Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Live-blogging the 2016 vice-presidential debate

I'll be live-blogging the vice-presidential debate here, starting at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

As usual, I'll be writing down quotes on the fly, without a pause/rewind button, so they might not be word-for-word, but I'll try to keep them reasonably accurate, and I may or may not go back later and fix them.

You can find more live-blogging at National Review, TPM, the New American Perspective, and Althouse (my mom).

9:06 — The moderator, Elaine Quijano, asks how they're qualified to step into the job of president at a moment's notice. Hillary Clinton's running mate, Tim Kaine, says she picked him because he's been a missionary, mayor, governor, and Senator — he's "served at all levels of government." He adds that as the father of a son who's a Marine, he "trusts" Clinton as "commander-in-chief," but "the thought of Donald Trump scares [him] to death."

9:08 — Donald Trump's running mate, Mike Pence, talks about his roots, repeatedly using the phrase "small town" and, of course, talking about his experience (like Kaine, Pence has been a governor and a member of Congress). While Pence speaks, Kaine is writing furiously.

9:11 — Kaine is asked why we should "trust" Clinton. He pivots to attacking Trump for "calling Mexicans rapists." "I can't imagine how Governor Pence can defend the insult-driven, selfish, me-first style of Donald Trump."

9:12 — Pence is asked about the perception that Trump is "erratic." Instead of answering the question, Pence starts out negative, blaming Clinton for the situation in Syria and other places. Kaine interrupts to remind us of Trump's praise for Vladimir Putin, and Pence shoots back: "I must have hit a nerve!" They argue about whether this is still Pence's "time" or "open discussion." I don't know that Pence ever answered the question.

9:15 — Kaine condescends to Pence, asking him if he "understand[s]" various facts, such as that Osama bin Laden was alive when Clinton became Secretary of State. (This reminds me of then–Vice President George H.W. Bush condescending to Geraldine Ferraro; she called him out for presuming to lecture her in the 1984 vice-presidential debate.)

9:18 — Pence quotes Bill Clinton's comments, earlier today, that Obamacare is a "crazy" system.

9:19 — Kaine frames the voters' choice as a "you're hired" candidate vs. a "you're fired" candidate. He brings up Trump's bizarre statement during the primaries that "wages are too high." "His tax plan basically helps him" — it's "really a Trump-first plan."

9:21 — Pence brushes off Kaine's "you're hired"/"you're fired" comment by saying Kaine and Clinton "use a lot of pre-done lines." The moderator eventually reminds him of the question she asked a while ago, about Trump's tax returns that were released by the New York Times. Pence says it shows that Trump "went through a very difficult time," and used the tax system "the way it's supposed to be used." Kaine asks how he can know that, since Trump hasn't released his tax returns. Kaine makes an important point: Pence needed to disclose his tax returns to be vetted by Trump, who hasn't even met the standards he applies to his own running mate. Pence also makes a good point by asking if Kaine takes all the deductions he can.

9:27 — In response to a question about Social Security, Kaine says Clinton's main focus would be raising the "payroll tax cap." Pence responds by channeling Ronald Reagan: "There they go again!"

9:31 — On guns, Kaine talks about his experience as Governor of Virginia during the Virginia Tech shooting, which he says could have been prevented with background checks.

9:32 — Pence tells Kaine: "Let me say, at the risk of agreeing with you . . . [painfully long pause] . . . community policing is a great idea." And he says we should "stop seizing on these moments of tragedy" to "demean law enforcement broadly by making accusations of implicit bias." Kaine retorts that we shouldn't be "afraid" to talk about police racism. Pence says it doesn't make sense to see black police officers as biased against blacks.

9:37 — Kaine argues that Trump/Pence will have a problem improving "law and order" given the "tone set from the top" — he reels off a lot of Trump's insults against "Mexicans," "women," John McCain, etc. Pence says that pales in comparison next to Clinton "calling half of Trump's supporters a 'basket of deplorables.'" But Kaine says at least Clinton apologized the next day — Trump never apologized for his comments about McCain last year.

9:45 — Kaine has been regularly interrupting Pence, usually with no comment from the moderator. Yet Quijano chastised Pence for interrupting at one point, and she also told both of them early on that we can't hear either of them when they overlap. I'd like to see a breakdown of how often they interrupted each other, and how often Quijano intervened over the interruptions — Kaine seems to have had virtually free rein to talk over Pence.

9:48 — Kaine yet again repeats Trump's comments about McCain, and connects it to Trump's statement that he knows more than US generals. Kaine says Trump has "a personal Mount Rushmore" of dictators, including Kim Jong-Un and Saddam Hussein. Pence lamely repeats that Kaine is using "prepared lines," and Kaine says: "Let's see if he can defend any of it!" Pence's strategy is clearly to be serious and somber, focus on substance (especially criticizing Clinton and President Obama), and not engage with Kaine's attacks on Trump.

9:54 — Kaine, pointing toward Pence: "These guys say all Mexicans are bad." Ah, but Trump told us in his campaign announcement speech he "assume[s]" some Mexican immigrants are "good people"! (A little after 11:00 in this video.)

9:55 — Quijano has started a new question while Pence is still speaking a few times now. I don't remember her doing that with Kaine.

10:02 — Kaine, again mocking Trump for his comments on Putin: "If you don't know the difference between dictatorship and leadership, then you need to go back to a 5th-grade civics class. I'll tell you what offends me . . ." Pence: "Well, that offends me!"

Bill Scher, a Democrat, comments:

Pence may be winning on style points, but there's no breakout moment here
10:06 — Kaine quotes Reagan warning of a maniac (not his word — I didn't catch it) getting control of nuclear weapons, and says that's what a Trump presidency would be. Pence is appalled: "Senator, that was even beneath you and Hillary Clinton, and that's pretty low!"

10:08 — Kaine says he's asked Pence 6 times to defend Trump, and Pence has refused every time. Pence offers to defend Trump against Kaine's charges "one by one," so Kaine says Trump has said more countries should have nuclear weapons — "Saudi Arabia, Japan, South Korea." Pence flatly denies Trump has said that.

10:11 — Pence starts out his answer to a foreign-policy question by saying he's "just trying to keep up with the insult-driven campaign on the other side of the table!" When Kaine jumps in, Quijano finally tells Kaine: "Senator, please, this is Governor Pence's two minutes." She says essentially the same thing a couple minutes later.

10:14 — Kaine is asked: "What went wrong with the Russia reset?" He simply says: "Vladimir Putin is a dictator!" Kaine approvingly quotes McCain's line from one of the 2008 general-election debates that he looked in Putin's eyes and saw "KGB" (which itself was an allusion to George W. Bush's infamous statement about looking in Putin's eyes and getting "a sense of his soul").

Alex Knepper, who supports Clinton, has been pretty critical of Kaine:
Kaine needs to stop interrupting, like, now. . . .

Kaine is over-playing the bin Laden card. . . .

Enough with the John McCain stuff. Why does Kaine think it is such a killer line?
10:19 — Kaine describes the Trump Organization as "an octopus with tentacles all over the world."

10:23 — The moderator asks when they've struggled to balance their faith with public policy. Kaine says: "The Catholic Church is against the death penalty, and so am I." But he had to sign off on executions as Governor of Virginia in cases where he saw no reason to grant clemency.

10:25 — Pence's answer to the religion question is about abortion, and he pivots to attacking Clinton and Kaine for supporting legal "partial-birth abortion," although he acknowledges that Kaine is "personally pro-life." Kaine responds that the law shouldn't enforce religious tenets; he supports Roe v. Wade; Pence would like to repeal Roe; Trump has said he'd "punish" women for getting abortions. Pence says of course women should never be punished for making the "heart-breaking" choice to get an abortion. Pence also brings up that Kaine supports the current law that federal funding can't be used for abortions — and Clinton would like to repeal that law.

Frank Luntz sums up his focus group: "Kaine is interrupting too much. The focus group wants the moderator to lay down the law and shut him up until it’s his turn.”

10:34 — Pence's closing statement: "The best way we can bring people together is through change in Washington, DC." Sounds like Obama '08.

That's all. Alex Knepper (who, again, supports Clinton) gives his assessment:
Final Grades: Pence: B; Kaine: B-; Verdict: Wash
Cinzia Croce, who supports Trump but was "not a Pence fan" before the debate started, says this (co-blogging in the same post as Alex Knepper):
[Pence] was superb tonight. Whoever prepared him for the debate needs to help Trump for the next debate. Kaine . . . was nervous and seemed too focused on getting out the talking points he was given. I give Pence an A+ and Kaine a C+. And the moderator gets an F.
Rich Lowry, the editor of National Review, agrees with Cinzia Croce:
If Trump had been half as good as Pence last Monday, the race might look different right now
My overall assessment: Kaine was very annoying, and Pence was soothing by contrast. They both went very negative against the other side's nominee (while being gentle toward each other as individuals), but Kaine's negativity was more grating. Kaine cleverly made Pence look weak for not defending Trump — although Pence also seemed sympathetic for often not being able to get a word in. Kaine might have scored more points. But Pence might have helped Trump's campaign more than Kaine helped Clinton's, because Trump so badly needed Pence's serious, presidential tone.

It was hard to get through this whole thing without once accidentally writing "Paine" — that I can tell you!


Shane said...

Very nice job and analysis. Thank you.