Pence and Kaine spar in heated defense of tickets
Interruptions and insults mark VP candidates’ debate
FARMVILLE, VA. — Indiana Gov. Mike Pence tried during Tuesday’s vice presidential debate to stanch the damage from disclosures that Donald Trump may not have paid federal income taxes for two decades, insisting that his running mate showed business acumen when he declared a nearly $1 billion loss.
“He went through a very difficult time, but he used the tax code just as it’s supposed to be used and he used it brilliantly,” Pence said. “Donald Trump has created tens of thousands of jobs.”
The statement came during the beginning of a fiery debate between Pence and Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, the Democrat on Hillary Clinton’s ticket. The pair, debating at Longwood University, frequently interrupted each other and accused their opponents of dishonesty as they argued over a range of topics, including foreign policy, the economy, taxes, the federal budget, criminal justice and immigration.
Pence at one point accused Kaine and Clinton of lodging “an avalanche of insults,” while Kaine accused Pence and Trump of running an “insult-driven campaign.”
Moderator Elaine Quijano seemed like a traffic cop for much of the evening, trying to keep the candidates from talking over each other and her.
Kaine prodded Pence repeatedly over Trump’s failure to release his full tax returns and mocked Trump for bragging during last week’s debate that not paying taxes shows that he is smart.
“So it’s smart not to pay for our military? It’s smart not to pay for our veterans?” Kaine said. “It’s smart not to pay our teachers? So I guess the rest of us who do pay for those things are stupid.
“I can’t imagine how Governor Pence can defend the impulse-driven, selfish me-first style of Donald Trump,” he added.
Kaine called out Trump for demeaning Mexicans who cross the border illegally, questioning President Barack Obama’s birthplace andlodging ahost of other insults. But he also had to answer for Clinton, who has been dogged by questions over fundraising, paid speeches, and the private email server she used as secretary of state.
“There’s a reason why people question the trustworthiness of Hillary Clinton,” Pence said. “And that’s because they’re paying attention.”
Kaine said Clinton proved her trustworthiness by committing to helping others before she entered politics. And he raised his son’s military service to declare her fitness to lead the nation’s armed forces.
“We trust her with the most important thing in our life,” Kaine said. “The thought of Donald Trump as commander in chief scares us to death.”
But Pence was just as aggressive in attacking Clinton for failures in the economy and national security during President Obama’s tenure. He accused Clinton of planning to stifle the economy with high taxes and regulations.
“The American people know that we need to make a change,” Pence said. “We see remarkable portions of the world … literally spinning out of control.”
Kaine countered that Clinton helped start the process to cut a deal to halt Iran’s nuclear program and worked in the Obama administration when Osama bin Laden was killed.
The two clashed again when the discussion turned to law enforcement.
Pence took aim at Clinton’s and Kaine’s assessment that the criminal justice system is beset with institutional racism. “Senator, please, enough of this seizing every opportunity to demean law enforcement broadly” by charging “implicit bias.”
Kaine expressed incredulity at Pence’s comment. “Those who say we should not be able to bring up or talk about bias in the system will never be able to solve the problem,” he said. “I can’t believe you are defending the position there is no bias.”
Kaine then pivoted into an attack on Trump, reciting the GOP nominee’s demeaning comments about Mexican immigrants, women and war hero John McCain, the Arizona senator. “If you want to have a society where people are respected and respect laws, you can’t have somebody at the top who demeans everybody,” he said.
When the debate turned to immigration, Kaine accused Pence and Trump of planning for a “deportation force” that would remove millions from the country.
“They want to go house to house, school to school, business to business and kick out 16 million people,” Kaine said. Pence called the description “nonsense.” He said his and Trump’s plan to strengthen the borders and aggressively enforce existing laws contrasts with the Democratic plan, which he labeled amnesty.
“They have a plan for open borders,” Pence said. “They call it comprehensive immigration reform on Capitol Hill. We all know the routine. It’s amnesty.”
A strong performance by Pence was considered crucial for Trump because of his poor showing last week and a series of controversies, including nsults of a former Miss Universe, the disclosure of a tax filing that showed Trump may not have paid federal income taxes and the suspension of his charity foundation this week by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
Republican nominee Gov. Mike Pence, right, arrives with Democratic nominee Sen. Tim Kaine at the vice presidential debate at Longwood University in Farmville, Va., Tuesday.
Moderator Elaine Quijano seemed like a traffic cop, trying to keep the candidates, Gov. Mike Pence, left, and Sen. Tim Kaine, right, from talking over each other and her.