Truly I have a hard time imagining a whole lot of excitement or interest in watching Mike Pence (a pleasant enough, standard-breed conservative-but-not-crazy Republican) debate Tim Kaine (an amazingly nice, standard-breed just-left-of-center Democrat) tonight. Neither of them are particularly comfortable as attack dogs for their respective top-level candidates; Pence because he so obviously finds carrying water for Trump distasteful and Kaine because he so obviously is uncomfortable with throwing punches in the first place.
It promises to be as combative as Reverend Lovejoy and Ned Flanders debating whether there should be a regular four-way stoplight at the end of Evergreen Terrace, or if Springfield ought to pay extra for one with those left-turn arrows, too.1
You want a good Vice Presidential debate, with a meaningful contest of policy ideas? Then you surely yearn for the halcyon days of Paul Ryan versus Joe Biden. Good discussion there between two smart guys with mutual regard for one another and points to make. I enjoyed that discussion because it was worthwhile on both ends; it left me feeling more confident that whoever won, the guy who was waiting in the wings if Something Bad Happened was going to be fine.
You want an entertaining Vice Presidential debate? Joe Biden again, this time versus Sarah Palin. In my mind’s eye, that was the national debate most similar to the Presidential debate we watched last week: there was suspense about when Palin was going to jam her foot in her mouth past the ankle and if Biden was ever going to lose his cool. I experienced actual suspense there. Actually (and just a bit disappointingly), it didn’t turn out all that awful. Palin did demonstrate, once and for all, that she was simply not ready for prime time. Biden’s real task was trying to seem like he was taking her seriously enough to indicate respect, and then just letting “Winky” be herself.
You want a Vice Presidential debate that actually makes a difference in the election? Bentsen-Quayle, October 5, 1988. The best political zinger ever. The Dukakis team had just about had it up to here with Dan Quayle going around being all good-looking and young and stuff and comparing himself to John F. Kennedy. So they armed Lloyd Bensten with the rhetorical equivalent of napalm slug in his forensic shotgun:
It was a very real, very painful hit to George H.W. Bush’s election chances, too. We forget, because Bush eventually did win2 that for quite a while, 1988 was Michael Dukakis’ election to lose. This short, riveting moment may well have been when Bush was his very most vulnerable; it called his judgment in selecting Quayle as his running mate, and the rhetoric the Bush-Quayle campaign had indulged in up to that point into serious question.
But tonight? Tonight promises to be predictable and anodyne. Neither Kaine nor Pence give me the heebie-jeebies about what they’d do holding the place of Clinton or Trump should they cease to be President for whatever reason. Neither strikes me as (noticeably) corrupt, crazy, or anything other than specimens of their respective parties that are thoroughly unobjectionable to the mainstreams of those parties, and at least minimally unobjectionable to the large bulk of the country. Couple of white dudes with white hair and good law degrees, each about a decade older than me.
If you’re junkie enough to watch this, I’m here to enable you. Feel free to post comments about the debate in this thread. As for me, tell me about it in the morning: I’ll need something to amuse me on the train.
Image by -Jeffrey- Notes:
- “What the hey, Reverend, if we’re in for a penny we’re in for a pound! Am I right, neighbors?” “Ned, it’s just like Proverbs 32:27: ‘And Lord did sayeth to Jebediah, yea, my people already know to yield before turning left so just relaxeth already.'” [↩]
- Because of this picture? Maybe. But more likely this commercial. [↩]