American safety.

Pence was not on the defensive the entire time. He fervently attacked Clinton’s use of a private email server, saying that if his and Kaine’s sons had handled information that way, they would have been court-martialed. Both their sons are Marines.

Pence also attacked the Clinton Foundation, criticizing her meeting with donors while she was secretary of state.

“The reason the American people don’t trust Hillary Clinton is because they are looking at the pay to play politics that she operated with the Clinton Foundation through a private server,” he said.

The debate grew heated several times, with both men talking over each other. At one point, Quijano admonished them both.

“Gentlemen, the people at home cannot understand either one of you when you speak over each other,” she said.

The candidates discussed how they balanced their faith and public policy positions. Kaine is Catholic, and Pence is an evangelical Christian.

Pence spoke about the “sanctity of life,” saying that “a society can be judged by how it deals with its most vulnerable, the aged, the infirm, the disabled, and the unborn.” He condemned partial abortions and advocated non-abortion alternatives such as adoption.

Kaine said women should be able to make their own reproductive decisions.

“I think it is really, really important that those of us who have deep faith lives don’t feel that we could just substitute our own views for everybody else in society, regardless of their views,” he said.

The vice presidential candidates veered sharply when it came to law enforcement and race relations. Pence adopted a more diplomatic tone than his running mate, acknowledging the country needed to do better in correcting institutional bias in the criminal justice system. “What Donald Trump and I are saying is let’s not have the reflex of assuming the worst of men and women in law enforcement,” he said.

Pence said people should stop using a “broad brush to accuse law enforcement of implicit bias or institutional racism.”

In response, Kaine said that “people shouldn’t be afraid to bring up issues of bias in law enforcement,” citing Philando Castile’s case.

“If you’re afraid to have the discussion, you’ll never solve it,” he said.

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