Pence bests combative Kaine at veep debate
Vice presidential candidates Sen. Tim Kaine and Gov. Mike Pence sharply attacked each other’s running mates in a contentious debate in which Kaine called Republican Donald Trump “a maniac” and Pence parried with scathing critiques of Democrat Hillary Clinton. The event at Virginia’s Longwood University was marred by cross-talk—Kaine frequently interrupted the Indiana governor, whose controlled demeanor offered a stark contrast to his often incendiary running mate. The Virginia senator zeroed in on Trump’s volatile temperament, saying that as the father of a son in the U.S. Marine Corps, “the thought of Donald Trump as commander in chief scares [me] to death.” Kaine condemned the businessman for questioning President Obama’s citizenship and recited a litany of Trump’s insults against women and minority groups. Pence met Kaine’s salvos by shaking his head, accusing Democrats of running an “insult-driven campaign” before he pivoted to attack Clinton. He blasted her use of a private email server as secretary of state, and called her “the architect” of a “weak” Obama administration foreign policy that had fueled the rise of ISIS.
At times Pence departed from his running mate on policy. When Kaine brought up Trump’s frequent praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Indiana governor advocated a tougher stance against Russia, calling Putin a “small and bullying leader.” Postdebate polls showed Pence had the best night: 48 percent of voters said he won the debate in a CNN/ORC survey, compared with 42 percent for Kaine. But 58 percent of the respondents said Kaine did a better job of defending Clinton, while 35 percent thought Pence had done a better job defending Trump.
What the editorials said
If Trump could make the case for Trump half as well as Pence does, he’d “be well on his way to the White House,” said The Wall Street Journal. The governor, a former radio talk show host, was cool and likable, offering substantive critiques of Clinton’s record and deftly dodging Kaine’s attempts to corner him into defending Trump’s indefensible rhetoric. Vice presidential debates rarely change a campaign’s course, but if Trump learns from this one, he might stop his slide in the polls. If not, “the election will essentially be over.”
The Trump that Pence talked about “does not exist,” said The Washington Post. Pence presented the GOP nominee as “a Reaganesque supporter of muscular foreign policy, small government, and traditional Christian values.” To create that fantasy, Pence waved away Trump’s promise to deport millions of undocumented immigrants and his labeling of NATO as obsolete. He insisted that Trump would be “strong” and counter Russian aggression, sidestepping the fact that Trump has cozied up to the autocratic Putin. “It was as if he were defending the running mate he wished he had.”
What the columnists said
Pence didn’t just defeat Kaine, “he also outshined Trump,” said Steven Shepard in Politico.com.In our survey of 48 GOP insiders, “each and every one” said Pence delivered a better debate performance than Trump’s disastrous first encounter with Clinton—and many wish they could flip the ticket. Whether Pence moved the needle in 2016 remains to be seen. But if Trump loses, the governor may have vaulted to the top of the GOP field for 2020.
Will Republicans really rally behind someone who has such a loose relationship with the truth? asked Jamelle Bouie in Slate.comAgain and again, Kaine confronted Pence with direct Trump quotes in which the Republican nominee called Mexicans “rapists and criminals”; described women as “slobs, pigs, dogs, and disgusting”; and said women who have abortions deserve “some form of punishment.” Each time, Pence ignored the comments “or denied them outright, shaking his head and giving the audience a look of smarmy incredulity.” If he “won” this debate, it’s only because “he was shameless about denying reality.”
“Pence’s denials will be fact-checked all week, and that will hurt Trump,” said Jonah Goldberg in NationalReview.com. As for the usually affable Kaine, my guess is that the Clinton campaign asked him to take one for the team. “He was annoying, smug, condescending, and shrill.” But he got all the Clinton talking points out there, likely energizing the Democratic base and keeping Trump’s flaws in the news cycle for another week. “In that sense, Kaine won—or at least his loss was Hillary’s gain.”
It wasn’t all bad
■When a Florida dad in the U.S. military found out he was being deployed to Afghanistan for 100 days, his family decided to make the holiday season come early. While Cathy Clendennin took husband Al out for a massage, their three teenage children put on costumes for a surprise Halloween, followed by a three-months-early birthday party for their dad. Christmas morning followed, with a Thanksgiving turkey topping off the weekend. “He felt so bad that he didn’t have any presents for us,” says Cathy, “but it was enough just to all be together.”
■It was almost a wedding-day disaster: Just hours before Ontario bride Jo Du was due to walk down the aisle, the zipper broke on her dress. Panicked members of the wedding party rushed to a nearby house to ask for a pair of pliers. To their surprise they discovered that the neighbor had recently taken in a family of Syrian refugees, and that the father, Ibrahim Halil Dudu, had worked as a tailor in Aleppo for 28 years. Halil Dudu grabbed his sewing kit and quickly repaired the dress. “I was so happy,” he said. “I like to help Canadian people from my heart.”
■Ella Scott was sitting with her dad in a Monterey, Calif., restaurant when she noticed a homeless man outside. Thinking he must be hungry, the 8-year-old took him her plate of food. Her dad, Eddie, posted a video of the heartwarming gesture to Facebook, where it has been viewed more than 44 million times—including by the homeless man’s sister, Roseanne Salkowski. Her brother, a veteran with PTSD, had disappeared six months earlier, and she was overjoyed to discover he was still alive. Eddie Scott is now working to reunite the siblings. “What Ella did,” he said, “has touched so many people.”