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The Case for Change — The VP Debate

Can we just lament that these two men aren’t on the top of their respective tickets?

First of all, can we just take a minute and lament that these two men aren’t on the top of their respective tickets? Neither Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine nor Indiana Gov. Mike Pence has an enviable job — defending woefully unfit presidential candidates — but both played the way they had to. Kaine went on defense by playing offense, attacking Donald Trump rather than advocate for Hillary Clinton. It was an effort to lose the battle and win the war. On the other hand, Pence brought a positive message of change and fixing disastrous policies, making his ticket far more appealing. In our estimation, the clear winner was Pence.

Kaine was a repetitive, pre-packaged talking-points machine with half a stump speech ready to recite no matter what question was asked. He was, as Jonah Goldberg wrote, “smarmy and smug, condescending and rude.” Pence called it part of an “insult-driven campaign” and an “avalanche of insults” — after all, Clinton called millions of Americans a “basket of deplorables” — and, in response to those insults, he noted Trump’s primary appeal: “He’s not a polished politician like you and Hillary Clinton.”

The “discussion” format only helped Kaine in his tactic of constantly interrupting Pence with those talking points. He repeatedly brought up Donald Trump’s tax returns or mean things Trump had said (often distorting those things but getting the sense of them correct), and he made laughably false assertions about Hillary Clinton’s record. Overall, Kaine’s strategy from open to close was to paint Trump as a racist and a maniac and to tie him around Pence’s neck. Trump makes this far too easy, and Pence couldn’t rebut many of Kaine’s attacks. But Pence did an admirable job of making the case for American strength in foreign policy, Rule of Law concerning our borders and law enforcement, and an economy that rebuilds our nation after eight years of leftist tax-and-spend policies.

We’ll break down the debate into five general areas and sum them up.

Foreign policy

About Kaine’s most laughable assertions: He summed up Clinton’s record as having killed Osama bin Laden, stopped Iran’s nuclear weapons program, reduced Russia’s chemical and nuclear weapon stockpile, and brought American troops home.

Pence ably parried that bin Laden led al-Qaida and that the threat today is the Islamic State, which Clinton and Barack Obama practically created by refusing to negotiate a status of forces agreement to keep American troops in Iraq. The latter wasn’t George W. Bush’s fault or decision, as Kaine followed Clinton’s lead in falsely asserting; it was Obama’s and Clinton’s fault for putting politics ahead of national security. Clinton’s actual record on foreign policy is a disaster, and Pence nailed it.

A lot was said about Trump’s praise of Vladimir Putin. This is an obvious weakness for Trump, but Pence turned it around on Clinton’s foolish and failed Russian “reset.” He also offered one very effective line: Saying that “the small and bullying leader of Russia has been stronger on the world stage than this administration … is stating painful facts. That is not an endorsement of Putin. That is an indictment of the weak and feckless leadership of President Obama and Hillary Clinton.”

Immigration

On a topic that was inexplicably left out of the first presidential debate, Pence made the case that immigration reform boils down to three things: First, securing the border; second, prioritizing deporting criminal aliens; and third, enforcing the law when it comes to employment and visas (roughly half of all illegals are visa overstays). He called “comprehensive reform” Capitol Hill wordplay that’s effectively a bait-and-switch for amnesty. As for deportation, Pence noted that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is our “deportation force,” and that ICE recently made the unprecedented step of endorsing Trump. Kaine made the issue a false contrast between Democrats’ compassion and Trump’s mass deportation of Mexicans whom he’s labeled “rapists and criminals.” Anything to paint Trump as a hater.

Economy

Before there was even a question about the economy, Pence highlighted it in his opening statement, saying, “We’ve seen an economy stifled by more taxes, more regulation, a war on coal, and a failing health care reform come to be known as ObamaCare, and the American people know that we need to make a change.” Moreover, he added, “Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine want more of the same” — more taxes, more regulations and an expansion of ObamaCare.

Kaine not only didn’t rebut this, he practically certified it. He rolled out the same old leftist playbook — “invest” in infrastructure and manufacturing, offer “free” college tuition, enforce “fairness” via minimum wage and equal pay, and nailing America with tax hikes. And he had the temerity to insert “promote small business growth” in a list of things that will destroy small businesses. Furthermore, just as Clinton did last week, Kaine falsely blamed the Bush tax cuts for the 2008 financial crisis. Those tax cuts had nothing to do with it. The recession was caused by Bill Clinton’s easy mortgage lending policies.

Trump’s taxes

As we noted, Kaine incessantly beat this drum all night long, but Pence effectively answered the false claim that Trump hasn’t paid taxes by noting Trump’s greatest strength: “Donald Trump is a businessman, not a career politician. He actually built a business.” And “he used the tax code just the way it’s supposed to be used.” Everyone in this country works to pay the least amount of taxes they’re legally obliged to pay. For Democrats to imply otherwise is nothing more than their typical fomenting of class envy among the half of Americans who don’t pay income taxes.

Clinton scandals

Finally, unlike the first presidential debate, last night began and ended with questions and discussion about Clinton’s character and trustworthiness because of her email and Foundation scandals. In his opening statement, Kaine asserted, “We trust Hillary Clinton.” And he argued that her entire life spent in public service has “always been about putting others first.” We don’t know about you, but we laughed out loud.

Pence hit a home run with one line: “If your son or my son [both in the military] handled classified information the way Hillary Clinton did they’d be court-martialed.” Just so.

In summation, both of these men are better suited to lead the country than either Clinton or Trump, but that’s not the decision before the American people. Kaine jettisoned his nice-guy reputation in service of the only thing that will get Clinton elected — making Trump unpalatable. Pence didn’t waste time trying to defend Trump, focusing instead on making the case that it’s time for change. Maybe Trump will take his cue for the next debate.

(For perspective on the debate from Dick Morris, who was Bill Clinton’s chief campaign strategist, click here.)

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