Veepmania 2016: Armageddon: Pence versus Kaine: The Battle For Air Force Two!

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:

Lloyd Bentsen puts down Dan Quayle

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:

  1. “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.'” []
  2. Because of this picture? Maybe. But more likely this commercial. []

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43 thoughts on “Veepmania 2016: Armageddon: Pence versus Kaine: The Battle For Air Force Two!

  1. Mike Pence’s actual beliefs might not be to my taste or preference but they are certainly hotter and spicier than vanilla. I see him more as Mexican chili chocolate ice cream. Kain is a vanilla Democratic politician though.

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  2. The crosstalk is making me hate both of them.

    I mean, did Kaine look at how Trump interupted constantly and say ‘wow great idea!’

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      • Vox seems to think that if this were a debate for a Senate seat in Ohio, Pence would have won in a landslide.

        Vox (via someone else’s tweet) theorized that Kained is sincerely running for Veep and Pence is running for President in 2020.

        Kevin Drum and Slate think Kaine scored good points.

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        • The Vox quote sounds about right. If you score the debate by who came out looking better, it was easily Pence. If you score it by who helped their campaign more, it’s easily Kaine. The story for the next 3 days will be:

          1. Video of Kaine saying something
          2. Video of Pence saying “Not true” or shaking his head
          3. Video of Trump or Pence doing what Kaine said

          Kaine comes off looking like an a-hole, but he helped his ticket.

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        • I agree with (I think it was) Silver that Kaine will probably win the post debate spin, as the facts Pence did peddle were somewhat short on truthiness and Pence was too many times ask to defend indefensible (i.e Trump statements) for him to handle them all.

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  3. I like that one candidate saying to another candidate, “You are wrong to compare yourself to that other person,” was pushing the envelope. How quaint!

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  4. Interesting to see all the National Review posts talking about how Pence won while admitting that he couldn’t defend Trump or the campaign’s vision. These things really are a beauty pageant. I especially liked this conclusion from Jim Geraghty:

    You could see it in the immediate post-debate commentary predicting that the fact-checkers will rip apart Pence for his seeming obliviousness to Trump’s more incendiary statements. Of course, those fact-checks have to dominate the post-debate discussion. We couldn’t have Kaine’s insufferable interjections and Pence’s confident performance dominate the news cycle for the rest of the week, now could we?

    Yes, it’s a real shame the MSM is going to focus on Pence’s lies and omissions instead of Kaine’s rudeness. Maybe a couple more years in the wilderness will be good thing for these guys after all.

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  5. Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaawn

    I was a jujitsu class. My time was spent more wisely.

    Although the NPR summary and “selected voter” discussion of folks from AZ had an interesting point. Both seemed to agree on keeping Syrian refugees out. “If we can’t vet them, we won’t let them in”. Since we can’
    t, team HRC and team Trump agree not to let them in. Consensus, even in these troubled times. Woot democracy.

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  6. I was wise to do other things, evidently.

    The NPR post-mortem this morning was an interesting editorial choice: a panel of Catholic voters in Arizona. They seemed equally divided on the proper role of faith guiding the actions of public officials. But it also seemed like one voter out of those four found enough solace in Pence’s positions to overcome her distaste for Trump.

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    • Slate and Vox believe Pence won the debate but only by lying and distancing himself from Trump. I believe that Vox said Pence threw Trump under the bus.

      Arizona was always likely red. 538 has Ohio back as more likely than not Democratic and Iowa is lightly red but now back to toss-up after a few weeks of likely being Trump but a safe margin. Florida is getting more solidly Democratic closer to election day.

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      • Slate and Vox believe Pence won the debate but only by lying and distancing himself from Trump. I believe that Vox said Pence threw Trump under the bus.

        I didn’t watch the debate and haven’t read any reports of the “who won and why” variety, but I’ll throw this judgment out anyway: the only measure of who won the debate as it pertains to the general election is restricted to one thing: figuring out which way the vote-gathering needle moved. From that perspective, Pence’s lying and distancing might actually get more votes for Trump than doing the opposite (or anything else, perhaps), in which case his performance should be regarded as a success. And by that measure, he won if he did a better job of gaining votes than Kaine did.

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  7. I saw polling showing that people liked Pence more, but thought Kaine had a better command of the issues. Which I think shows both people had different goals – Pence was acting like he was unaware of this Donald Trump person that was running for President and acting like generic Republican while Kaine was on the job trying to make multiple ads for the Clinton team by contrasting Trump & Pence.

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  8. The whole thing did provide some justification for the belief that a Trump Presidency would have him as a figurehead, with the actual policy work done by Pence and the Cabinet.

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  9. Air Force Two should have been the sequel to Air Force One. Harrison Ford has to fight his way through terrorists to save his VP Glenn Close. Tell me that wouldn’t have worked.

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    • I guess — if they were going to do it today, though, it’d be a new POTUS/VPOTUS. And the VP would fight her way out of the terrorism threat on her own, while no one knows what’s happening with the President. I’m thinking Michelle Rodriguez, maybe, or Julianne Moore.

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    • The plot of Air Force Two is that the Veep has to get to the funeral of a former British foreign secretary because if he doesn’t … the widow will be very disappointed.

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