Global Affairs, U.S. Politics

VP Debate: Kaine, Pence argue over whose running mate is more belligerent

Tonight’s vice presidential debate between Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine (D) and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) was fairly drab for the most part.

Besides the usual partisan shots about which “charitable” foundation is shadier, Clinton’s or Trump’s, Clinton’s private e-mail server and Trump’s never-ending string of insults, the debate’s portion on foreign policy stood out.

This was because of Pence’s repeated disavowal and denial of Trump’s positions and, more importantly, the candidates’ shared support for ramping up war in the Middle East and confrontation with Russia.

Pence’s denials

Here are just a few of the Trump positions Pence claimed were distortions by his political opponent:

  • His remark that Putin was a “stronger leader” than President Obama, a claim which was Pence defended less than a month ago.
  • Pence thought Kaine’s assertion that Trump belittled NATO was laughable, but this is a position Trump has taken repeatedly .
  • Pence supports a no-fly-zone over Syria, which the Washington Post says “goes far, far beyond Trump,” who has been generally coy about his strategies for the region.
  • He called for the “denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,” which strongly contrasts with Trump’s entertaining the nuclearization of Japan and South Korea to counter North Korea.
  • Near the debate’s beginning, Trump’s running mate called the Clinton-Kaine campaign an “avalanche of insults.” Trump has referred to his opponents as “Crooked Hillary,” “Lyin’ Ted,” and “Little Marco” against countless other petty insults.

A consensus of hawkishness, at home and abroad

When Pence called for the aforementioned no-fly-zone against Syria to demonstrate “American strength” against Russia, Kaine couldn’t agree more, demanding a “safe zone” from which the U.S. could bomb Assad and the Russian army with presumed impunity.

Kaine also boasted of Clinton going “toe-to-toe with Russia” as Secretary of State, in an apparent attempt to paint her as promoting a more aggressive foreign policy than Trump-Pence.

“Everyone wants war. So many choices,” observed independent journalist Rania Khalek on Twitter.

In terms of domestic policy, both candidates agreed on the necessity of “community policing,” which as Alice Speri of The Intercept observed, has a nice ring but is a completely vacuous term that does nothing to change the fundamental relationship between cops and communities of colour.

“True community policing is one that puts the community first, and not just in the occasional town hall meeting: giving civilians oversight over their police departments, including a say over legislation regulating law enforcement and access to serious accountability processes,” writes Speri. It goes without saying that this was not on the table during the debate.

There was an awkward moment when the debate’s penultimate question was regarding abortion. Pence is passionately opposed to female reproductive rights. Kaine is too, but believes women should be convinced not to get abortions, rather than compelled by law.

Like all Veep debates, this one is unlikely to change anyone’s minds. Trump supporters will think Pence won and Clinton supporters will believe Kaine was victorious. I’d say it was a draw, but I doubt anyone cares.

Stay tuned for the next presidential debate, which will be the second of three, on Sunday at 9 p.m.

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