Vice Presidential Debate Preview


The media villagers have settled on their meme for tonight’s vice presidential debate: Nice guys Kaine and Pence square off in VP debate.

PenceTrumpThis is yet another example of a lazy media’s undying devotion to false equivalency.

I’m sorry, but anyone who knows anything at all about the record of Mike Pence knows that he is not a “nice guy,” but rather a religious right extremist. This is why Donald Trump selected him as his running mate, to shore up his support among the evangelical religious right. Pence is the guy the religious right really wants.

Trump should keep this in mind should he be elected president, and increase his security detail. He is just “God’s vehicle” to get Pence in the door of the White House.

Steve Benen takes a look at Mike Pence’s record in To see Mike Pence as ‘normal’ is to grade on a generous curve:

[I]n one important area, Pence has the advantage of being perceived as a mainstream pol. Politico published a piece yesterday that characterized tonight’s vice presidential debate as “Battle of the Normals,” and a “sane moment” in a campaign cycle that’s often seemed insane.

It looms as the most normal political encounter of this paranormal political year: two middle-aged career politicians, experienced legislators and governors, debating for 90 minutes over their sharp but presumably civilized policy differences on the issues of the day.

There’ll be no Donald Trump-style invective. No Bernie Sanders ideological fireworks. No crowded field of GOP contenders vying to outdo each other for one good sound bite or memorable attack. Just two conventional pols reverting to form.

On a certain level, I can appreciate where analysis like this is coming from. As a matter of tone and temperament, Mike Pence is hardly scary: the governor is a mild-mannered, soft-spoken Midwesterner. Unlike the man at the top of the GOP ticket, no one would ever expect Pence to start tweeting at 3 a.m. about his disgust for a beauty-pageant contestant and encourage Americans to seek out a “sex tape.”

But to shift one’s focus from tone to policy is to see one of the most extremist politicians to seek national office in over a generation.

Let’s circle back to our coverage from July for a minute . . .[B]efore Pence became governor, he was a longtime member of Congress – which means we can turn to the DW-Nominate statistical system to get a better sense of the Indiana Republican’s ideology. And the data shows puts Pence well to Paul Ryan’s right.

In the 107th Congress (Pence’s first, covering 2001 and 2002), for example, out of 435 members of the U.S. House, Pence ranked #428 – meaning that 427 members were to his left, putting the Hoosier on the far-right-wing fringe. The results were roughly the same in the 108th Congress and the .

By the 110th Congress, Pence was at #432, putting him to the right of nearly everyone in the chamber. The results were roughly the same in the 111th Congress and the 112th.

Let’s put this another way: during his congressional career, Pence wasn’t just more conservative than Paul Ryan. His voting record also put him to the right of Michele Bachmann, Todd Akin, Steve King, and even Louie Gohmert. That’s not an exaggeration. Bachmann, Akin, King, and Gohmert all had voting records less extreme than Mike Pence.

The problem is the gap between perceptions of Mike Pence and his actual record. To use Politico’s phrasing, the Hoosier is seen as “normal” and “conventional.” But on a substantive level, we’re talking about a politician whose claim to fame is an anti-LGBT law that did real harm to his state. Pence is a climate denier. He rejects the idea that cigarettes are deadly. He doesn’t believe in evolutionary biology, but he does support “conversion therapy.”

Long after it was obvious Iraq didn’t have weapons of mass destruction, Pence was still insisting that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Soon after, when the Bush/Cheney administration pushed partial privatization of Social Security, the Indiana Republican was outraged – because he said the plan wasn’t nearly right-wing enough. In 2011, just a few months after the GOP took control of the U.S. House, Pence’s big idea, to the annoyance of his party leaders, was to shut down the federal government.

Pence also once accused Disney of hiding political propaganda in an animated film to convince people that women can serve in the military.

By most sensible standards, Mike Pence has earned a reputation as an extremist. If this guy is what passes for “normal” and “conventional” in Republican politics in 2016, standards have shifted in a politically unhealthy direction.

It seems that the media villagers have already forgotten that Mike Pence was a deeply unpopular governor in his state and he faced certain defeat in November if he ran for reelection. Indiana GOP to Trump: Take Mike Pence, please:

Pence meets Trump’s stated needs — a veteran Washington insider who could shepherd Trump’s agenda through Congress, where he rocketed to prominence as a member of the Republican leadership. He also fulfills desires from national GOP elites: unflappable message discipline and a bridge to social conservatives and top-dollar GOP donors.

It also makes for a good fit for Indiana Republicans, who are ready for Pence to go after a tumultuous first term in Indiana that has opened up a chance for Democrats to claim the governor’s office. If that means sending Pence on the road with Trump, all the better.

Removing Pence from the governor’s race, several senior Indiana Republican officials, aides and operatives said, would allow the state GOP to escape from the turmoil of years of social battles over same-sex marriage and religious freedom.

If elected vice president, Pence could inflict his brand of religious right extremism on the national stage and do for the country what he did for Indiana.

D.R. Tucker at the Political Animal blog says “I wouldn’t be surprised if the hyper-conservative Indiana Governor makes a Trump-sized fool of himself at the VP debate.” Vice Squad:

I wouldn’t be surprised if the hyper-conservative Indiana Governor makes a Trump-sized fool of himself at the VP debate, which will be held at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia. Pence is perhaps the least intellectually gifted Republican ever chosen to be number two on a GOP ticket–and yes, that includes Dan Quayle and Sarah Palin.

* * *

One wonders if Democratic vice-presidential nominee Tim Kaine will embrace Hillary Clinton’s give-him-enough-rope-and-he’ll-hang-himself approach with Pence. The Indiana ignoramus will inevitably confuse and confound viewers with his efforts to defend Trump’s indefensible actions, rhetoric and positions.

HillaryKainephotoFrom a certain perspective, Pence has lost the debate even before it has begun. On the same stage with the warm and charismatic Kaine, the stiff and awkward-mannered Pence will remind viewers of the famous line from the 1983 Styx song “Mr. Roboto”: You’re wondering who I am…Machine or mannequin…

Once Pence flatlines, viewers will wonder why Trump made this odd choice. Common sense would dictate that Trump would try to find a running mate who could come across as a personable, semi-normal figure, not a sour-tempered hack. Granted, such figures are, like common sense, in very short supply in the GOP–but it appears that Team Trump didn’t put that much effort into making their VP pick.

Hopefully, Elaine Quijano will do a much better job of moderating this debate than Lester Holt did last week, and will press Pence on facts when he inevitably starts lying. If Quijano turns in a Holt-style performance, it will represent nothing short of a betrayal of democracy; it is a moderator’s job to insist upon facts, to prevent bald-faced balderdash from going unchallenged, to demand that candidates tell the whole truth and nothing but. If Quijano allows herself to be intimidated by pro-Trump activists, she will deserve history’s scorn.

However, if Quijano does her job, then Pence will be the only one bearing the brunt of history’s hostility. He will whine loudly when Kaine presses him on his denial of the risks of smoking, his years of gay-bashing, his alliance with the Koch Brothers. He will shamelessly demonize Kaine and Hillary Clinton. He will come across as a man who is every bit as obnoxious, every bit as irritating, every bit as dishonest as the demagogue who tops the GOP ticket. In other words, he will lose.

Remember to write your letters to the editor after tonight’s debate.


  1. As Lt Barney Greewald would have paraphrased from,”The Caine Mutiny”, “Listen to the testimony, Pence never even heard of Trump!” He denied he and Trump ever said anything about anything, except Mom, Apple pie and, the flag. No Putin, nothing about women anywhere, nothing about the disabled or veterans, He never heard of Trump!

  2. Pence is a raging bigot and a major league creep.

    The funny thing about Pence’s ties to the Koch’s? The Koch’s have donated over 1.4 million copies of Ayn Rand’s novels to schools.

    They’re big fans of Ayn and Ayn Rand was a devout atheist who held the very idea of god in contempt.

    How much of a good follower of Jebus could Pence be, if he has ties to a couple of racist billionaires trying to indoctrinate children to hate religion?

    The modern GOTeaP… a walking, talking oxymoron.

    • “The modern GOTeaP… a walking, talking oxymoron.”

      Or, possibly, a complex individual who can work with people holding a very different view of things in order to get thiungs done. You know, the much admired guy who can “reach across the aisle to get things done”.

      • If one side is unaware of the real positions and motives of the other, they are not a “complex” anything, they are not working together, they are just being used.

        Most Christian conservatives have no idea who the Koch brothers are or what they stand for, they’ve been locked inside a right wing echo chamber for so long they’ll believe anything anyone calling themselves a conservative says, without a moment of critical thought.

        You have climate deniers/chemtrails/Agenda 21/truther/birther conspiracy nuts and even crazier people who have created the Donald Trump candidacy.

        You yourself seem to think Clinton is the Godmother of some massive criminal syndicate, when she’s just a politician, no more or less corrupt/truthful than any of them on either side of the aisle, if you’d bother to dig a little.

        The monster has come back to the castle to kill Doctor Frankenstein.

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