Following last week’s first face-off between presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the potential second-in-commands met for the first and last time at the vice-presidential debate Tuesday night at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia.
Much in the style of their presidential party nominees, the wannabe-VPs hotly debated the topics of national security and taxation. While, unlike their respective presidential nominees, they also addressed the topics of social security and birth right citizenship.
Sen. Tim Kaine, Clinton’s vice president choice, opened by comparing the former Secretary of State to Barbara Johns, the high school student in Farmville who led a strike in 1951 over the inequality of black and white schools in the county. This protest became part of Brown v. Board of Education and is considered, by some, the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement.
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who is running alongside GOP candidate Trump, on the other hand, opened by thanking “Norwood University,” an institution that does not exist, for its hospitality in hosting the debate.
As of 10:15 p.m. Tuesday, Norwood University was the fourth most tweeted subject, below #VPDebate, Mike Pence and Kaine, with 8,000 tweets and five fake Twitter profiles for the nonexistent college.
“We’ve seen an economy stifled by more taxes, more regulation, a war on coal and a failing healthcare reform come to be known as Obamacare, and the American people know that we need to make a change,” Pence said.
The vice-presidential candidates began talking over each other within 10 minutes — a striking parallel to last week’s presidential debate.
Elaine Quijano, the CBS News anchor moderating the debate, struggled to control the two — much like presidential debate moderator Lester Holt, who was criticized for allowing Trump and Clinton free reign in their debate last week.
Quijano was most vocal during the tense discussion on Trump’s tax returns, struggling to keep a hold on Kaine who insisted on knowing how Pence knew Trump had “faced some pretty tough times 20 years ago” without releasing his tax returns.
She reminded them that the viewers at home cannot understand them when they talk over each other before changing the subject to Social Security and, later, law enforcement and race relations.
The potential VPs gave responses reminiscent of their corresponding candidates’ stances — that is, until Kaine spoke about gun control from personal experience.
“I’m a gun-owner,” Kaine said. “I’m a strong Second Amendment supporter. But, I’ve got a lot of scar tissue because, when I was governor of Virginia, there was a horrible shooting at Virginia Tech. And, we learned that through that painful situation that gaps in the background record check system should have been closed, and it could have prevented that crime.”
Kaine further drove his point home with yet another anecdote, this time about the loss of Liviu Librescu. Librescu had survived the Holocaust and the Soviet Union takeover yet had been killed as an adjunct professor at Virginia Tech.
He followed this up by addressing the issue of bias in law enforcement and implying Pence was “afraid to have the discussion.” Pence, however, took the opportunity to agree with his opponent.
“We have got to do a better job recognizing and correcting the errors in the system that do reflect on institutional bias in criminal justice,” Pence said.
Before accusing Trump of believing in “deportation nation,” Kaine rattled off some of Trump’s most famous errs.
“Donald Trump during his campaign has called Mexicans rapists and criminals,” Kaine said. “He’s called women slobs, pigs, dogs, disgusting … He attacked an Indiana-born federal judge and said he was unqualified to hear a federal lawsuit because his parents were Mexican. He went after John McCain, a POW, and said he wasn’t a hero because he’d been captured. He said African-Americans are living in hell, and he perpetrated this outrageous and bigoted lie that President Obama is not a U.S. citizen.”
Despite the rather direct attack, Pence was not given the opportunity to immediately respond, though he later called out Clinton’s sweeping statements about Trump supporters.
“If Donald Trump had said all of the things that you’ve said he said in the way you said he said them, he still wouldn’t have a fraction of the insults that Hillary Clinton leveled when she said that half of our supporters were a basket of deplorables,” Pence said. “It’s — she said they were irredeemable, they were not American.”
In one of the most heated election seasons in modern U.S. history, it may come as a surprise that the vice-presidential candidates have more in common than what meets the eye.
Pence is best known for signing legislation such as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which allows the refusal of services to gay, lesbian and transgender persons based on religious reasons.
He also received notoriety for the passing of House Bill 1337, which bars women from receiving abortions based on the fetus’ race, sex or disability.
Pence began his political career after severing ties with his Catholic, Democratic upbringing and using his newfound evangelism to become one of the most vocal conservatives in his party.
Kaine comes from a similar Irish Catholic background but went a different route than his opponent after serving as a missionary for the Jesuits.
Kaine’s career as an attorney focused on civil rights, social justice and fair housing issues.
Though he was more conservatively Catholic early on in his political career — opposing same-sex marriage while running for governor in 2005 — Kaine split from the church to support it openly at the Human Rights Campaign dinner, Sept. 10.
While personally opposed to abortion, Kaine’s voting record has always been in favor of women’s health rights.
Who do you think won the #VPDebate?
— Eagle News (@fgcueaglenews) October 5, 2016