Veep debate: Pence unable to defend Trump outrages
GOP veep candidate Pence (on right) had a hard time trying to explain away numerous outrages by Trump. | Steve Helber/AP

In the Vice Presidential debate last night, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence mirrored all of Donald Trump’s anti-worker, anti-minority, xenophobic and misogynistic claptrap.

He advocated cutting taxes for the rich, rolling back regulations on corporations, ending “the war on coal,” ending ObamaCare, building a wall “deep underground and high in the air” between the U.S. and Mexico, making abortions illegal and preventing immigration from Syria and other middle Eastern countries.

He also “accused” his opponent, Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, of being in cahoots with Hillary Clinton in a plot to create a single-payer health care system in the U.S.

However, unlike Trump, Pence’s demeanor and the language he used were calculated to not ruffle the feathers of old-style right wingers. He proved he is Trump without a baseball cap.

Commentators got the impression that Pence was actually trying to show GOP power brokers that he would make a more acceptable canndidate than Trump in 2020.

Tim Kaine also demonstrated something about himself. He proved that, despite what friends and foes alike have said, he is not a pushover.

Kaine repeatedly called Pence out.

So much so that after the debate, some pundits said Kaine had been annoying. But they also said he was right not to let Pence off the hook when he denied that Trump had made outrageous statements that the entire nation knows he made.

For example, Pence denied Trump had said that Japan, Saudi Arabia and South Korea should be given nuclear weapons. He also denied that Trump ever said that if abortions became illegal women who got them should be punished.

Kaine appealed to fact checkers to check the tapes of widely televised interviews in which Trump had said those things.

Along with pointing out when Pence lied, Kaine – even if he was a bit too feisty — was correct in pointing out when Pence ducked questions about rebuilding the economy.

What’s more, Kaine countered Pence’s vagueness with “[a five-component plan] Hillary and I have … on the table.”

Kaine continued, “First thing we do, is we 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 …

“Third, we promote fairness by raising the minimum wage, so you can’t work full-time and be under the poverty level, and by paying women equal pay for equal work. Fourth, we promote small business growth …

“And, fifth,” Kaine concluded, “we have a tax plan that targets tax relief to middle- class individuals and small businesses and asks those at the very top … to pay more.”

Pence worked hard to establish his right-wing credentials. | AP
Pence worked hard to establish his right-wing credentials. | AP

Pence’s racism

Pence’s racism was starkly evident when the discussion turned to current tensions between police officers and African American communities.

Pence said “… to accuse law enforcement of implicit bias or institutional racism … that really has got to stop.”

Kaine countered that “ … people shouldn’t be afraid to bring up issues of bias in law enforcement. And if you’re afraid to have … the discussion, you’ll never solve it.”

Pence’s racism also came to the surface when he spoke about the plans he and Trump have to ban immigration to the U.S. from certain areas of the world.

He tried to defend his program barring Syrian refugees from settling in Indiana. It was tough to do because the day before the debate the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals had struck it down as unconstitutional.

Furthermore, Pence had no come back and was reduced to just shaking his head when Kaine said “Donald Trump always puts himself first. He built a business career, in the words of one of his own campaign staffers, ‘off the backs of the little guy.’”

Pence continued to shake his head but had no choice other than to keep his mouth shut when Kaine nailed him for voting against raising the minimum wage when he served in Congress and for attempting to pass a bill that would have put Social Security funds at risk by privatizing the program.

As a U.S. Representative, Pence was best known for his many attempts to defund Planned Parenthood and to take away from women their right to make choices about their own healthcare.

Kaine hit Pence hard for his attacks against women and workers, but LGBTQ organizations and activists lamented that Clinton’s running mate missed the opportunity to spotlight the Indiana governor’s long-running campaign against LGBTQ people.

Speaking of Pence’s so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 2015, an op-ed in The Advocate characterized last night’s debate as “insulting” to the LGBTQ community. The article said, “Mike Pence helps create an atmosphere in which we are the targets, in which we are not safe…Pence ought to be confronted about whether his policies and rhetoric bear any responsibility for breeding a culture of homophobia and transphobia.”

A number of businesses in Indiana have also spoken out against the law, which legalizes discrimination based on sexual orientation, feeling it could negatively effect investment and business in the state.

At the end of the debate, Kaine said both he and Clinton agree with Pence that “you should live fully and with enthusiasm the commands of your faith.”

“But,” he said, “it is not the role of the public servant to mandate that for everybody else. I think you should live your moral values. But the last thing, the very last thing that government should do is have laws that would punish women who make reproductive choices.”

The debate was held at Longview University in Farmville, Virginia.

Kaine said “This is a very special [town]. Sixty-five years ago, a young, courageous woman, Barbara Johns, led a walkout of her high school, Moton High School. She made history by protesting school segregation. …

“I am so proud to be running with another strong, history-making woman, Hillary Clinton, to be president of the United States.”


Larry Rubin
Larry Rubin

Larry Rubin has been a union organizer, a speechwriter and an editor of union publications. He was a civil rights organizer in the Deep South and is often invited to speak on applying Movement lessons to today's challenges. He has produced several folk music shows.