Missed the Kaine & Pence US Veep Debate? Here’s the Cheat Sheet

While not the display of bombast we expect from Trump VS Clinton, the Veep Debate nonetheless contained some gems.

7 min read
Senator Tim Kaine and Governor Mike Pence go head-to-head. (Photo: AP)

If you thought the US veep debate was going to be a boring yet probably important event to keep track of, I feel you.

The Quint has braved the droning, superfluous intros to this debate to bring you the key points that you should care about, minus the inconsequential waffling.

To give you an idea of what to expect, Trump’s VP pick Mike Pence is tasked with attempting to reverse one of Trump’s worst polling weeks after a widely-accepted loss to Hillary Clinton in their first debate, and will try to push the agenda for ‘change’ against the establishment.

Meanwhile, Clinton’s VP pick Tim Kaine is expected to capitalise on the momentum of the first debate and keep the focus on Trump’s unreleased tax returns, his record of sexist behaviour, and possibly hit on points of ideological difference between Pence and Trump. Let’s wade in.

Kaine VS Pence: The Gloves Come Off

Kaine was on the attack, repeatedly interrupting Pence, to the extent that moderator Elaine Quijano of CBS News had to call him to order.

The two traded barbs back and forth, with both getting in some substantive points. Kaine was clearly on the offensive in both substance and demeanour, bringing the discussion repeatedly back to Trump and his gaffes, his record with women, and his policy weakness. Pence was on the defensive and refused to offer point-by-point rebuttals, but held his guard, getting in jabs at Clinton over the Clinton Foundation and her role in the Syria conflict and the rise of ISIS.

Here are some of the themes and points of argument that emerged.

Missed the Kaine & Pence US Veep Debate? Here’s the Cheat Sheet

Pushing the theme of change and the promise to ‘Make America Great Again’, Pence began with a lament about America’s role in the world and the decline in its relative power.

Missed the Kaine & Pence US Veep Debate? Here’s the Cheat Sheet

Kaine went all-in on the Trump angle, bringing up his numerous offensive comments made on the campaign trail: “As a candidate, he started his speech calling Mexicans rapists and criminals."

On the Economy

Missed the Kaine & Pence US Veep Debate? Here’s the Cheat Sheet

Saying that the current administration had almost doubled the national debt, Pence made the case for a Trump-Pence ticket putting American workers and American manufacturing first.

Missed the Kaine & Pence US Veep Debate? Here’s the Cheat Sheet

Pence wasn’t about to let that zinger go unacknowledged, quipping: “I appreciate the ‘you’re hired, you’re fired’ thing, you’ve used that one a lot.”

On Trump’s Tax Returns

Of course, the question of Trump’s unreleased tax returns came up, with Kaine bringing up Trump’s comments about him having been ‘smart’ to avoid paying taxes.

Pence came to his defence clearly in this instance, saying, “Trump is a businessman, not a career politician like you or Hillary. We have a tax code designed to encourage entrepreneurship.”

Kaine got in a rebuttal, pointing out that “Governor Pence had to give Donald Trump his tax returns to prove he was qualified for the vice presidentship. Donald Trump must release his to the public.”

Law Enforcement and Race Relations

A biggie this election is the state of race relations in America, particularly in the context of police brutality against the black community.

Missed the Kaine & Pence US Veep Debate? Here’s the Cheat Sheet

‘Stop and frisk’ refers to the practice of police officers conducting random stops and searching citizens for weapons and contraband. The Clinton-Kaine ticket argues that the practice reveals implicit racial biases in police forces, leading to disproportionate numbers of Latinos and African-Americans being stopped and incarcerated.

Missed the Kaine & Pence US Veep Debate? Here’s the Cheat Sheet

Defending the men and women in law enforcement, Pence argued that police officers have a very difficult job and rushing to blame them for institutional racism was unfair.

On Immigration

Missed the Kaine & Pence US Veep Debate? Here’s the Cheat Sheet

Hitting Pence on immigration reform, Kaine referenced the fact that both himself and Pence were born of immigrant parents and argued for a more compassionate approach to managing illegal immigrants.

Missed the Kaine & Pence US Veep Debate? Here’s the Cheat Sheet

Pence in his rebuttal focused on the threat to national security posed by refugees and illegal immigrants, citing cases in Europe where terrorist attacks had been carried out by people who came in as refugees.

On Fighting Terrorism

Missed the Kaine & Pence US Veep Debate? Here’s the Cheat Sheet

In a blistering attack on Trump, Kaine played the ‘fascist’ card, capitalising on Trump’s alleged financial ties with Russia and Putin.

He also gave a rundown of his ticket’s plan to defeat ISIS: “Hillary Clinton’s plan to defeat ISIL: Take out leaders, disrupt financing networks, disrupt ability to recruit on internet and safe havens, work with allies to share intelligence.”

Missed the Kaine & Pence US Veep Debate? Here’s the Cheat Sheet

Pence laid the blame for ISIS squarely at the current administration’s door, in particular on Clinton’s role in facilitating its rise.“ISIS was conjured up out of the desert and was able to overrun areas that American forces had control of.”

Interestingly, neither Pence nor Kaine responded at all to the moderator’s question on how each of them planned to deal with the problem of homegrown terrorists, choosing instead to batter home their relative points on dealing with terrorism abroad.

On Syria

Questioned about mass casualties in Syria, Pence delivered a response conspicuous for its masculinist tones, possibly to offer a contrast to Clinton’s more consultative brand of diplomacy.

USA needs to exercise strong leadership to protect vulnerable citizens in Aleppo. The small and bullying leader of Russia is now dictating terms to the USA. We need strong, broad-shouldered American leadership. Donald Trump will rebuild our military and inject American strength in the world [...] American needs to immediately establish safe zones. Provocations by Russia need to be met by American strength.

Kaine expressed disbelief in the line of attack on Putin, saying that Donald Trump has “again and again praised Putin. It’s clear he has business connections with Russian oligarchs. Donald Trump has said Putin is a better leader than Obama.”

On the Clinton Foundation

This was one of the most effective lines of attack by Pence, given that a large part of the American public’s distrust of Clnton comes from the belief that she is hugely corrupt - a belief that is often tied to the activities of the Clinton Foundation.

“The Clinton Foundation accepted tens of millions from foreign governments and foreign donors,” was the thrust of Pence’s attack.

But Kaine came well-prepared.

The Clinton Foundation is one of the highest-rated charities in the world. Gets higher rankings for charity than the American Red Cross. The State Department did an investigation and concluded that Clinton acted in the interests of the US as Secretary of State. Compare this to the Trump Organisation, whose conflict of interest can only be known if he releases his tax returns. The Trump Foundation is not a non-profit.

On Personal Faith and Abortion

Asked how their personal faith would affect their policy decisions, Pence, speaking about abortion, said:

Missed the Kaine & Pence US Veep Debate? Here’s the Cheat Sheet
The idea that a child that was almost born can have its life taken away is anathema to me. So many families can’t have children, we could help these families by welcoming children into the world.

Kaine delivered a defence of Roe VS Wade, saying he supported the constitutional right of American women to make their own decisions about pregnancy.

Missed the Kaine & Pence US Veep Debate? Here’s the Cheat Sheet
We trust American women with that. We don’t think they should be punished for making a decision to have an abortion. Pence has said he wants to put Roe VS Wade on the ash-heap of history. I believe you should live your values, but I think the last thing a government should do is punish women for their choices.


Senator Kaine came out all guns blazing, possibly in an effort to break out of his ‘nice, generic guy’ image. Kaine made Trump a major theme of attack, repeatedly asking Pence how he could defend specific Trump comments and policies. Pence often dodged these questions or equivocated, and focused instead on elucidating Trump’s policies. Kaine was aggressive in his interruptions, having to be called to order by the moderator more than once.

Governor Pence landed some punches on Clinton, particularly on the Clinton Foundation, but he didn’t capitalise on the email scandal as much as he probably could have, and rather than pressing the attack, gave Kaine the opportunity to rebut by mentioning that the FBI itself had chosen not to prosecute . He did, however, hit Clinton on her role in Iraq and Syria and on the rise of ISIS.

Interestingly, news channels and analysts have said that Pence might have come out best in the debate, but that he did it by distancing himself from Trump, while Kaine’s performance was all about the unity between him and Hillary Clinton.

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