Moderator Elaine Quijano opened the vice-presidential debate with a question about what leadership qualities, if any, Sen. Tim Kaine and Gov. Mike Pence thought they possessed should they have to assume the role of President of the United States in an emergency. This inspired verbose, laudatory answers from both men about their respective running mates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. It also paved the way for the evening’s first insults, with Kaine admitted Trump’s potential presidency “scares [him] to death” and Pence denouncing Obamacare and America’s supposedly weakened position.
No wonder Kaine couldn’t resist interrupting Pence while the latter used time allotted for defending Trump’s perceived “erratic behavior” to insult Clinton’s foreign policy experience. Especially when Pence suggested Clinton and Obama’s polices “newly emboldened the aggression of Russia.”
“You guys love Russia!” Kaine exclaimed, adding that both men “have said Vladimir Putin is a better leader than President Obama.” Meanwhile, Pence bit back with repeated references to the administration’s “heavy-handed approach” to matters such a Crimea and Syria, while Quijano warned both men to calm down: “Gentlemen, we’re going to get to Russia in just a moment.” She even tried to bring Pence back around to her original question about trusting Trump, but Pence couldn’t help poking the bear.
“Well senator, I must have hit a nerve here,” he gestured toward Kaine. “Because at a time of great challenge in the life of this nation — where we’ve weakened America’s place in the world, stifled America’s economy — the campaign of Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine has been an avalanche of insults.”
Kaine’s response? To dig into Trump’s allegedly not paying taxes for years and keep the avalanche rolling. Predictably, neither man could avoid interrupting or insulting the other’s tickets for the duration of Pence’s attempt to answer Quijano’s second question.