The liberal metric for judging the first debate was clear: “Anybody who complains about the microphone is not having a good night,” Hillary Clinton said after the debate. The comment came after Donald Trump pointed out that his microphone was faulty, which prevented people in the room from being able to hear him. It turned out that Trump was right – the Commission on Presidential Debates confirmed that “there were issues” with his audio.
And now we have the liberal metric for judging the vice presidential debate, courtesy of the Washington Post: “[Kaine] was taking one of rate team, essentially, playing the role of attack dog and making himself look less attractive in order to help the ticket.”
If that’s what the Clinton campaign was going for then they absolutely knocked it out of the park. John Wagner reports separately for the Post:
At the vice-presidential debate here Tuesday, however, Kaine turned in a performance that threatened to undermine the image of authenticity that has been one of his greatest strengths.
The senator from Virginia came across as over-rehearsed, often interrupting his Republican opponent, Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana, with points Kaine had already made several times earlier in the debate. At times, Kaine simply seemed to be trying too hard.
Kaine’s interrupt-at-all-costs strategy was so ridiculous that he broke into Mike Pence’s recollection of being in Washington on 9/11 to add that he was “in Virginia where the Pentagon’s [located].”
Of course, that wasn’t what they were going for.
Clinton already had a monopoly on over-rehearsed and robotic speeches, they didn’t need on overeager Kaine delivering groan-worthy lines (“You are Donald Trump’s apprentice…Do you want a ‘you’re hired’ president in Hillary Clinton or do you want a ‘you’re fired’ president in Donald Trump?”) to prove that there isn’t a person capable of leveling with American voters on the Democrat ticket.
What they needed was someone who could break down the electorate’s trust issues with Hillary Clinton by speaking plainly and honestly. Instead, Tim Kaine spent so much time bulldogishly attacking Donald Trump that he forgot that he needed to actually make the affirmative case for Hillary Clinton.
This disconnect was most glaring when it came to the substantive exchanges on foreign policy.
Pence laid out an unassailable case that the world is less safe because of President Obama’s presidency and Hillary Clinton’s legacy as Secretary of State
“I want to give this president credit for bringing Osama bin Laden to justice,” Pence said. “But the truth is, Osama bin Laden led Al Qaida. Our primary threat today is ISIS. And because Hillary Clinton failed to renegotiate a status of forces agreement that would have allowed some American combat troops to remain in Iraq and secure the hard fought gains the American soldiers had won by 2009, ISIS was able to be literally conjured up out of the desert.”
As a result of these and other disastrous decisions which “she was the architect of” the world is “spinning out of control” and “America is less safe today” than when Obama became president, Pence convincingly argued.
Kaine’s only feckless defense was to keep pivoting back to Clinton’s work with Iranian on an agreement to temporarily wind down their nuclear weapons program. It was odd fight to pick given the relentless criticism that President Obama has taken from all sides for the weak deal he negotiated.
At the end of the day, substantive discussions of foreign policy will be remembered far less than the tone and tenor of the debate. And on that score, Pence came off studied, measured and patient while Kaine seemed rude and overbearing. There’s no way to spin that into a positive, no matter how hard Democrats may try.